Sometimes eLearning courses are created from generic training materials or resources that don’t quite speak to the needs or learning styles of your individual employees.

Tailored eLearning content is often more effective at improving engagement, but if you already have a course developed (or are creating one) based on content that’s not quite relevant, you may find it difficult to engage your audience.

Outdated or stale content also becomes a problem as time wears on. Facts and figures, or training styles that may have been relevant even a year ago, may not make sense for your current batch of employees.

Thankfully, you don’t have to redesign your entire course or spend hours generating new content to solve the problem. Sometimes a small tweak or two can provide a big enough impact to help your materials feel fresh again.

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Signs Your Content Is Too Generic

Of course, in order to know which content needs to be tweaked you will also have to know which content is outdated or not engaging the way it should.

Two things can happen during the creation of an eLearning course that leads to generic content:

  • Content is originally created to target a certain group or topic that is no longer around, making the content less specific for current needs (though most likely still practical in a general sense)
  • Content is not created with any specific group in mind and covers a broad range of topics that may or may not apply to any group

[Tweet “The more generic the content, the less likely it is to perform well over time.”]

Both of these things can lead to disengagement. The more generic the content, the less likely it is to perform well over time. If you’re not sure how your content is performing, there are a few tell tale signs of content that is no longer helpful.

Sign #1: Your technology is slow or lacking altogether. Sometimes companies are slow to upgrade their technology, whether the result of costs or simply sticking with tradition. It can be difficult to engage specific audiences (especially younger audiences or those who are more technology savvy) when your current tech is missing or obsolete. Learners need to access materials in a way that’s convenient for them.

Sign #2: You’re frequently making drastic changes to materials. A well-designed eLearning course will be flexible enough to stand the test of time but also be able to change as needed. If you’re revamping your entire course every year to fit with new training methods or employees, you could be missing something.

Sign #3: You have no way to measure effectiveness. If you’re not even sure whether or not your employees are engaging with materials, it could be a sign that your content wasn’t created with effectiveness in mind. Targeted content is measurable; either your employees get it or they don’t (and you should be able to tell). If you’re just reusing the same materials over and over again with no measurable results, your courses could be too outdated.

Elements to Consider Tweaking

So what happens if your content is outdated or too generic to meet the demands of your current learners? Overhauling or creating separate courses is an option, but many companies don’t have the time or resources to turn out fresh content all of the time.

The next best option, then, is to make minor adjustments that add, remove or update irrelevant content and/or refine sections to make it applicable to niche audiences. Here are a few elements in your materials or presentations that you can tweak to make it more relevant for your current learners.

Element #1: Visuals and design. Switching out graphics, images or simple design elements, like colors or logos, can be an easy way to update content. Including images of older workers for Baby Boomers or younger workers for Millennials, for example, can be helpful in niching content to specific generations. Using various colors or symbols for courses, depending on countries or location, can also be helpful for engaging audiences without making major adjustments.

Element #2: Interactivity. Reducing or splitting content into bite-sized portions and then adding interactivity to those sections can update an otherwise lackluster course. If your program focuses on ladder safety, for instance, you could create an online scenario that involves current employees to go along with that section in the course.

Element #3: Supplemental materials. Adding content to courses can be helpful in situations where revamping the whole course is too much effort or not worth the cost. Adding elements like infographics, PDFs, quizzes or forms of gamification allow you to interact with learners in more diverse ways while maintaining the core of your program.

Element #4: Navigation. Sometimes the content itself is fine, but the navigation is hard to manage or is otherwise outdated. Creating self-paced navigation options or otherwise streamlining your navigation can help you organize content in a way that’s most relevant to the person using it at the moment. If an employee is a fast learner, for example, they can navigate through materials faster if need be.

Tips for Tweaking Your eLearning

Here are a few things to consider when making adjustments to course materials (or when building fresh materials that will stand the test of time).

Take stock of your learning objectives. If your learning objectives continually switch every time a new batch of employees make it through a course, you may find that your eLearning content becomes outdated faster than normal. If this is the case, consider creating a list of broader learning objectives that will allow you to switch up the content while still achieving the same goals.

Consider current learning needs. Learners have varying areas that need improvement. Some may struggle with reading comprehension while others may have trouble with technological challenges. Keep in mind that not all groups of employees going through training will have the same learning needs or abilities, so the more you can do to give freedom for the learner, the better it will be. Consider self-paced timing options, or provide course materials in multiple forms to adjust to specific learning needs.

Only include what is absolutely necessary. Another thing to consider is that if you can’t add something supplemental to your coursework to make it more relevant, you can always removing sections that aren’t necessary to employee training, or allow learners to skip sections that aren’t completely relevant. If your core audiences has changed drastically and won’t be reverting anytime soon, there’s no reason to keep materials that only relate to that group.

Keep it cohesive. One of the major pitfalls of attempting to “modernize” eLearning content for new audiences is that the finished product can seem disjointed and disorganized, especially if materials are pulled from a variety of different sources. While you’re updating or adding content to make things more relevant, be sure that the tone, language and aesthetics are consistent throughout the course.

Keep technical limitations in mind. While technology can help you keep outdated content relevant, it’s important to remember that technology will change again in no time. Basically, don’t invest too much time, money or energy in new tech or fancy gimmicks if you know you’ll just have to update them in the future.

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Final Thoughts

As employees transition in and out of your company and time wears on, you may find it difficult to engage audiences with outdated materials. The good news is that most content can be updated and repurposed to fit new and niche audiences with minor adjustments.

Be sure to take stock of which areas are the most outdated and start adding in supplemental materials as needed. Switching out simple design elements, like images, videos and links can also be helpful in making old content feel new again.

Finally, make sure to get rid of any materials that simply don’t meet your learning objectives. There’s no reason to keep around content that doesn’t successfully engage (or train) employees simply because it’s always been there.

Jonathan Davis is an accomplished professional with experience helping Fortune 500 companies achieve success in employee communication and training programs. Jonathan focuses on delivering reliable, successful outcomes that increases employee engagement through highly targeted deliverables, creative messaging and robust programs.