Skip to main content
Ideas Instructional Design

eLearning That Lasts

Tips to make training that doesn’t turn to ash immediately.

How to create training that’s evergreen 

Longevity is always a concern when developing any kind of training program. In today’s fast-paced world, it can feel challenging to develop something that will remain useful for your employees long-term. But the truth is, there are many ways to create custom eLearning that will withstand the test of time and serve your company’s needs for years to come.

Sketches and notes on a piece of paper. Two cups of coffee in background.

START WITH SOLID SPECS

Make a list of any upcoming IT changes.

Technology moves fast. If your goal is to keep your training relevant and usable long-term, it is imperative to start with the absolute best technology possible. This will not only dramatically increase your options in terms of visual treatments and back-end functionality, it will also help ensure the longevity of your training.

If your company is planning any major software or hardware updates in the near future, take that into consideration when designing your training. Courseware may look or perform differently in different browsers or on different devices. We design each course to fit our clients’ unique technical specifications. This ensures learners have the exact same experience, no matter how or where they access the course.

Consider your current LMS.

If you have an LMS currently, take a look at its capabilities and limitations. An older LMS may not be able to support certain features, particularly social gaming features. Depending on your course’s requirements, you may want to update your LMS or find a new one before designing your training.

Starting out with a fully updated LMS will help you get the most out of your custom elearning as well as ensure your LMS will last just as long as your courseware. A custom portal is also an option if your LMS doesn’t offer the features you want.

Some early planning will make your training last a lot longer.

KEEP CONTENT EVERGREEN

Many of our clients come to us and request a training course that is thorough and comprehensive, covering every part of their business from top to bottom. The only problem with that strategy is that all business is prone to change. Whether it’s a process, a technology, or even just terminology, something is bound to be eliminated or overhauled within the next few years, which will then require you to make changes to your training.  So what can you do to create content that stands the test of time?

Identify the fundamentals.

Identify the fundamentals of your business. While your company may be constantly innovating, there are typically core, foundational ideas that define your brand and your work. These are usually the big-picture ideas, things like putting the customer first or fostering collaboration and teamwork. These important values and practices are unlikely to change, no matter what new breakthrough revolutionizes your industry. They are also likely the key components you want your learners to come away understanding and applying.

By focusing more on the fundamentals and less on the details, you can have a huge impact on your learners AND avoid the need for constant updates.

Limit the use of jargon.

Jargon often evolves quickly, keeping pace with technology and industry. So unless particular terminology is a definite industry standard, we recommend limiting the use of jargon in your training to keep the content fresh year after year.Terminology may change, particularly as technology advances, and jargon that references outdated processes or ways of thinking can really date your content.

This is also a good way to keep your content simple. Particularly if new hires will be taking your training, it’s important to keep the message clear, and therefore easy to remember and apply. Unnecessary jargon can distract from the key takeaways.

Consider abstracting your content.

If your content requires a great amount of detail and you worry that those details could change over time, you might want to consider approaching things from a new, more abstract angle. For example,if your goal is to teach the fundamentals of sales but your sales process might evolve over the next few years, why not put learners in a fictionalized world where they are selling a completely different product? They’ll still learn the fundamentals, and you won’t have to update the training every time your product line-up or sales terminal software changes.

We’ve employed this strategy successfully to teach a variety of topics. Sometimes the abstraction is pretty grand, like thevideo-game-style course that teaches users about health care benefits while they fight a poison fog. Other times it’s less of a stretch; in our Ready, Set, Jet course, employees learn about sales techniques and business partnerships while traveling the world. Either way,this strategy has the added benefit of challenging learners to think about the content in a new way. Taking things out of context a little bit can help learners to approach new ideas with more openness.

Provide organic motivation.

Gaming features make it easy for users to motivate each other and organically drive users back to your content:

  • Virtual gift-giving
  • Challenges and point wagers
  • Messaging
  • Leaderboards

If the idea of developing a fully gamified course doesn’t appeal to you, consider including mini games that are related to your content. These mini games will bring some excitement and flair to your course.

Unlike a traditional eLearning training program, a gamified course can be replayable, making the content last longer. This drives engagement and creates organic motivation to return to the content again and again. And because they are generally simple to design and update, you can occasionally release a new game or new features to create fresh buzz around your course. 

Consider longevity when selecting a design style.

Design trends change almost daily, and we’re always looking forward in order to push innovation. But any style, even custom illustrations, has the capacity to become dated over time. To keep your course looking fresh, avoid trends and choose something classic. Not sure what counts as classic? We can help! Just let us know what your concerns are.

