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Angus McLeod

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The online learning journey pt 2


 In his second article on the online learning journey, Angus Mcleod looks at how to make content appealing for a better learner experience.

In the first part of this two-part series I touched on the what and the why of web-based learning-journeys. In this article, I am offering learning and insights into learner-appeal including language.

What is one person’s attractive website is another’s unprofessional site. The one-size web-resource is already limited in its possibility to be appealing to all the people all of the time, so we must make sure that we appeal to the different needs of learners in function, if not style. 

"We must make sure that we appeal to the different needs of learners in function, if not style."

Having said that, let's make sure that text is large enough for all to read and that the colours used make reading easy. Think too about red/green colour blindness and the people who cannot discriminate between green and blue. Most of my comments are directed with the front end of the web-resource in mind but most are appropriate to all pages on the site.

Keep essential stuff above the fold (without scrolling). Do not overcrowd this area. Each page area must be obvious in function and where more context/information is needed, make that obvious too. Appeal to readers, listeners and viewers. If there are benefits for the learner, make these overt.

Use links to further information if it helps them on the journey that you want them to take. If something is a distraction from that journey, leave it off the page – it can go somewhere else.

When it comes to language, it is worth having an idea of the market preferences. For that, I use the iWAM Profiling instrument of based upon thousands of UK executive learners. Key areas to consider are (marked 0-10 as an approximation of UK preference):

  • Many people want to initiate (4-8) and want to achieve goals over time (5-9) so make their journey easy and clear (especially if selling the courses). Failure to do this will frustrate many people very fast.
  • They will need the information to be clear and quickly accessible (6-9) but do include sources/references off the page with links (where necessary to many learners).
  • Give the big picture (5-9) rather than detail (0-3). Of course, some people will want detail and context – add these as a linked resource. Let learners see examples of what they will be doing but keep these simple and clear – anything more complex can be resourced off the page.
  • Lots of people have energy for analysing and understanding (7-10) provided we have not already overloaded them. Once interested, in those vital first 20 seconds or so, they may need to be able to access the theory and background to sustain their interest and action.
  • More people like a group environment (4-8) rather than working by themselves (0-4) so sell the connectivity aspects of the learning in exercises with others, e-group communities, webinars, contact with tutors, and so on, and how their learned skills, if appropriate, will enhance their group experience as they go through the course.
  • When thinking about preferences for work, lots of managers like to work with activity (4-8) and when you also consider the scores for initiation and goals (above) opportunities to do something to get started and/or test the resource will help encourage lots of people.
  • We always thought that Hong Kong was the centre for change mindsets and that the Brits were sticks in the mud, in fact though, the desires for difference (5-8) and evolving change (7-9) are strong in UK management. Messages should appeal to these in the process of learning and the benefits of learning for their journey and life beyond qualification.
  • Similarly, we tend to focus on the here and now (7-9) and future (4-8). The language should deal with real issues aspirations and issues of your learners in the present and picture evolution and change going forward.
  • Pictures, because learners tend mainly to be convinced by visual means (7-9).
  • To be convinced, they are likely to want to see experience consistency in your language and messages (3-8) and more than once (5-8). Use referrals including short video promotions from previous learners with key messages for consistency.

Some L&D professionals do need to sell their offerings to people whether money is involved or not. The above will help hone your offering but if the learner experience is one of choice, then this process needs to be very finely honed.

For others I would still recommend enhancing the resource for learner-experience using the same strategies and by making the call-to-action both obvious and simple, with as little irrelevant information on the page as possible.

Professor Angus McLeod is author of four books on coaching and leadership and more than 50 articles and peer-reviewed papers. He can be contacted via AMA Coaching School  or via


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