This was originally posted on eLearning Industry on Sept 25, 2017.
What To Consider When Using Technology In Your Onboarding Process
Technology was conceived as a way to improve one’s life. Basic items like sticks and stones lead to great developments such as hand tools, infrastructure, and machinery. As is unfortunately the case, it’s not long before someone harnesses the power of technology to create distractions and diversions for ourselves. The same waves of innovation that inspired the telephone and mass communication now give us smartphone apps that will tell you how tall your favorite celebrity is .
As most modern organizations rely on the double-edged sword of technology to keep afloat, it’s now becoming more important than ever to make sure that technology is streamlined and efficient—especially when it comes to your onboarding process. Using the wrong technological solution in an onboarding program can be extremely damaging to the learning process. Learners have only so much capacity for cognitive load , and anything that doesn’t directly focus that cognitive load into desired learning objectives is going to make the content exponentially more difficult to learn.
The implementation of new learning technology in the training industry happens to be extremely trendy at the moment, which can lead Learning and Development professionals to invest in some shiny new instructional solutions only to have them utterly distract their learners with clunky user interface and impractical animation. While completely shunning technology and eLearning isn’t the answer, being a bit more selective about how technology factors into your onboarding program can make all the difference.
Even though the ability to record and edit audio has been around for some time now, it continues to be one of the most misused technological tools in the training toolbox. If your goal is to make an audio-driven course, then consider the impact the feature of audio will provide to your learner. While spoken word dialogue can be beneficial to the learning process, there is such a thing as too much audio—especially if your learners happen to be younger. Too much audio becomes little more than an automated lecture, and it’s amazing how fast learners will stop paying attention of that lecture isn’t being delivered by someone who can see them.
Audio is especially out of place when the course is designed to be content-driven, but a series of repetitive noises plague the content. Using noises such as keyboard clicks or the sound of pages turning may be distracting for your learners. Audio should work in conjunction with the content of your course; it is not a gimmick to pull your learner away during their onboarding. If the feature doesn’t support the goals of the course, then the feature doesn’t serve a function and should be removed.
2. Competitive Gamification
Within the broad spectrum of gamification, there are some good ideas and bad ideas when it comes to onboarding. Among the most notorious of the bad ideas is the inclusion of competition and leaderboards within an onboarding program. Pitting new employees against one another on the first day is a risk that may have worked in the job market fifteen years ago, but today’s workforce has more options when it comes to employment—if their onboarding program makes them feel uncomfortable or pressured on the first day, there’s a good chance that they won’t stick around for long.
There’s no harm in encouraging a little competition  once the employee has a few morale-boosting victories behind them, but using gamified content to push competition on new employees is a great way to kill retention.
3. It’s A Race To Be Finished
Interactive features are one of the greatest things about eLearning, but there is a cost when designing user interactivity. Learners are aware that the length of a course is dependent on how fast they can complete the course, so the faster they’re done; the sooner they can go on with their day. Activities are a way to stop and check that the learner is in fact learning, by providing a check that reinforces that the learner comprehends their training.
Courses that rely heavily on the learner to engage in activities might find the learner performing the same functions in a mechanical fashion if the activities are all the same. Learners are aware of patterns, and if the course is designed as a series of repetitive motions, they will complete the task by process alone. Learners will learn how to complete a course, but they might not be learning how to perform the tasks  they need to do on the job.
Interactivity is meant to be engaging, so engage the learner. Design a set of activities that the content can use as methods to reinforce learning, and then apply them in your design. Keep the learner active in the course.
All onboarding is unique so there isn’t a best resource for every course. When considering your onboarding, first think about the needs of the learner, consider the learning goals, and then design the tasks that help assist the learner. After you have mapped out the course, consider what elements will best assist you in delivering what the learner needs while meeting your needs as a designer.
References Can You Guess How Tall These Celebrities Are?  Cognitive Load Theory (John Sweller)  The Pros and Cons of Competition Among Employees  How to approach user onboarding