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NogginLabs was founded on the notion that custom e-learning design and development is the ultimate horizontal industry. Time and again, each new project, client, and industry proves it. The biggest advantage of the e-learning horizontal is cross-pollinating ideas from two wildly different domains. A restaurant service simulation for iPad may influence a high-fashion online retail challenge. E-learning for financial advisors in a bank could inspire a mobile outreach program for cancer survivors. This variety also keeps the creative folks at NogginLabs fresh. Fresh learning ideas and designs come from a set of constantly changing constraints.

Attention please: engaging e-learning gets results


Attention please: engaging e-learning gets results

Brian Knudson

The training industry loves the word engage and all its forms. You’ll be writing a sentence about making engaging training and not even realize you’ve engaged engagement four engaging times. The thing is, almost nothing is more important when it comes to creating training experiences that get results. 


One reason for this: it is such a great and natural feeling to ignore things! Think about it. To exist in modern culture, you have to get really good at ignoring things. You ignore ads everywhere you go, you ignore emails that are more than a paragraph long because who has that kind of time, you ignore vast swaths of your social media content because your cousin’s sandwich pictures are poorly composed at best. Everything you encounter wants your attention, so filtering out boring or non-essential information is paramount to survival.

Obviously you don’t want people to ignore the e-learning you’ve spent months and months perfecting. That would be bad for all involved parties. The industry talks endlessly about the importance of engaging learners because the task of grabbing and maintaining the average human’s attention is trickier than ever, let alone asking them to complete sustained practice opportunities in a training course. Let alone having them do those behaviors in the real world where everyone typically works and lives. Let alone having them double-high five you in the hallway as they pass by, which is actually really hard because they are more than likely holding coffee.


And ignoring things isn’t the only unwanted response that can happen. If you’re not ignoring something, you’re prejudging it. You see five seconds of a movie trailer when you’re vacuuming and KNOW it's not going to be funny.

Learners make judgments about e-learning courseware from the opening moments the same way. Here we go with the same old swoop and bulleted objectives, and there is the little Next button that I can’t click yet. Let me just check my email and come back to this. 

The challenge of engagement isn’t going away anytime soon. E-learning designs that aren’t clever, evolved, and judicious with learners' time won’t get their chance to make a meaningful impression on their audience.


There are lots of ways to bust through your learners' expectations and grab their attention. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:

  • Use interface layouts that subvert traditional standards
  • Change the tone of the content to be more direct and authentic
  • Add a narrative approach that frames the content as a story
  • Show examples that affect the learner's day-to-day life and include realistic consequences
  • Ditch dense onscreen text that no one wants to read or process

Looking at consumer media is an excellent way to get new design inspiration. Check out popular commercials, movie trailers, and content-heavy entertainment or retail websites. Try to identify how things are curated, arranged, and presented to make you pay attention. Make a list of links to reference and discuss with your team and choose some practical approaches to use right away in your next course.

You only live once! May as well build training that doesn’t make people want to be dead.