How to make engaging learning content – 10+1 tips

Poor learning content is one of the best ways to get even the most eager learner run out of steam. How do you make content that inspires adults and, more importantly, helps them to learn new things?

Think about the videos we consume online daily. Ten one-minute videos are certainly more appealing than one ten-minute video. The same logic goes for learning materials. Thus, if you really want to encourage people to learn, turn your attention to microlearning and microcontent. As we stated earlier, continuous learning is vital for driving change and, therefore, for business too.

Microlearning – what and why?

Microlearning content is a popular method in adult learning. Simply put, it means offering content in snack-sized portions, such as infographics, short texts or videos. However, snackable content is usually offered as a series.

Microcontent makes it easier for adults to start the learning process and helps to grasp even the hardest of concepts by splitting large subject matters into compact pieces.

Nowadays our way of consuming content is fragmented, and, to some extent, learning has to follow this trend. Often work-related learning should occur during workhours and spending too much time learning at one go might not be desirable.

When you plan your learning content, it’s good to let go of the traditional notions and personal experiences regarding school and think about how you yourself would best learn in the middle of the current flood of information. However, no matter how snackable, microlearning materials should still amount to a consistent, high-quality concept rather than an incoherent mess.

Let go of the traditional notions regarding school – instead, ask, how you would best learn today. 

Microcontent also doesn’t mean simplifying things at the expense of facts or underestimating the learners. On the contrary, microlearning is at its best when used to teach complex subject matters. The trick is turning large and complicated things into content that is approachable and easy to consume.

In microlearning, we turn large and complicated things into content that is approachable and easy to consume.

Example: How much do you know about nuclear bombs? Yes, nuclear bombs. You might’ve learned about them at school and maybe your extra knowledge is based on movies. I learned a great deal about nuclear bombs by watching this video, also things I probably didn’t want to know. In the video, you’ll find excellent rhetorical devices (“people just like you”), a good script on a hard subject and visual finesse. It’s also short enough and has a clear call to action.

10+1 tips for microcontent

1. Hold on to your story and guide your audience

Before creating learning material, you should have a fairly clear goal for it. What’s the future you want to make possible for your company through learning? The story can be big and even complex, but it needs to be consistent. Guide your reader from one content to the next in a logical order. If the learning aims at change, there has to be a larger cultural shift in motion at the company. This transformation and the reasons behind it must be communicated clearly and constantly throughout the learning process.

2. Narrow down your topic

If microlearning is your approach, you can’t cover everything in one learning content. Microlearning can be used to teach broad and complex subject matters, such as innovation culture or the philosophy behind inbound marketing, but it’s all done in small chunks.

3. Clarity, clarity, clarity

Using special terminology or business jargon rarely do the trick if you want to evoke emotions. Aim for an empathetic tone of voice and use plain language in your content. Just remember to make sure you don’t underestimate people’s know-how. Making a learner feel stupid is an efficient way to make them stop listening.

4. Give concrete examples

When you cover a theme, remember to provide real-life examples. We remember things better if we recognize the context of the phenomenon and the direct links it has to our own lives.

Example: I want to teach you about platform economy. It might sound abstract at first, but if I can explain how you use platform economy services, such as Airbnb, constantly in your everyday life, the road to learning has probably been paved.

5. What’s innit for me?

As we stated in our previous learning blog, the “this is important” approach doesn’t motivate people. When you know your audience, you know what motivates them and drives them forward. The from one expert to another approach might be your holy grail. Could the experts themselves tell how a topic already affects the industry? This is how you get a natural link to the listener’s everyday life.

6. Content before format

Visually impressive platform solutions may encourage learners to click open some material, and technology can make your content stand out, increase motivation and lower the threshold for learning. Sure, here I could throw my two cents in about the cool ways of accelerating learning, such as gamification, rewards, competition, intuitiveness, user-friendliness… But if the learning content itself is half-hearted, the audience won’t commit to it. Content is the most important aspect when it comes to learning outcomes. Thus, keep high-quality materials at the heart of your production process and build your learning solution around them.

7. Create trust with consistency

I argue that sticking to one concept, content that has a unified form and repetition create trust in a learner. They can concentrate on the essential, learning, as they don’t have to keep guessing whether the next learning content is a mass lecture or an interactive game.

After a while, it’s worth using data and user feedback to optimize the material, especially the content format. Refining the content takes time and requires user data, so patience is a virtue. Even though nothing is ever finished, it helps the learner to have a familiar concept and trust that the content is worth using every time. Quality content requires inspiration and working hours.

8. Include different types of learners

Good content planning takes into account the different ways people learn. Ideally, the learning material should include many different content formats. This way the same subject matter is taught in different ways that cater for different types of learners. Some people want to read, others like to listen, while someone preferably watches things. Research shows that visual learners prevail, so investing in the visual side is recommended. On the other hand, podcasts are a good example of a medium that’s getting increasingly popular. Why not offer the audio track of a video as a downloadable learning material? It cuts costs to plan early on how a piece of content could be smoothly converted to many formats.

Example: HubSpot utilizes microlearning content in their web courses. The courses are video based, but they often come with a transcript of the video, short quizzes, the slides seen in the video, e-books and so on.

9. Don’t underestimate the power of laughter

In my experience, learning-wise adults are not that different from children. Having a laugh together and making learning visual and fun works for learners of all ages. Having fun doesn’t necessarily mean cracking jokes, as using a friendly and approachable tone of voice can just as well be enough. For adults, learning is often something extra done on the side. Whether that should be the case is another matter altogether, but pushing forward through sheer willpower isn’t, in any case, very motivating or inspiring.

10. Or emotions and stories

Storification is an underused tool in learning environments. As the old saying goes, people remember stories twenty times better than facts. The devices stories use, such as characters, conflict and solution, help learners create an emotional connection with the content. Emotions make the learners more attentive, which in turn helps them to remember and learn things more easily.

+1. Microlearning requires other learning models to supplement it

Even though microlearning is a useful and efficient learning method, you might not be comfortable with a surgeon who has only watched short videos about their area of expertise. Alright, I admit that was an extreme example, but deep learning and university degrees still have their place. Microlearning can be used to teach large subject matters, but you should use other learning methods, such as courses, degrees and further training, too.

Company culture is the driving force behind microlearning. We are constantly learning new things, but it’s the company culture that makes us conscious of the things we need to learn and encourages us to utilize our learnings efficiently.

Yay: Learning made easy, snack-sized information, quality content over quantity, emotions, relatability, tangibility, peer learning, consistency and empathetic tone of voice.

Nay: Jargon, unrealistically large subject matters, abstractions, the top-down approach and inconsistency, such as speaking about the same thing using different terms.

Is your company going through transformation? Could microlearning content motivate your organization and employees to truly learn new things and challenge their routines and old ways of doing? Contact Susanna and we’ll create tailor-made learning concepts and content for you.