eLearning 101: The Learner Engagement Enigma

You have lessons, you have learners, and you’ve decided how to get one to the other. Congratulations! You’ve solved your content delivery quandary. But how can you get your learners to engage with these materials? We call this the “learner engagement enigma.”

In this three-part series, we’ll cover the three main questions our clients ask when starting an online learning program:

  1. Getting your online training in the hands of your learners
  2. Engaging learners with their online training
  3. Helping learners retain the information

Now that you’ve selected a learning management system (LMS such as SmarterU) for delivery, your users are ready to learn! Before diving in and building your online courses, consider the following:

What does learner engagement really look like?

Historically, learner engagement was measured by observable behaviours and numbers describing how long they spent on a task and if they completed it. Managers generally evaluated this by how much effort they spent just trying to get their team to take the training. Along the way, we added emotional measurements like learner enjoyment and feedback from learners.

Unfortunately, these metrics do not give specific enough information to be useful in really improving eLearning. So, how can you tell if the conditions are right for your learners to connect with your material? Here are four key elements to a great learning atmosphere.

A group of 2 men & 2 women highfive each other - eLearning 101: The  Learner Engagement Enigma - Online Training Programs - Flare Learning


It starts with your content — keeping learners engaged involves finding the balance between the mundane and the meticulous; called the Goldilocks principle. You want to give your learners enough information so they don’t feel bored but not so much that they feel overwhelmed. They should feel challenged but also like their learning goals are attainable.

Use instructional design best practices to help your learners understand the material and identify what they need to learn by using activities, interaction or branching. Find ways to convert “dry” content that into something interesting so they want to continue.

You can even create emotional connections by including things like real-world scenarios. These let the learner see how the content can apply to them as an individual in their role, rather than just as an obscure concept.


If your Goldilocks lessons are giving your materials momentum, consider how you — and your learner — measure success. Learner engagement isn’t just about giving your learners busywork, you need them to interact and invest their time, energy, and interest. Providing transparency on the pre-set learning goals, their lesson plans, and where they are in their overall learning journey can go a long way to making this a fun endeavour instead of an uphill battle.

Allowing your learners a way to measure their own success along the way — like self-checks, progress bars, and achievements — lets motivation come from within, while leaderboards and peer checks, help inspiration (and maybe a touch of competitiveness) come from around them.


Why not let your learners lead their own way? One of the many exciting concepts about eLearning is just how personalized it can be. Consider a blended learning approach for your program. The use of microlearning and gamification (more on that below) allows software algorithms to adjust instantly with any action the learner takes. Each individual gets lessons tailored to their speed and progress.

Instant Feedback

Ok, so your learner submitted an incorrect answer; how can you turn this into a learning opportunity? Give instant feedback! Whether learners get an answer right or wrong, properly written instant feedback can help reinforce a correct answer or correct a learner gone astray. This can be hugely important for a learner to help them feel supported while learning alone.

And what about gamification?

If you’re in the eLearning industry, you’ve likely heard of the gamification of knowledge; turning learning into a type of activity for your learner to complete makes the task more fun, more engaging, and helps it stick. Use non-graded activities throughout your eLearning to reinforce key ideas and let learners check their knowledge without worrying about their grade. You can also get really creative and add that element of fun to your training — a spoonful of sugar, right?

So, what’s in it for you?

How can you keep track of accountability? Will your training actually work?

If your goal is training, engaging your learners is paramount. Having your material not only interactive but compelling keeps your learners’ interest long after the lesson is over. What’s not in it for you?

An engaged learner is a happy, and well-taught learner. Busywork is a chore, but an engaging lesson is a treat.

Not sure where to start with content development in order to increase learner engagement? Our team of Instructional and Digital Designers can help to make your eLearning lessons effective and engaging. As experts of online learning, we’ll ensure your lessons light the way for your learners to follow. Ask us how!

Help Your Training Shine  

Subscribe to our Flare Learning blog to get the latest online training tips and tricks delivered right to you. Ensure your training never flames out!

Our Most Recent Posts

Have an eLearning project you need assistance with?

Contact us today and we'll be happy to answer your questions and discuss your unique online training needs with you!