The e-learning paradox: maximizing benefits and minimizing fatigue

The concept of learning is being radically transformed. While third-level diplomas and institutions once marked the end of formal education, they now essentially represent just the beginning. Knowledge and skills accumulate so quickly that to remain effective you must continue to learn. And this is especially true when it comes to the workplace.

Learning and development (L&D) is increasingly recognized as essential for top talent in the job search, but it is also sought after by organizations looking to foster and advance upskilling and innovation. In today’s workplace, L&D plays a central role, symbolizing growth, commitment and success, which manifests itself in various formats, with E-Learning being the fast-growing favorite.

According to LinkedInmore than 90% of companies have a digital learning experience of some kind. It is a ubiquitous offering that enables flexibility, up-to-date insight and ease of use. E-Learning also facilitates this lifelong learning model, giving employees access to on-demand, expert training whenever and wherever they want. It suits busy lifestyles and, when administered with attention and care, can be enormously transformative. But this form of learning can also fall prey to its own strengths E-Learning fatigue is a prominent challenge.

How does e-learning fatigue manifest itself?

Defined in a recent edition of the academic journal PerspectivesE-Learning fatigue is:

“The degree to which students experience a sense of overload from immersion in a seemingly constant use of technology, creating mental and physical dynamics that result in less efficient and possibly even uncomfortable learning.”

It is said that we are spending more since the pandemic 50% extra time during video calls. Remote and hybrid working has enabled so much positivity, but there are downsides to being constantly connected to technology. Studies have even shown this that working days in Britain, the US and Canada have increased to an average of 10.5 hours. And it is in this atmosphere that E-Learning fatigue can thrive.

We’re so busy staring at screens for every aspect of our work that adding learning to this virtual mix can seem like overkill. But there are also other elements that can lead to this feeling of fatigue:

  • Pressure from leaders to continuously train and reskill.
  • An overemphasis on learning as a checklist or an exercise in compliance.
  • Unnecessarily long training modules and curricula.
  • Poor production, sound and visual quality.
  • An abundance of resources can be overwhelming.

Becky Chungwho is the VP of Talent Development at Cielo, told us on our podcast That “training is a moment – ​​it is not the solution.“We need to do more than just assume that giving employees access to e-learning is enough – it’s about applying what we’ve learned and making it happen.

When e-learning is low quality, irrelevant, poorly delivered, and overly imposed on employees who are already burned out, fatigue with the format will naturally set in. And this can happen to varying degrees – you may think your team is fine; they complete their learning requirements, there is no pushback, it has to be a success, right? But the truth is, E-Learning fatigue can be endemic without you even realizing it.

Diagnosing e-learning fatigue

If you want L&D to have the biggest impact, you want it to be sustainable, engaging and actionable. ROI comes from how your teams respond and use their knowledge to grow and develop. Like the Computers and Education Open Journal argues:

From an online learning perspective, student engagement is recognized as critical to learning and satisfaction in online courses.

But how do you understand this baseline? The first step is to survey your teams. Do it anonymously, be thorough and collect the relevant data to assess your current approach to e-learning. Below is a quick template to give you an idea of ​​the questions to ask:

E-learning fatigue

From here you can dig into the results to get a clearer picture of how E-Learning scores within your teams and better understand how to create a program that fits their needs. For SocialTalent Customer Success Manager, Aobhe Smyth, the problem usually lies in three areas:

E-learning fatigue

Combating E-Learning Fatigue

Technology-based training is undoubtedly the future (and the present!). But for e-learning to be most effective, it must have a clear purpose and be more than just a relentless barrage of content – ​​otherwise learner fatigue will set in quite quickly.

So how do we approach this?

1. Understanding the ‘why’

Relevance is crucial to learning how to stick with it and not feel like a chore. There is little else more frustrating than sitting at your computer doing training that has no bearing on your role – especially if you didn’t choose it! So make sure your students understand WHY the content has been selected specifically for them. Perhaps it involves further training in a particular area that is important to the organization, or supporting the organization in terms of development or career advancement. When value can be identified, engagement can blossom much more easily. According to LinkedIn56% of employees say they would spend more time learning if a manager suggested a course to improve their skills.

2. Be concise

We are big proponents of microlearning at SocialTalent because we know this model best suits workplace learning. One of our customers, HudsonRPO, is committed to a 30-minute learning block for their employees every week – and managers actively encourage this to ensure accountability. While another SocialTalent customer prefers to take 6 minutes every day to complete some learning items. These processes are significantly more feasible than finding large pieces in an already busy agenda. And for the sake of brevity, make sure the content is concise; this allows students to gain value while also allowing for natural breaks, promoting concentration and avoiding feelings of overwhelm.

Learn more: See how HudsonRPO uses SocialTalent to build a culture of learning.

3. Get off the hamster wheel

Repetition can easily lead to e-learning fatigue. If all users do is click on videos and watch them in isolation and without any engagement, it’s a recipe for diminished returns. Bring learning into your 1-on-1s, set checkpoints to dive deep into progress, plan some social learning moments where people can share and discuss. Not only does it break the monotony, it also gives students the opportunity to think about the practical application of the training.

Learn more: 6 Ways to Build a Learning Culture.

4. Look at the mechanics

Is your user interface easy to find? Is logging in smooth? What about the layout, is it pleasing to the eye and easy to navigate? Can help be found if needed? It’s important to remember that content isn’t the only part of eLearning that warrants thought when it comes to optimizing the experience. If students feel uncomfortable or have to navigate through a clunky dashboard, this will only increase their frustration.

5. Build learning into a work schedule

If you want E-Learning to reach its target, barriers need to be removed. Asking people to train outside of the work week can do just that. By making time during the 9-5, you let your team know how important L&D is and that you are willing to invest in their development. You take away stress, you take away worries and you ensure that they can focus on learning without it seeming like another task on a to-do list.

6. Don’t forget fun

Much of what is advocated regarding e-learning fatigue revolves around optimizing the process and ensuring relevance – which has to implement – ​​but don’t lose sight of the fun factor. Learning should be satisfying, and if your users run out of energy, it’s important to reframe the exercise. Perhaps after completing the mandatory learning, the user can then select their own learning path? Or build in some rewards and incentives to motivate your team and inject some levity into the proceedings. Nokia even uses SocialTalent training in a ‘Who wants to be a millionaire‘-style game with prize swag to increase student engagement!

Learn more: Discover how Nokia turns eLearning into an event!


It’s not hard to see how fatigue can become a problem in e-learning. We spend so much time behind screens and are busier in the workplace than ever before. It’s no surprise that poorly implemented training can cause users to drop out. But it is also very preventable. Communicate with your team, ensure learning content is relevant and accessible, bring lessons from behind closed doors and keep things light – this is the perfect recipe to combat eLearning fatigue!

With an industry-beating NPS of 90 and an 85% course completion rate, the SocialTalent learning platform is designed to keep students engaged. Contact us today for more information.

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