Gone are the days when you would pile your workers into a single room, put an extremely outdated training tape in the VHS player, and leave the room to grab a cup of coffee while your disengaged adult learners prayed for a swift end to their workday.

At least, we hope those days are gone.

But even if you still desired to use those same methods year after year, they would be less and less effective as time wears on. Why? Well, because learners today are more modern than the learners of yesteryear.

Modern learners want engaging content that’s equal parts relevant as it is practical and applicable to their every day working environments. And they want that content to be available anywhere, anytime and for any reason.

Sound demanding and unreasonable? It’s not, and we’ll not only tell you why modern learners work this way, but let you in on a little trade secret: you can (and should) train them to be this way.

So, without further ado, here are the three types of content your learners need most and how to give it to them.

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Informational Content


First things first… most adults actually want to learn. According to ASAE’s research, the driving extrinsic motivation for adults to learn is to increase their job status, which then increases their income and social standing in their chosen profession.

So there’s plenty of motivation for people to jump on the training bandwagon, but unlike teaching or training children, adults have very different learning needs when it comes to retaining information.

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Spread it Out

When adults pick up a new skill or are learning something entirely new, it’s easy to binge-learn and think we’ve mastered the task when we really haven’t. In fact, spreading out learning over time instead of attempting to learn in one or two sittings, also known as distributed practice, is a significantly better way to learn than cramming.

Now, sometimes it’s required that learners acquire a skill or information about a project or task rather quickly, but the human brain – especially for modern learners – is far more oriented to processing small, bite-sized information rather than large chunks of data. By taking the time over the course of a few days (rather than a few hours in a single day) and compounding the information into more manageable bits will go a long way to helping learners engage and grow.

That’s also one of the benefits of using eLearning tools: you can easily provide bite-sized information and microlearning tools – a learning strategies known for quickly closing skill and knowledge gaps – that are accessible any time of the day, so learners don’t have to rush through it.

Smart Serve, for example, a Toronto-based alcohol service training program, created a digital campaign to help the public learn about laws that bartenders must follow. Their campaign included smaller bits of highly visual information that both inform and educate people about responsible drinking behavior.


Experiential Content

Many companies that are looking to add some form of training to their repertoire often have to deal with complexities and uncertainties on the job that normal businesses don’t worry about. As a result, their leaders and workers are far more likely to struggle with major challenges they never had to deal with before.

Which is, of course, one of the main reasons to incorporate experiential content – or more hands-on, virtual, or demonstrative learning experiences – into your training courses.

Make it Varied and Engaging

Classroom-based learning certainly serves a purpose, but modern learners require a certain level of variation when it comes to retaining knowledge. Blame it on our rapidly decreasing attention spans, but if you want to effectively train people nowadays, you’ll have to step outside the classroom and incorporate a more holistic approach. This includes eLearning tools such as gamification – which turns learning experiences into mini-games – as well as case studies, polls, and videos, among other tools.

One example of gamification is Duolingo, a language eLearning site that turns lessons into games where learners can earn points for correct answers, race against the clock, and level up.


Make it Frequently Repeatable

Repetition is extremely important when it comes to content. If you feel like you’re beating people over the head with the same old stuff, it’s actually not as big of a problem as you might think. Sure, you want your content to be engaging, and the best way to do that is to incorporate some hands-on experiences, but all in all your brain loves repetition.

In fact, the more times you have the chance to learn about a skill, the less work your brain has to do. Over time, those skills become automatic and you don’t need to think about what you’re doing. This is because your brain is actually strengthening itself over time as you learn that skill. (Scientific American breaks it all down here).

Performance-Based Content

The final bit of content that modern learners need is anything that supports their job performance on the go.

Make it Mobile-Friendly (and Standardized)

If you want to engage modern learners, you’ll need to find a way to incorporate the Internet. More specifically, you’ll need to include technology and tools that allow for Internet browsing. Stats show that up to 80% of people will use a search engine to find the answers to a query at any given moment, and since the invention of smartphones, anyone can carry Google around in their pockets.

But not all of the information they come across will be truly useful, however. Learners might discover resources that provides them with the wrong advice, or information that differs from the mission or vision of the company they work for. That’s why supportive eLearning tools that incorporate mobile technology work far better than traditional learning resources – they’re searchable and they can also be adapted to individual companies, ensuring that all materials meet the same standards.


Make it Applicable and Actionable

Supportive, performance-based content also includes content that can be actionable and quickly applied to real-life circumstances. The last thing modern learners want is to waste their time with theoretical knowledge; they want to know how to do their jobs well.

Performance content can include things like how-to guides in both video, visual, and text formats, which provide step-by-step instructions that can easily be learned by anyone. Visual content, like infographics, are also handy for modern learners and they’re easier to process and can be posted anywhere (or downloaded to a mobile device). Again, bite-sized information is better than huge chunks of content.

Other types of supportive content can include mobile apps, templates, interactive PDFs, and (our favorite) narrated interactive presentations and modules that help learners engage on a practical level.

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Final Thoughts

Now that you understand the type of content modern learners need – small but frequent materials that can be accessed on the go – hopefully you’ll understand why eLearning fits so well into the mix.

ELearning provides instant access to a variety of learning methods, so no matter whether someone is sitting in a physical classroom or browsing from their mobile phone, they have access to information that will help them boost their skills and improve their overall job performance.

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.