Innovative eLearning Trends: eLearning That Sticks

Remember the movie Braveheart? You know, the one with Mel Gibson? And all the robotic voices? And the standardized background screens? And the data-driven dialogue? And the clip art images? And the…what’s that? Oh, yeah. You’re right. That’s not Braveheart. That’s all-too-typical elearning.

Let’s face it: no one ever walked out of a movie and said, “Man, I wish that were more like an elearning course.”

At SVI, we diligently look to develop talent, but in some weird and wonderful ways. We believe our work can be instructionally sound AND entertaining. We use a variety of mediums—instructor-led trainings, eBooks, mobile apps, webinars, and, of course, elearning.

The challenge with elearning is getting people more interested in the content, rather than focusing on how soon they can click “next”!

Here are a few elearning best practices we implement at SVI in an effort to engage the audience so they’ll stand a chance of remembering what we’re teaching instead walking out (or zoning out) on the show.

Quality Design

Clip art is…well, it’s clip art. It’s not meant to illustrate exactly what you’re trying to convey. Instructional designers (we call them “writers”) can create the interactions, but it takes gifted graphic designers to bring them alive. When creating your elearning, create custom buttons that fit your customer’s or employer’s brand and relate to the content. Instead of a standard backdrop, for instance, there might be a full-screen image that helps tell the story.

We have found that these artists complement our writers and help create a more engaging, visual experience that drives learning.

Conversational Tone

I get it: robotic voices are easy to understand and we have to make sure the audio in an elearning course is clear. We also need make sure people stay awake!

A more conversational tone helps hold participants’ attention. The on-screen content should be short bullet points or phrases that complement the audio, not a transcript of a user manual. In most cases, your audio shouldn’t exactly match the on-screen content. I know that’s not typical. But we’ve found that if the two match word for word, the audio just gets muted. Try to create a conversational approach in which the audio keeps people watching and wanting to know what’s next, much like a great score supports a movie.


Instructional designers–just writers, not “technical writers”–can convey the facts. But what if we write life into them? If you’re talking about the features of an app for a retail store, for instance, tell a story about a customer. If the topic is safety, tell a story about a foreman having to talk to an employee’s family after an accident. The story doesn’t have to be long–three sentences will do in most cases–but it needs to pull the audience into the training. Then they will actually remember the compliance regulations, how to use the new scheduling system, or whatever else the elearning course might be teaching.

To paraphrase William Wallace: “Every eLearning dies. Not every eLearning lives.” Compelling design, a conversational tone, and storytelling are just a few best practices we use at SVI when developing elearning with some life in them. Leave a comment on the blog and share your best practices!

Mike Thompson is the founder and CEO of SVI, a talent development organization with offices in Northwest Arkansas and Dallas. SVI is all about developing Irresistible Companies and Extraordinary People through its fresh curriculum, systems, and processes.