Generic content is the slayer of learner engagement

Blog / News | 13-01-21

If you address everyone the same, no one will understand you

Generic learning content is normally not an effective approach to learning and much of the ‘off the shelf’ we see is often generic and does not fulfill its duty as well as unique content. In the article 4 Reasons why your organization isn’t (always) compliant, we told you about an alarming notion: that generic or even unrecognizable material in learning modules might do more harm than good. How about that? Time to elaborate a bit more on that. 

Building knowledge

First of all, there are of course times when you do need to use generic content, for example, in the first step or chapter of a course. In that phase, knowledge is being built up and you are trying to show what someone is going to learn and why it is important. In the steps that follow, you can go deeper into the details. At that stage, you will need to tailor learning content to the various target groups, because they will need to apply knowledge differently in the workplace.

Use case studies for behavioral change

As much as possible, course material should be aligned with the needs and practical situations of the learner. We also touched upon this in another article, namely: case studies: the bridge between policy and reality. In this article, we advised to use case studies in learning modules to enhance the learning effect. By using scenarios from case studies, students understand the context of the material better and therefore they remember it faster. It also forces students to think about how they can apply their knowledge in practice. Case studies, therefore, increase the chance of actual behavioral change.

Recognizability for a better learning effect

In order to use scenarios in the best way possible, they must be recognizable. You can’t just copy learning content from one branch and immediately use it for another branch. Office workers without a leased car don’t need to know anything about the private use of the company car. And someone who never goes into the warehouse probably doesn’t need to learn that safety protocol by heart. Therefore, non-recognizable learning material is not as effective. Besides being hard to understand, it’s not relevant, making it very difficult for employees to remember. And why should they? If they don’t have to do anything with that information anyway? This tends to be the case unless they really have to know that information for a recertification of a compliance, or safety certification. 

So should learning be a feast of recognition? No. Learning is also done to acquire new information. The new information must be close to the learner to be effective. A situation in which someone really has nothing to do with or will have nothing to do with is superfluous. And a situation that is real will enhance the learning effect. A learner will recognize that this is learning material that concerns them and that they may need now or later. 

The tone of voice

You appeal to the target group with recognizable situations and scenarios, but you also do this with the right tone of voice. In a diverse organization with multiple cultures, languages, education levels, etc. it is important to take this diversity into account. In addition, save the marketing terms for marketers, the financial terms for the finance department, and so on. Take all those differences into account in your content and tone-of-voice because if you address everyone the same, things may be lost in the delivery.

What you also need to think about is the choice of resources for each target group. One group might benefit more from classroom training, while another might feel more comfortable with a more independent e-learning module. So choose the right resources for the right audience.

Involve internal specialists

Above all, don’t get stuck working on your own. Think about how many internal target groups you can define in advance and then adapt the learning content to them. Adapting it does not have to be complicated or time-consuming. Make sure you have a framework of basic principles. Then involve someone from each target group in your plans; someone who can help you with the right content and details. By doing this, you’ll see that focusing the content isn’t so bad. It’s a little more investment, but you will reap the benefits with your return.

Focus all content on the target group

It is important to tailor the course material to the various target groups within your organization. Even if you only make a test for a group of learners, make an educational video, have an attractive poster designed, or create an online learning module to accompany it. Always keep the target group in mind and make sure they get what is important and recognizable for them. This way you make learning more useful, more effective, and more fun for everyone!