Think back to high school. Remember sitting in your least favorite class and listening to the teacher drone on about that day’s subject—frog anatomy, the War of 1812, the six rules of comma usage. I can almost feel you slouching down in your seat and getting ready for a nap.
This is the sad tale of most of our memories of high school learning. Students are disinterested, teachers are frustrated because no one’s paying attention, and the knowledge retention rate tends to be abysmally low in the long-term.
Today, we may have left the uncomfortable chair-desk combos and pull-down world maps behind, but many of us carry over the same approach to learning that our high school teachers once bored us to death with. It’s not always intentional—we regurgitate information because it’s often the fastest route by which we can meet the minimum requirements for communicating content.
For those of us in the eLearning industry, this default approach is not enough, but marketing may offer a solution. As with so many problems nowadays, the best solutions are interdisciplinary, and who better to ask about how to make information compelling and presentable than marketers?
Here are four strategies from the world of marketing that can make your eLearning courses more engaging, more memorable, and more digestible:
- Contextualize learning needs. Information is everywhere these days, and anyone who’s curious about a question can look up the answer in a matter of seconds. This easy access to information has painted many teachers and educators as unnecessary middlemen. In order to avoid this unfortunate stereotype, educators are starting to contextualize their content in more meaningful ways. What do you know about your learners’ unique needs? What expertise or inside knowledge do you have that will help your learners apply their knowledge? How can you convince them that the content they’re learning is both important and interesting? Answering these questions is the best way to establish the context behind your content.
- Become personally interested. The best instructors are genuinely excited about the material they’re teaching. It doesn’t matter if you’re a high school teacher, an instructional designer, or a marketer—if you’re not personally sold on the value of what you’re selling, then other people won’t be either. To develop this interest, do your homework before embarking on a project. Do some research, think about what’s at stake, and figure out what it would take to convince yourself that the learning goals are important. Once you believe in it yourself, you can focus on convincing others.
- Keep it short. Human beings have spectacularly short attention spans, and digital marketers know that in order to get their message across, they need to keep things brief. The same principle should be applied to eLearning. Keep your learners in mind, and think about how that block of text is going to look on the screen before you send it off. Think of how many YouTube videos you stop watching after 30 seconds before you include a 12-minute video in your course. Get to the point quickly, and your learners are much more likely to remain committed to the learning goals.
- Use a variety of media. Marketing in the digital age is a juggling act that involves many different types of media. To capture attention, it’s best to have a diverse marketing strategy that includes traditional methods like print ads and billboards, but new options like online ads, social media engagement, blog content, and video are just as essential. Likewise, incorporating a variety of media in an eLearning environment breaks up the flow of information, giving learners much-needed breaks and opportunities to interact with the material in different ways.
Marketers are experts at identifying and optimizing the expectations, abilities, and needs of their target audiences in mind, and if instructional designers can follow suit, they will be able to create courses that are more empathetic, targeted, and effective than ever before.
The field of marketing has a lot to offer the field of instructional design, especially when it comes to digital messaging. As the pace of our digital media consumption increases, the pace, interactivity, and diversity of our eLearning models must also grow.