Mandatory Participation: is it possible?

So, I am relatively new to the forums and have been reading a lot of the blogs. I have picked up some really fantastic ideas about how to start thinking and creating outside of linear learning modules. The one thing I'm trying to wrap my head around, though, is how do you ensure learners are actually viewing the content? In an ideal world, the e-learning module I created would be so wonderful and engaging that everyone would actually want to view it but the fact of the matter is that I work in the life insurance industry and a lot of the material I'm presenting is pretty boring. Granted, people generally prefer the interactivity and self-paced format of an e-learning module to classroom training (especially with the number of people telecommuting) but I think the ultimate preference is no training at all. Any ideas? (If there are any cool software tricks, I'm using Articulate Storyline)

7 Replies
Nancy Woinoski

Hi Stephen, here's the thing. There are all kinds of ways you can prevent learners from advancing through the material in Storyline until certain conditions are met, but at the end of the day you can't force people to read, watch the video, or listen to a narration if they are not inclined to do so.

I don't think you should lock down the material because people just find creative ways to get around the locks.   I recently completed a project in which my client wanted each screen locked until the learners watch a video. The videos were nicely done but some of them were over 4 minutes long. I could not talk them out of locking the navigation, but found that when viewing the material, people would just minimize the course window and do something else until the video stopped.

I think the only way you can ensure they look at the material is if you build in test questions that really challenge the learner's understanding of the material. A person should not be able to answer them unless they have reviewed and understood the material.

Bob S

Hi Stephen,

I have a bit of experience with what you might be facing having worked in the financial sector for a while.

I mught suggest that the first thing you determine is if this is a true "must have" for regulatory purposes. Or is it a "nice to have" because management believes everyone should be required to take everything.

If it's the former, then you may have no choice other than to put some draconian measures in place to ensure each page is viewed. These can included things like time on page conditions, topic by topic testing to advance, tightening completion requirements in the SCORM package, time on content reporting and learner feedback, locked navigation (of course) and more. Work with your regulator and or governance team to see what's truly required.

If it's just that your stakeholders thinkg it's a good idea, then get them to agree that retention is the goal, not forced viewing. Then offer some strategies that will increase and PROVE retention. This can included things like knowledge checks and scored interactions where they apply what they've learned.

Bottom Line... Clarify if it's really about making sure the learner knows and can apply the info/skills, or if it's about just ensuring eyeballs viewed a page. There are business reasons for both.

Hope this helps,


Natalia Mueller

Hi Stephen and welcome! I’m glad you posted this as it’s a hot topic for me right now too.

For those outside of training there tends to be a prevalent idea that to see it is to learn it, therefore how do we force them to see it.

I guess the idea of freedom in a course is actually counter-intuitive to many. I often use the example that we can force people to sit in a classroom where someone is telling them absolutely everything they need to know but we can’t force them to actually process anything being said. For all we know they’re hearing Charlie Brown’s teacher- Wah wah wah wah… So that’s where adult learning principles and instructional design methodology comes in to create a learning experience that helps the employee improve or develop new skills that we then continue to build and support.

For us this comes as a culture shift because a lot of employees were not taking the training and then we had all of the challenges that come with that. We are approaching this a few different ways.

1) Training is a performance expectation. ie it’s part of your job and we expect you to do your job. Not only will it be included on the employees’ goals but also the managers’. If their direct reports don’t complete training, it affects the managers’ performance results. This puts the responsibility in the managers’ hands and prevents us from having to chase down individuals.  

2) LMS settings and reporting. There are many many LMS options out there. Every one I’ve worked with will at least let you assign courses to groups/individuals. Ours will continue to send reminders and notifications until the training is completed. Tracking and reporting lets us see who has completed what.

3) The training team has a responsibility to deliver effective and engaging training. If we all care so much about making sure they take it, we need to care that what they are taking is effective, with a clearly defined purpose (“what’s in it for me”) that supports a core business objective and teach them how to do it versus learn all about it – a yellow brick road straight into an “information dump”.

That’s my many cents. I’m looking forward to seeing more responses and insight from the community.

Jerson  Campos

Everyone above has posted very valid points. When managers that work at "levels above reality" demand that everything needs to be locked down and viewers are forced to watch long videos, it really doesn't make our jobs easier.

I am actually one of those viewers that will have the course playing in the background while I work on something else. In many of the cases the training was irrevelant or just the same yearly training we go through.

Like Bob stated; ask the managers if viewing the material is the goal or is it retention of the material. By making the course more interactive or creating mini quizes in the middle of the course can help better retention.This could offer a way out for locking down the course.

And Natalia also hit on a good point. A majority of people are selfish in nature. When presenting material you want to apply 2 questions from the viewers POV. Why is this important? and Why does this matter to me?

In my opinion locking down the navigation is the surest way to lose interest. If you have questions or mini quizes scattered throughout the course, this will make the viewer pay a little more attention.

Simon Perkins

I think this argument can be rooted back to how important/valuable the course is, i.e. what's in it for the organisation or dept AND the individual?  What are they going to be able to do "better" as a result?  How will the course encourage them to achieve that?  At the end of the day, if the learner wants to "improve" then they'll hope the course is engaging enough to get them to that level.  If it isn't then there's every chance they'll switch off.  Likewise, if the learner is only taking the course to receive a mandatory tick in the box then your responsibility is still to help them aspire to that next level (or whatever that might be).  

Some might say there has to be trust between the developer(s) and the learner, e.g. open up the nav and let the latter have a play vs lock everything down and suffocate them with information overload.  

Having a post-course method of following up and assessing any 'performance changes' is also a good way to think more cleverly about what's in it for everyone and how to achieve that.

Bruce Graham

All these answers are valid and pretty much sum it up. I have little to add here.

Bottom line(s):

1> People will not consume, let alone learn if there is not a WIIFM ("What's in it for me") factor.

2> Training in the corporate marker is about increasing profit, reducing loss, or reducing risk - nothing else. All of these can be measured, and if the training does not address these, and is measured against these, it does not matter. The measurement has to really come outside the course, in e.g. face-to-face meetings etc. Even when you include in-flight, scenario-based quizzing, the real test of learning has to come in observable behaviour change, and that happens outside the course.

I have been doing a lot of insurance training recently, and I agree, a lot of the content is "dull". Insurance, however, seems to be an industry that is based around lots of "rote" consumption, so you could equally say that "dull" content was actually just "culture-specific" content!

Let us know how it goes.