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Why Traditional eLearning Doesn’t Work

There’s a lot of confusion out there, over what eLearning is and whether it works at all. Just ask Google! Google search suggestions simultaneously throw up ‘eLearning is dead’ and ‘eLearning is the future’! To eLearn or not to eLearn, that is the question…

Whether we refer to online training as eLearning, e-learning or online learning the aim is the same – we want to create lasting behavioural change!

Traditional eLearning just isn’t up to the job! Many employers agree, with only 15% identifying eLearning as one of the most effective learning practices available. Something has to change.

Traditional eLearning Close-up

It’s time for learners to rise up against traditional eLearning and demand something better, something that works. The revolution is here!

Hold your pitchforks for a second! Before we consign traditional eLearning to the history books, let’s find out where it went wrong and what we can do differently to deliver awesome eLearning that creates lasting change.

1.Long, Dull and Boring

The laptop lights may be on but nobody’s home. Traditional eLearning is often just plain boring, creating zombie-learners who are dead behind the eyes and mindlessly clicking through content. With its reams of text, endless slides and sleep-inducing delivery, no wonder it turns people off! Bored learners are unengaged learners and that’s the last thing you want.

2.Generic and Meaningless

Dull training is dire enough. Yet on top of that, traditional eLearning is generic and meaningless. Like that boring grey school uniform everyone had to wear – it’s dumped at the back of the cupboard as soon as you can change into something more ‘you’. Everyone loves to feel like something is tailored towards their needs, likes and tastes. Why should learning be any different?

3.Lonely and Isolating

However many ‘Learner No1s’ you have roaming around your LMS, traditional eLearning can be a lonely and isolating place. That’s because it is often geared toward solitary study and lacks opportunities for social interaction between learners. If we can’t share our discoveries, ask questions and celebrate our achievements together we lose interest. Your lonely LMS will be heading for high drop-out rates if it’s not social. Research agrees, showing that feeling isolated leads to learner disengagement and higher attrition rates.

4.Unresponsive and Inflexible

We now live in a super fast, super connected world where things work at the click of a button. Everything we need is at our fingertips (literally)! – anytime, anywhere. eLearning needs to be easily accessible too, to stay relevant and meaningful!

What’s more, in this mobile age learners expectations are higher than ever. As a result, people expect technology to work, instantly. Traditional eLearning is just not up to the job because it is not mobile friendly. With 30% of employees now viewing training content on their phones, if your training is not mobile-optimised it won’t satisfy learners. By failing to meet the modern workforce’s technology expectations, it will fail to engage.

5.Long and Tedious

However interesting a subject is, nobody likes to be talked at for hours on end. This is one of the reasons why the massively successful TED TALKS stick to a strict 18-minute rule. Short and snappy grabs and holds people’s interest.

Yet, most traditional eLearning is between 30 to 60 minutes long! That’s plenty of time to be distracted by something more interesting like your email, social media feed or old-school daydreaming. When you are delivering learning material, the first goal is to keep your audience awake and engaged long enough to communicate your ideas. Ask yourself, can your training say everything it needs to say in 18 minutes? If not, maybe it’s time to break it down!

6.Passive and Uninvolved

Even if you maintain your audience’s interest, without involving them you will fail to create lasting behavioural change. As Benjamin Franklin famously said: “Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I learn.” This is where traditional eLearning falls down. It’s all about the telling and showing, but not enough involving. In contrast, successful eLearning is interactive. Transform the monologue into a dialogue!

7.Low Knowledge Retention Rates

Traditional eLearning fails to overcome a massive pitfall of classroom learning – the Forgetting Curve. Cramming our heads full of facts is fine if we only need to retain information for a short time – long enough to ace the family Trivial Pursuit battle, or pass an exam. But short-term learning is rarely the goal of employer training.

Employers want training to create lasting behavioural change that boosts performance, employee engagement and profits. Traditional eLearning is good at getting short-term results. However, If we don’t use and apply what we learn we forget 90% of it within a month! Traditional eLearning does nothing to solve this problem because once it’s finished, it’s over and forgotten – box-ticked!

8.Low Completion Rates

What if your learners don’t even get as far as ticking the box? For much of the traditional eLearning out there, this is often the case. According to CIPD Research, 31% of organisations that use eLearning report that the majority of employees complete the training. However, that’s a lot of people not completing the course!