As an additional word of caution, stock photography often contains details that can date the course, such as of-the-moment fashion or technology.This doesn’t mean that photos can’t be utilized; it just means you will need to take more care to select images that are general enough to stand the test of time.

Avoid getting too specific.

Just like with content, including too many specifics in your course’s design increases the odds that it will become dated. The products you offer, the uniforms your employees wear, the layouts of your stores or offices, or the software your employees use may change over time, so photographs or high-fidelity renderings of these things can create trouble down the road. Even showing photos of current employees in your training could cause issues later if there is turnover.

Again, as with the content, one solution is to abstract things. If you are teaching users the basics of sales, it doesn’t much matter if they are selling combines,theater tickets, or lemonade–the basics are the same. Abstracting the product helps you avoid updates if your inventory changes. If the abstract is, well, too abstract, there are some creative ways around the issue. For example, if uniforms may change,you can use tight headshots or show characters in silhouette. If the office or store layout might change, you can showmore basic background images or apply a filter that slightly obscures things, to prevent users from focusing on details.The important thing is to identify potential pain points ahead of time, and make a plan to address those challenges.

Give the training its own branding.

Although your company may only make changes to its brand standards once in a blue moon, those changes could have a huge impact if your training is perfectly suited to the old style. Updating the colors and logo throughout can be time-consuming and costly.

To avoid this issue, give your training its own unique brand identity, something that is closely related to your company but not an exact match. You can choose colors that are in the same family or are complementary to your company colors, or give the course its own unique logo in lieu of your company logo. This unique branding can be carried over into internal marketing strategies as well.

Use a modular design.

Sometimes updates are unavoidable, but there are many ways to make the process go smoothly. Breaking content into smaller, discrete pieces, or modules, makes it easier for learners to find the specific content they want or need and gives you more control over what learners have access to and when. If some information has become outdated or there is new information that your learners would benefit from, a modular design makes the removal or addition of content a breeze.

You also have the option to lock or unlock content depending on the user,which means you can assign specific modules for people in specific job roles,or at specific times. Say an employee is promoted and now needs to learn a new job role; simply unlock the manager section of your training for that employee.

Skip the narration.

When it’s time to update a course, replacing or adding narration can pose some difficulty. If the course features one narrator, it can be challenging to find the same voice actor again if a considerable amount of time has passed. If the actor can be located, scheduling may present problems. Additionally, there are many reasons a voice actor’s sound may noticeably differ after time has passed. He or she may be using a different recording studio with different acoustics or equipment. Volume and tone are often difficult to recreate on a different day, under different circumstances. If it’s likely that you will need to change or expand your training in the future, it’s best to avoid these issues by skipping the narration. Fortunately, changes to on-screen text can be made quickly when it is not necessary to update corresponding audio.

If you’re concerned about the course being too quiet, consider adding:

  • Background music
  • Sound effects
  • Short amounts of character audio
Incorporate a resources section or ASK System.

A resource section can be easily updated at any time to reflect new information. Links or PDFs can be removed or added with just a few clicks. This is an ideal course feature if your course requires frequent updates to employee manuals,reference sheets, instructional guides, or other industry regulations.

We often use a feature we call an ASK System. This can function like a resources section, with links, PDFs, informational screens and even activities. All of the content is searchable and tagged so that learners are prompted to explore related topics.

Many ASK Systems also include quite a bit of video content. Much like a resource section, it is easy to add or remove content from an ASK System, in part due to the non-linear structure. If you will include videos in your ASK System, be sure to consider whether your company has the resources to produce additional videos that you can swap out in the event that updates are necessary.

Host your training on a portal.

Portals function as a unifying hub from which you can easily add or subtract content while maintaining branding. Your users will always know where to look for updated information, whether you post new training programs, resources, or links.

WORK WITH A WORLD-CLASS VENDOR

Ahem. Give us a call.

Every business is unique and faces unique challenges, which means that every business can benefit from a custom training solution. At Nogginlabs, we’ve been building award-winning custom courseware since 1997. We believe constraints force innovation. We would love to talk to you about what your training needs are now, and how they might evolve in the future. Together, we can create something innovative, dynamic, and timeless.

Chosen for You

When Designing eLearning, Question Everything

You’ll get some surprising answers that lead to better decisions.

Senior Leadership’s Top 9 Objections to Gamification

Here’s how to keep minds open about adding game principles to your training.

Do I Really Need Mobile Learning?

Either way, you probably don’t want to leave people to their own devices.