Behavior Change – The Real Goal of eLearning

Designing Digitally


Behavior E-Learning

As learning and development professionals, we know it isn’t enough to design a slick training course and deliver it to our workforce.  Training needs to translate into behavior change in order for it to be truly effective. Whether we’re talking about creating a safer work environment, increasing sales, improving customer service, or any number of other positive influences – behavior change is the real purpose behind any training effort. And if changing behavior is the goal, then eLearning is our most effective tool in accomplishing it.

No other form of training has as much potential to influence behavior change as eLearning does. There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the most powerful is the control that learners have over their training with eLearning. Because of the individualized nature of eLearning – self-paced, interactive and available – there is more opportunity for a learner to truly understand what is being taught.  

Steps toward behavior change

Understanding that most behavior is simply habit, researchers in the 1970s developed what they called the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change. This model identified five distinct stages of behavior change, in an effort to influence an alteration in habits and effect positive behavioral outcomes. These five stages are:

  • Pre-contemplation (no intention of making a change)
  • Contemplation (initial thoughts of making a change in the future)
  • Preparation (getting ready to make a change)
  • Action (taking steps toward making a change)
  • Maintenance (behavior has changed – monitoring old habits)

If we use these five stages of behavior change in designing our eLearning courses, we can address the barriers that often get in the way of producing positive change. In order to do this, let’s take a look at how we can address each stage within our eLearning design.

  • Pre-contemplation:  Use compelling evidence and reasoning to influence a desire to change
  • Contemplation:  Show learners how that change would look, and provide behavior-modeling
  • Preparation:  Give them tools, set attainable goals, allow opportunities for success
  • Action:  Allow for practice of skills, offer rewards and feedback, assess progress
  • Maintenance:  Offer on-going support, give access to references, provide an “expert” path

Understand that change is a process, not an event

The key to designing training courses that influence a change in behavior is to remember that change doesn’t come easily. At every stage of behavior change, the natural human tendency is to revert to old habits. Because of this, we need to keep in mind some important points about human nature.

  1. People learn better through experience. Give learners an opportunity to experience by designing scenarios, simulations, and performance challenges into your eLearning.
  2. Positive feedback and rewards can have a great impact.  Using gamification and game-based motivators in eLearning can entice learners to maximize their training experience.
  3. Repetition and reinforcement allows more opportunity for success.  The adage that practice makes perfect is never truer than when trying to influence behavior change.
  4. People are motivated by self-interest.  Building relevance and specific job benefits into your eLearning courses will offer learners a clear benefit to themselves.
  5. Old habits are hard to break.  Another old adage, but one that should be remembered when we design eLearning courses. We must keep in mind that we are hoping to replace an old behavior with a new and preferred behavior.

Considerations for behavior change in eLearning

When trying to change a behavior with eLearning, it’s important to identify any barriers to the desired change. Ask why this behavior isn’t currently taking place. Is it due to lack of knowledge, or is it simply a lack of awareness? This will help you to determine the type of training you need in order to influence the change you want.

Here at Designing Digitally, we’re experts at creating eLearning courses that influence behavior and lead to lasting change. We use techniques that are designed to engage learners, and meet them where they are. We also incorporate a variety of tools into our eLearning including gamification, simulations, and group-based learning. All of these elements serve to provide your workforce with the best opportunity to learn new behaviors. The result is more effective eLearning and a better functioning workforce. Call us or request a quote today.