Boring, long and unengaging traditional eLearning just doesn’t hold learners’ interest. This means completion rates nose dive after the initial novelty has worn off. If people aren’t completing the training, they probably aren’t learning anything.

9.Not Evaluated Properly

You may get this far and think “Well, we’ve used traditional eLearning and it’s worked OK.” Beware! Whether eLearning has been successful or not, depends on how it is evaluated. If you’re like most learning managers out there, you’re spending too much time on delivery and not enough evaluating the learning results.

Like we discovered earlier, your traditional eLearning may have successfully communicated a few key facts long enough for learners to pass the assessment and fill out a feedback form. However, does your learning stand the test of time? Has it created long term knowledge retention and behavioural change? If it’s using traditional eLearning methods then the answer is probably ‘no.’

Out with the Old in with the New

So, now we know what not to do. How can we create eLearning that’s fit for modern learners’ needs. Will you join the cause against dull online learning?


As we discovered earlier, for eLearning to work it needs to be available on demand wherever and whenever learners want to access it. With the average person now using over 3 separate mobile devices per day, anything competing for our attention needs to be mobile.

Yet, mobile learning is about a lot more that simple accessibility. It comes with a myriad of other benefits. The mobile platform opens the door to other delivery options such as microlearning, game-based learning and social features. Harnessing the power of the mobile transforms long, tedious traditional eLearning into engaging bite-sized training that can compete with Flappy Bird and Facebook notifications!


In the wise words of Aristotle – humans are social animals. We’ve come a long way since the days of Zeus, yet we are still social creatures. What’s more, we’ve discovered social interaction is good for your health, happiness and success!

You can infuse your learning technology with this powerful ingredient to bring life to eLearning and happiness to you workforce! It’s worth the effort because happy employees are more productive employees. Furthermore, social learning doesn’t just engage and motivate learners, it helps reinforce the learning!

There are many ways to add this engaging element such as using chatroom and leaderboard features in your online training. These will encourage conversation and healthy competition.


Technology is giving us ever increasing choice over how we interact and organise our world. And it’s getting smarter by the day, with apps seemingly knowing us better than we know ourselves! Technology means the world is increasingly tailored our individual needs and wants.

To be successful, eLearning needs to offer the same level of personalisation! So, rather than giving your employees a generic, one-size-fits-all eLearning course, why not create something suited to them? What are your learners’ fears, hopes and dreams? Get to know your audience so that you can tailor training to their individual goals and the wider company vision. Win your learners’ hearts and minds by making the learning meaningful and personalised!


Everyone loves a good game! Do you know who really likes gaming – millennials. 30% are regular gamers and it’s this demographic who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. How can you tap into this love for games? With gamification.

Gamification transforms your learning from dull into engaging faster than you can say ‘Super Mario Run’! Gamification is the application of gaming elements to traditionally non-gaming environments. It matters because training needs to be fun to boost engagement levels and help learners remember the content long after it’s over.

Epic Meaning

The word ‘Epic’ brings to mind legendary tales of Beowulf, Don Juan, Thor and Romeo & Juliette. Whether it’s an epic love story or fast-paced adventure – ‘Epic’ sticks in our minds, fires our imagination and pulls at our heart. So how do you bring some of that impact to your eLearning?  

That’s where ‘Epic Meaning’ comes in. It’s when you take all the power of ‘Epic’ and make it personal. Imagine finding a book. You start reading and are pulled into the epic tale. Now imagine, the story is about you! With every page you turn, the story becomes ever more tied to your life, goals and desires…Once you’d got over the initial shock…this book would likely become the most gripping and meaningful read of your life!

Make learners the heroes of their own learning journey! Make sure your eLearning is directly connected to your learners’ personal goals and experiences. Also, link the content into the wider company vision to show learners how they are an integral part of the wider story. With this potent mix your eLearning will engage people on a personal level, ensuring they remember the learning long after ‘The End’.


So, It’s time to write a new epic legend…

Once upon a time we stumbled through a world of zombie learners, ruled over by the king of dull and tedious traditional eLearning. It was a lonely and grey place of dropout mountains and Forgetting Curve monsters.

No fear! There’s a new leader in town who’s here to save the day! Modern eLearning will lead learners towards engagement glory and successful behavioural change.

The traditional eLearning King is dead! Long live Modern eLearning!


Continue your adventure towards successful eLearning by downloading our Engagement Engine!

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