How do we get people to take training? is a question that is asked all too frequently, and the debate appears to be moving on from the importance of instructional design to deliver engaging effective e-learning ….will we need excellent instructional design to attract learners in the future? when we are seeing the development of badges to record and reward learners for taking courses….recognition is indeed a powerful mechanism. But is it powerful enough to overcome content with poor or no Instructional Design?

This blog piece will however argue that there is probably an even more compelling mechanism than badges, and it is at the risk of repeating “Compelling” it is Compelling Content…..that will work with little or no instructional design.

Why, well it has the most motivational reward mechanism known, going beyond (even) badges: the ability after completing the piece of learning to get on with the job….- i.e get the thing to work, help the customer, make the spread-sheet macro function….!

But first a word about “badges”

The recent interest in “badges” as a new mechanism to record and reward training….(is it bye bye e-portfolio?) and being actively supported by the Mozilla Foundation and the recent Innovate UK call for proposals illustrates this growing interest, to quote:

A growing community of educators, institutions, and employers are coalescing around the Open Badges Infrastructure – an initiative of the Mozilla Foundation – to create an open standards-based system for issuing and displaying badges such that badge systems of the world can be portable and interoperable. This allows for badges to work at an ecosystem level, where earners can collect credentials across issuers and share them with multiple stakeholders.”

Badges will come to play an important role in the learning world, and with the advent of open learning environments…MOOCs and more – (the opportunity to learn in many different ways and at different times) keeping and recording what is learnt, and any assessment of skills and competences will become more and more important, and badges are certainly a means of public recognition that e-portfolios are not. Wearing our virtual recognition of skills acquisition is an important incentive.

Instructional design, or good instructional design has always formed the core premise of learning and in particular e-learning. The need for good instructional design will not go away completely, (this should be particularly true of compliance led training, where the organisation requires more than a tick in the box, but a real behavioural change….take note ye banks!).

However, we must ask will a learner put up with poor designed learning if the opportunity for a badge of completion is there at the end of the course? Well maybe, and almost certainly if combined with content that is compelling enough.

This argument is developed by Dan and Ken Cooper who argue learners will put up with no instructional design if the content is compelling enough!

“Compelling content trumps all instructional design decisions. In fact if the content is important enough, people learn even when there is no instructional design.”

They go on “it’s easy to get people to take training. Just communicate how it will directly help people deal with their problems, save them time and effort, make them money or further their career.” *

So the new driver to achieve learner engagement will be compelling content (instructional design almost an optional extra in many cases ) and badges to incentivise, record and reward completion.

*J4 learning: How to Create Training that works in the Digital Age.