Believe it or not, nomophobia–the term for the fear of being without your smartphone–affects at least 40 percent of Americans, according to Psychology Today. It’s not just that sinking feeling you get when you realize that you’ve left your phone at home; it’s that compulsive need to check the weather, load up the latest news, and even check your email any time the feeling strikes. From sunup to sundown, people are undeniably addicted to their smartphones and all that those devices can do.
Smartphones can be a distraction, to be sure, but the best L&D pros know that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. By adopting some of the same tactics that app developers use to keep users glued the latest gaming, news, and even weather apps, you can get learners just as addicted to eLearning as they are to their smartphones. Here’s how.
Offer eLearning Options
Not all smartphone users are the same, which is why there’s a benefit to having adjustable settings within the same basic app. Take news, for example: Some want a condensed version of every headline, while others prefer a topical approach to the news that most affects them. Some would rather have a feed where news is continually updated, while others would prefer to check in and get the top stories throughout the day.
Allow your learners to lead by offering options for eLearning. A text-based eLearning course is one thing, but when it’s supplemented by how-to videos or utilizes game elements, it suddenly caters to more than just one type of learner. What’s more, adding options for learners to test out of chapters that they’ve already mastered reduces the disengagement that happens with a “been there, done that” attitude.
Create an Emotional Connection
The strongest emotions are the ones most likely to drive user engagement. From fear to sadness, humor to happiness, smartphone users check in with their phones because they have an emotional connection to the information being delivered. Maybe it’s fear that a thunderstorm will ruin their weekend camping trip, or the promise of a funny prank video, but those emotions are powerful drivers of smartphone addictions.
Utilize what you know about learners to create a stronger emotional connection. Users are more engaged when content is funny or they’re motivated by something other than necessity. Tell a story with your content and show users why they should care to create a narrative to which users can connect and want to follow.
Score a Direct Hit
If you were searching for stock news and your phone displayed celebrity gossip, travel tips, and sports scores as well, you’d probably end up frustrated. Smartphones are addictive because they give users a direct hit on exactly what they want, when they want it. This quick retrieval of information gives the brain a rush of feel-good endorphins, making the power of history’s most extensive collection of information (the Internet) that much more powerful.
In eLearning, make sure your users can find exactly what they’re looking for. Having to page through a chapter to locate one fact is not only cumbersome, it’s a waste of time. Learners won’t crave eLearning when they know it’s both time-consuming and often irrelevant. Create that endorphin rush by making it easy for learners to choose from topics and “chunk” their learning so it’s quick and direct.
The next time you find yourself picking up your smartphone to check the weather or locate basketball scores, consider what makes those news apps so habit-forming. The quick access to topical information and the way you feel when you get that hit of information should tell you something about how to structure eLearning content. Hey, we’re not saying that smartphone addiction is a good thing; we’re just saying that it can be harnessed as a force for good in eLearning.