This article is based on a talk I gave at the Learning Landscape conference in Cape Town in April 2014. It is the first instalment of two parts.

It is clear that one of the key determinants of the success of any e-learning course or project, is the degree of motivation of the learners, and sometimes even more importantly, of the operational management of the organisation.

Yet we continue to be surprised by how little attention is given to this, with the concentration instead being on the course content, instructional design, and the LMS it is going to run on.

Because of this lack of attention to planning and motivation, even after lots of hard work and investment in developing a course or setting up a learning programme, we find that…

  • Staff members often only do a course if they have to.
  • Sometimes they don’t even do compulsory compliance courses (Management is usually the most guilty here)
  • Even where a course has been paid for by the company, staff sometimes still don’t do it.
  • If the learning includes theoretical e-learning followed by a practical group workshop, then a high percentage of the learners don’t do the online work before the workshop.
  • There is quite often a lack of bandwidth to run really interactive online training, thus restricting what can be done to make the learning really interesting
  • And, unlike other important projects, there is often no marketing or motivation combined with the project. It is a case of “here is this course for you and you have to do it”

As a result, e-learning itself sometimes gets blamed when learning does not take place.


Here are a few hints on how you can motivate your learners, and get them onboard and interested in the training you are providing.

First, as with any other project, you need to prepare the participants if you want them give it their support

  • They need to have their interest in the topic raised, and to see your e-learning course as a good way to find out more
  • They need to understand what is expected of them
  • They need to understand why they need to do the course – what’s in it for them and for you?
  • And they need easy access to the course, and the skills to do this

Then, once they have started, they need

  • time to do it! It is a myth that e-learning will be done in the employee’s time or normal working hours. Time needs to be set aside for learning.
  • ongoing encouragement and management! You need to track their progress regularly and encourage all of them – the stars, the middle order, and the laggards
  • management – e-learning which is not managed is never going to work
  • incentives – some form of prize or incentive for the students
  • peer pressure and recognition – make the results public and award certificates
  • team or group structures so they work together and not as individuals
  • the ability to comment or participate
  • courses which are interesting, relevant and engaging
  • relevance – make it relevant – blend it , use real examples as much as possible, use real people if you can
  • the training to be part of their KPI’s

e-Learning is no different from any other important project in the work environment. If you want your people to learn, then you need to motivate them and then to manage the process professionally end-to- end. Simple.

In the next article we will consider the motivation that management needs to make this all happen.