Richard's elearning BLOG



It's certainly convenient to assume that our audiences are eager to consume whatever learning they are given, but how true is it? By its very nature learning involves change, and as we know change is invariably met with resistance, reluctance and, frankly, outright denial.

So how can we overcome such an unwillingness to engage?     

Firstly, by acknowledging that part of the aims of the course will be to overcome this resistance. The course content, then, will include more than just the facts. It will also include material designed to persuade and entice. 

In face-to-face events, this can be achieved with the aid of coffee, biscuits, the irresistable joie-de-vivre of the trainer, and good old fashioned peer pressure. Sadly, none of these inducements are easily available online, so we have to try other tricks.

Use of rich media is classic way of 'engage' a disengaged learner, the idea being that the learner is so bamboozled by the glossy interface, bright colours and exciting animations that they'll be unable to resist completing the course. This approach works, if only for the duration of the course. Retention of knowledge may be an issue.

A more powerful way is the psychological approach. Identify why are your learners resistant to the course content. Do they think they know the course content already? Or that it's irrelevant to them? Or that there's no benefit for them in doing the course? Or that there's no disadvantage to them in not doing it? Or that they already know better?

Design content that addresses these issues directly. To be taken seriously by the reluctant learner, it's essential that the course authors are seen as credible and authoritative. Disarm the learner by acknowledging the issues, but then put forward the case for them continuing, clearly and concisely.  



The last US elections gave prominence to a particular form of campaigning intended to change attitudes, in the form of 'Push Polls':

"A push poll is where, using the guise of opinion polling, disinformation about a candidate or issue is planted in the minds of those being 'surveyed'. Push-polls are designed to shape, rather than measure, public opinion" - Sourcewatch

As elearning stalwart Viv Cole noted, this is another manifestation of the ancient form of Socratic Questioning, which is in essence about asking a series of leading questions to ensure the respondent eventually arrives at the desired goal.

Although there was controversy (rightly) about the use of Push Polls in the election (partly due to the fact that they were purporting to be unbiased, and partly due to the offensive nature of the questions being asked), the mechanism for 'shaping attitudes' by asking leading questions is no different from what occurs in many effective digital learning courses.

Consequently I wonder what place there might be for this kind of 'opinion-forming questionnaire' in the digital learning strategist's toolbox. There's no doubt that opions are more easily shaped obliquely rather than directly (ie people like to feel they've made their own minds up, rather than being told), and this technique suggests rather than dictates. Imagine a health and safety course that starts with the question:

"How would you feel if someone accused you of deliberately leaving electrical cables on the floor for people to trip up on and injure themselves?"

Answer on a scale of 1 - 10, where 1 is 'I'd feel outraged' and 10 is 'I'd feel guilty'...