One problem that faces learning and development professionals is that people do not necessarily flock to your course catalog to complete the eLearning you worked so hard to develop. Sure they may complete the required courses after receiving a third and final message with the word MANDATORY in the subject line, but they do not seem to be taking the other valuable courses in your catalog.
This problem is not unique to eLearning.
I am reading the book, Consumption Economics: The New Rules of Tech, which describes a similar pattern that software companies have. Users are only using a fraction of the features of the software products they buy. Think about it. How many features of Microsoft Word do you really use? Bold? Intent? Font Size? This is a challenge for software companies because if people do not use more features, the product has less value and it is easier to decide to switch to a new product.
So when it comes to eLearning courses, if people are not taking more of your eLearning courses, they must not perceive a value and can just as well choose to find learning somewhere else.
So what do to? Learning designers need to make a concerted effort to show people the value of taking more eLearning.
Think Like Apple and Show People
When the first iPhone commercials started to appear, they were different. They didn't tell you about the features of the phone. They showed you how to use it. For example, instead of telling you that photos can be viewed on your phone, the commercials said, "You can do this," and showed a finger scrolling through photos. What if you created short video tutorials showing specific courses that can be taken or the different ways people can view their transcripts or ways to print out certificates?
Think YouTube Length: Short and Sweet
Another thing you can do to increase eLearning completion rates is to create eLearning courses that cover only the essentials of a specific topic. Rather than create a 40 minute course with 4 modules, create four, ten minute tutorials focused on each module. The shorter an eLearning course, the more likely people are to make the time to take it. It is better to group short independent module topics can can be completed individually, that create one long course with everything in it.
Give People What They Need
I wish I remember who said this, but the saying goes like this, "If you want to know how effective your training is, make it voluntary." If people show up voluntarily, you know it must have some value. In this spirit, you want to make sure the eLearning you are designing addresses specific issues that will help people do their jobs better. The trick to this is to understand people's jobs very well. Don't just give customer service agents a course on customer service. Give them a tutorial that gives examples of how to resolve a customer issue when they know they can't give the customer what they want."
What do you do to increase completion rates of your eLearning courses? Is this a challenge for you? Share your stories in the comments below.
Bill Cushard, author, blogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations in start-up and hyper-growth organizations like E*TRADE, the Knowland Group, and Accenture. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.