One of the main principles of UnlikelyGenius is focused on creating enjoyable, inclusive learning for all. One tool to help you do this is to increase engagement in the learning experience.

Read part 1 here: 10 tips for increasing engagement in your training: 1-5

6.    Emotions


Acknowledge the feelings that learners may bring to the course – are they just doing it as mandatory training (then relate back to life and consequences), are they pushed for time and feeling frantic? Are they motivated to learn something new and doing it for their own self-development?


MEET THE LEARNER WHERE THEY ARE. Acknowledge it and reinforce that you are here to help make the experience better for them (encourage their feedback).

User journeys are brilliant for this – an example showing potential emotions that may arise in this sample course is below.

User journey diagram for a sample course


7.    Language


Do you use plain language? A conversational tone? Do you have a tone of voice/brand guidelines you need to follow? Can you use humour?


These points can help to make sure the content is understandable and relatable for all.


Also, consider whether your content has a lot of jargon and industry-specific language. If so, you may need to look at how you can reduce it and include a glossary. The worst difference I have had to translate was a sentence containing 8 acronyms. In one sentence. Of 15 words in total. Even those familiar with the content would have to stop and take time to interpret that, therefore breaking the flow of the learning.


This is not about dumbing down. Research has shown that even those who use a lot of jargon in the day-to-day job and are considered to be highly intelligent (doctors, lawyers etc) prefer information that is easier to digest when it can be. Simplifying and condensing helps to make information easier to scan and absorb. It increases memorability.


Also, consider the role of accents and localisation, especially if you have a lot of non-native speakers in the group of learners or target audience. For example, consider words that can have two meanings (e.g. right as in direction, or as in correct). You should also avoid the use of metaphors and puns if you have a high number of people with learning difficulties.


For more information on this point, I recommend familiarising yourself with the Readability Guidelines.


8.    Gamification (or Games Based Learning)


From birth we learn through play, then we mostly lose this as an option in adulthood. Why?

We don’t lose the ability, just the opportunity.


But play allows us to experiment, for trial and error, to fail in a safe environment where the worst we can lose is a character’s digital life or be penalised with points.


The rise of apps has reignited the play that is within many of us. Your learning doesn’t have to be a big, all-singing all-dancing game with VR and AI. But consider how can you use game elements to provide motivation – levels, points, competition with peers, leader boards, consequences, certificates, avatars, etc. And provide a navigation that can be explored, rather than a regular menu.
Let your learners learn through fun and experimentation, making unconscious links between the content and application of it.


Create something that they will remember and maybe even want to come back to, to try again.


9.    Feedback and incentives


A much underrated but simple thing to change!

Make sure you are providing detailed feedback rather than just correct and incorrect. Make it explanatory. This is your opportunity to make them understand where they have gone wrong, or to reinforce the information if they got it right.


Give hints and cues.

Tell them the consequences. Relate the information to their life.

Provide humour.

Prompt them as to where to go back and refresh their knowledge.


Feedback works both ways too – do you collect participant feedback? And if so – do you use it?

Use learners’ feedback to you to shape future iterations of your course. Show how you are using their feedback to shape your course, evidence it. You will need to filter it as there is always one awkward sod, but you can get some absolute gems.



You can incentivise learning, this can work as well with adults as it can with children. We all love a prize! You can build to points or prizes for the most engaged, maybe include a leader board to celebrate those most engaged (also ties back to social and active learning). It can be as simple as adding a deadline.


Even with self-directed learning, it can sometimes be good to give a sense of a deadline – maybe with a scheduled live session to go through things/give feedback, a time-sensitive offer to upgrade or free extra resource when completed. We see this a lot with courses that were previously ‘yours forever’ now switching to you have this for a year, or 6 months, then you will lose access.


Though uptake of courses is at an all-time high, actual completion rates are abysmal.


We’ve all done it – signed up to a course, raring to go and then not completed it, or in some cases have never even started it (guilty as charged m’Lord). A lot of us need that time-sensitivity to crack on.


The idea of scarcity is often used to increase initial sales, but then little is done beyond this to actually encourage you to complete the learning and engage.


So even with self-directed, it can be done. We just have to avoid it feeling like it is a mandatory piece of training or a bribe.



10.    Be Concise


Welcome to my new phrase – CONCISIFICATION.


We always feel like we need to give more, more, more. But there is a fine line between ‘just enough’ and overwhelm. Often it is hard to remove yourself from your content, so this is when a second pair of eyes are useful.


In order to be concise, you need to make sure you do not get wedded to your content, or precious about it. Make sure that everything you include is relevant to the learning objectives and/or goals. If you really cannot part – add it as further reading/additional materials so learners have the choice.


One technique I have heard recently is to cut it in half and then half again. Then you might be somewhere near the length it should be.


Some great tools to help with concisification are bite-sized learning and on-demand learning. They allow you to dip in and out, to fit learning around your commitments and to learn in short bursts.


Also, test your content with the audience, they will tell you if something feels pointless or too long.


The principles of Content design are great for making you really hone in on your point.