Digital learning content – why less is more

I thought I had given a fairly straightforward task to a team member to create some learning content, when they came back to me with ‘there’s SO much information to cover, I got lost!’

These days doing an internet trawl on most topics will bring up encyclopedic amounts of information. Our skill as L&D professionals in this new world of abundant content is not just that of information collector and curator, but also how to ‘re-create’ content, e.g. refine, distill, summarise and re-package, so it is right for our audience.

This is a unique skill in itself, and this draws on many other skill-sets. Back in our school days producing a summary was simply taking a piece of comprehension and pulling out the salient points or key facts into a shorter version. The reality now is multiply that amount of information by a factor of 10, add in all the various multimedia formats available, and you have a 3 dimensional challenge as opposed to our one dimensional past. It’s no wonder creating anything can feel overwhelming.

Here are my top tips in this new world of content creation:

Understand your audience 

To understand your audience, you need to picture them, who they are and what challenges they face. This will then determine the content that can benefit them. The advantage of digital content is that it doesn’t have to be one size fits all, so you can segment your customers and create content accordingly. For example different content would be used when talking about appraisals with managers as opposed to employees. Picturing who they are and what their specific problems may be can help you to personalise your message and make it more relatable rather than just being generalised information.

Digital content is not made in stone 

Gone are the days when classroom training content, or the user manual, was written, and then stayed the same – and had to be comprehensive, all-embracing and the be-all and end-all for a full-year cycle of training (or more). We are now in a world where content is fluid, flexible, and varied. So in your ‘blend’ there may be a blog Q&A which gives a personal take on the subject, plus a piece of e-learning that gives a fuller overview, plus a webinar that can be more informal and varied. All of these can cover a different amount of content and a different emphasis. Content can be used and re-used again with a different slant for a different audience. This is what keeps it fresh.

Creativity rules 

In this new world, there are no rules. You are free to be as creative as you like. Just don’t take too long. Volume and output are a higher currency than something that is seemingly perfect but misses the deadline as it took too long to produce. Pictures, humour, personal stories – anything that can bring content to life and move it away from corporate speak will help to engage your audience.

Honed writing skills

Great writing skills are useful whatever the medium you are working in. The book ‘We, me, them & It’ is a definite recommendation for anyone that wants to communicate more powerfully with the right combination of words and images. Training that specifically focuses on writing for the web is useful too and worth seeking out, especially if the last writing training you had was your English Language GCSE or ‘O’ Level! My top tips here include LESS is MORE when writing for a screen, edit ruthlessly (my team don’t call me Red-pen Rachel for nothing!) and cut anything that could be considered jargon. All this with a fresh informal tone makes for lively reading.


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