Have you heard feedback from your learners that their e-learning is bloated? Stale? Tired? While microlearning is a hot topic these days, don’t overlook opportunities to make all of your content more consumable. The good news is that there are several ways to trim down and re-energize your e-learning solutions.

Tell a Story.

Use story and characters with dialogue to set up a realistic situation to which the learner can relate. It’s the difference between reading a James Patterson novel and reading a textbook.

Offload Heavy Content.

More often than not, you can convey content using job aids or other performance support materials. Rather than creating many pages of content to click through, include key knowledge as reference. This way, the e-learning becomes an activity-based, experiential practice instead of information dissemination. Allowing learners to use references during e-learning sets them up well to use those same performance support references when performing on the job.

Loosen the Reins.

Adult learners rebel against being boxed in by bulky e-learning practices like linear page-turning, a lot of screen text, narration they are forced to listen to, navigation that requires them to click on every option and so on. Instead, encourage learners to take and retake your course by making it feel quick and easy to consume. Allowing learners to click through screens quickly gives them control, and they are more likely to pay attention.

Balance Media.

Many times, audio and video trap learners into a predetermined pace. Thoughtfully designed media elements, on the other hand, let learners control the pace. The best results come from carefully chosen stock imagery paired with short audio and video clips that the learner can bypass. Again, it seems like they might learn more if they are forced to consume the media in its entirety, but giving learners control actually encourages them to engage with the content more.

Choose the Path.

Consider subtlety and realism in branching scenarios and with distractor choices. Subject matter expertise is needed for this task. Using a story that is familiar to learners, and that feels like something they recognize from their job, allows them to experience the consequences of choices, see results from the perspective of others, experience situations through different lenses and reflect on how to be successful.


Use navigation that is clean and straightforward, without clunky forcing or tracking. Think about it this way: If you know you are being graded or scored, you will focus on choosing the right answer. But if you are not, you will feel free to explore, try different options to see what happens, and consequently learn much more about yourself and your performance.

Mix It Up.

The key ingredient in lean e-learning is balance: balance of media elements, balance of dialogue and narrated delivery, balance of serious content and humor, and balance of consistency and variety.

The energy bar of learning, low-calorie e-learning can be lean to design and develop; feel light and consumable to learners; and still provide the knowledge, skills and practice activities your learners need to perform.

e-learning energy bar graphic