What would YOU do to make the "...learner feel special..."

May 30, 2012


I have been given the following challenge by a new client.

The learner must feel:

"...ok, this is no ordinary elearning, someone has gone to a lot of trouble here.. therefore I must be special”

We have extra budget to spend on this objective.

Apart from the obvious, (giving each one of them a 30-minute head massage...), what would YOU do?

I have ideas, but am interested to see how other members of the community would tackle this, because there are, of course, risks in going down the "add lots of shiny things" route  


14 Replies
Simon Perkins

Have you asked the client why they want to take this particular route?  I.e. what's in it for them and the learner?

We've all had clients 'demand' certain things that sometimes make little or no sense.  It then becomes a case of 'educating' around these needs to get clear about what really should be put in place.  I'm not saying that's the case here

Bob S


Have you considered creating exercises that are strictly personal choice then feeding back the results to create segues into content?

Rough example....

  1. "We all have our own reasons for investing in our learning. Please share your own personal reasons for taking this course...."
  2. Then create a drag &drop or ranking interaction etc for their choices
  3. Use their rankings/results to introduce the content in a customized way/order

The same example could also work with a question like "what do you hope to learn from this course" etc.

Sounds like a fun project. Hope this helps,


Melanie Sobie

The 30 minute head massage sounds wonderful!  I'd vote for that!

I thought of "adult learning principles" when I read your objective of making the learner feel extra special.  Conduct a survey and collect input from your learners and ask them about their background and experience with the training topic. Ask them what tools or job aids they need to help them with this topic, what information they would like to see covered in a training, what do they need to help them be more successful, what are their greatest challenges, what advice, in two sentances or less, would they give to a person who is struggling on the job, etc., etc. Then spend a lot of time with the survey results and develop course activities that are meaninful to them. Use your budget to take pictures of the staff and where they work, shoot short videos of the front-line experts (thier peers), and perhaps include a section where you quote some of their statements gathered in the survey (like a recognition). Make the course all about them and their expertise and knowledge!

Here's a little tribute to adult learning principles that I found recently. Didn't know anyone would rap about this topic?!


Jill McNair

Hi Bruce,

Of course I have no idea what the topic of your course is, so these may not apply, but here are a couple more ideas:

1. Screencasts - think about how the screencasts make us feel in this community.  I took an online class once (academic), where the instructor recorded a screencast for each week where he gave us an overview of the lesson, and where he pointed out things to make sure that we paid attention to.  I got to see his face, and sense his enthusiasm for the subject.  He also shared personal examples/preferences/beliefs.  I felt like I knew him.  

Do you have one or more experts in the company who the learners look up to who could make some personal messages about various topics, e.g. people who are already doing what they need to learn who could pass along tips, tricks, advice,...

2. If this is a complicated subject to learn, consider setting up a mentoring system - a person or persons that learners can ask questions to.  Perhaps this mentor even contacts the learner first and asks them how their training went and tells them contact them with ask any questions they have.  A forum could take the place of the mentors, or be an additional tool.

3. Practice makes the master.  So many training courses do not provide enough opportunities for practice.  Create an optional way for students to practice their new skills and abilities for those who want more.  For example, I took a Photoshop class - everything that they taught me I could do, but I promptly forgot it.  I really wanted more practice on the skills that I was learning that I knew that I would use a lot.  

I think that learners feel special when the instructors connect with them somehow (online learning is quite an isolated process), and provide easy ways for them to get more support/practice/coaching when they need it.

This probably would not work with something as straightforward as compliance training, but would be great for training on sales, software, management, customer service, etc.

Hope this helps!


Heather Beaudoin

It would help to know what you're training on, what the format is, and if the learners know each other at all, but...

I think people feel the most special when they're not alone (i.e., collaborating as a of a learning community).  I think it would be really engaging if you could get input from the learners beforehand and integrate them into the course...

1. Ask people what issues they most commonly have (or whatever), and then when you teach the top 10 issues they will face, give credit to the folks who contributed the info.

2. Give learners the chance to submit new content ideas throughout the course... like here are the top 10 issues... what issues do you face the most? (emails you their input for a future follow-up blog post, video, forum post, whitepaper, whatever).

3. I think they would feel a lot more special with a more robust front-end and back-end experience to the course.  Maybe a community forum to allow them to discuss ideas -- even if each person only interacts for the duration of the course.  On the backend, have four emails a week apart (or whatever) to follow-up the material for ongoing learning.  Try to make it all two-way communication.  People want to be heard.  That's what makes them feel special.

Minh-Triet Nguyen

I think there's a difference between making a learner feel special and making a learner feel supported.  I think most courses we build try to do the latter through on-the-job reminders and working with managers and SMEs to keep content alive, post launch.

But when I hear, "make them feel special," I think  about what kind of conceptual club am I inviting learners to join? How does the course treat them like insiders? What are the extrinsic markings of fellow members?  For example, it's been ages since going through Myers-Briggs Type classes, but at our company, you'll still get hundreds of people who remember and commiserate about their types. (INTJ, if you're curious). 

Maybe try to group classmates informally but explicitly based on launch dates. Does your budget allow for class rings?   Six Sigma training uses "waves" to delineate class sessions which also forms an informal support structure for students.

Bruce Graham


Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread. I learned a lot more earlier today re this, and as I now know there are classroom follow-ups to many of these courses, wil be able to use many of the ideas discussed, (in terms of 1:1s, reminders etc.).

There are actually forms already available that have ddiscussed the "local issues", but they had never considered using them in the learning as a "hook". Client loved the idea.

Many thanks to everyone.


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