Boring Technical eLearning Can be Engaging

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The challenge in designing technical learning content is how to make it more engaging.
Technical information can come alive with the right approach that grabs learners’ attention and keep them focused while learning its value and impacts on their jobs.

How do you make technical eLearning content engaging and interesting? So many of us give up the struggle. But there is a way to engage learners in technical learning.
For example, in a workshop, a participant from an insurance company asked me how to help learners understand the definition of “spouse.” She wanted to train learners about the definition of the word. I argued with her and asked, “Do you really want learners to remember the definition or do you want them to learn the application in real life of the definition like “spouse?” The end result is I helped her to develop this vignette “Would Maria Qualify as Spouse?”.

When deciding what how to create engaging elearning, interactivity and if scenario works for the content, ask yourselves this question:

Does the content require an engaging method or exploration method to help learners learn? Is the investment in scenarios the right investment to deliver learning?

When considering micro-scenario approaches to technical content it may be helpful to dwell on these points:

1. Think of it in its real-life consequences, positive or negative, or real-life meaning.  For example, why is it important to understand the definition of a spouse? What happens when they fail to understand the definition, the meaning and the impacts?

2. Learners must see the reason why it is important to know terms well – the possible error or misunderstanding of factual data and terms in the context of real-life scenarios they face.

3. What do learners need to pay attention to so they are able to delineate the terms, the potential problems and the impacts to job performance.

4. Learners do not care much for the factual definition. They care why it matters in their jobs.

Micro-scenarios are powerful metaphors of looking at things – like real-life mirrors.
It can be a potent tool in technical training or eLearning. It brings to life usual factual information and relates it to real events.  (Related blog:
Engaging Technical eLearning – Tips on Design and Delivery)

Like Sherlock Holmes, understanding technical content (definitions, how-to’s, implementation, probing, problem solving, etc.) is like detecting criminals or finding proof.  It is conducting an investigation into real impacts of actual cases.

Look for facts – how facts happen in real-life. How do people respond to it?  Consider the events that unfold. Discern the truth. Detect suspicious characters.  Crime busting is not just text book – based.  It is also observing how people behave.

In the same sense, in technical training or eLearning, it is best to focus beyond the facts.  Rather than starting with the facts, begin with the impacts on real-life – work backwards.  It is like watching a movie in reverse.  It is looking into behavior then connecting to facts.

The Micro-scenario Formula:
1) Create a story or event
2) Put learner on the spot 
3) Ask learner to respond and react
4) Connect the definition by relating it to the story

In our story for the week,” Would Maria Qualify as Spouse?”, a common-law wife inquires into the insurance benefits of her common-law husband who just died in an accident. The vignette demonstrates how challenging technical topics can be learned through the presentation of a real-life scenario that teaches the value of investigating factual information and invites learners to understand, apply, appreciate and retain the importance of technical knowledge.  Click here to view “Would Maria Qualify as Spouse?”

How to Use the Vignette
Although the situation presented is specific, this vignette covers a wide range of topics, including conflict-resolution, work ethics and other management-related issues. This vignette is very useful for eLearning sessions that require your learners’ undivided attention, especially those that deal with specific situations that need to be resolved in a timely manner. Use it as part of your lessons or as a post-training test. Face-to-face, eLearning or webinar, this vignette is a sure way to push your learners to the EDGE.
Vignettes are captivating and highly effective learning tools that can power up your classroom training, eLearning activities and social learning communities.
Click here to view “Would Maria Qualify as Spouse?”

Join us  and tell us what you think about the vignettes and share with us if you have had similar experiences. Your feedback and insights are highly valued. Also feel free to send in your suggestions, comments, improvements or topics that are of interest to you. This can help us greatly in coming up with better vignettes, especially on topics that are of great relevance to you. 

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”

3 thoughts on “Boring Technical eLearning Can be Engaging

  1. Dr. Jimenez:

    I come up against this issue again and again from a different perspective; I voice a lot of audio for elearning (narration for training) and many times the material – either due to the subject matter, or the way that it is written — is itself potentially un-engaging. The challenge is to find what is interesting about it for me as well as for the listener, and to use my skills to make it relevant for the learner. Thanks for a good article.

    Perry Anne Norton / PanRight Productions

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