Developing and delivering engaging online training is a universal struggle. In a recent survey, 71% of respondents indicated that engaging employees is their biggest challenge. The reason, the process isn’t interesting enough for the learner. I asked Adult Learning Specialist, Peggy Palmen, about the strategies she uses to engage learners and keep them from simply clicking “Next” to complete online training courses. She uses five fundamental strategies to deliver Safety Made Simple’s online content.


Animations grab the attention of learners and keep them engaged because they don’t know what is going to happen next. The combination of audio, visual, and on-screen text used in animations appeals to various learning styles. Animations are also an effective tool for explaining complex processes and abstract concepts because the content is presented in smaller, simplified pieces of information with a visual component to reinforce the words.

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Characters provide learners someone with whom to relate. The characters used in Safety Made Simple’s case studies and interactivities help drive the content home by asking questions that learners may not be comfortable asking their supervisors. Characters also present safety issues in a manner that gets the learner thinking about why they should or should not do something, without the ramifications of getting injured or killed on the job. Illustrating the wrong way to do something can be more effective in terms of learner retention than showing learners the right way to do it. If learners see the consequences of actions unfold, chances are they will remember why they should not do it that way in the future.

Thought Questions

Thought questions are an engaging way to get learners to think about the “whys and hows” behind the information being presented instead of just delivering the content in a static manner. When learners take a moment to consider positive and negative outcomes and make their own choices, retention increases.

Drag-and-Drop Activities

Drag-and-drop (matching) activities challenge learners to apply their knowledge by grouping information into the appropriate category or organizing it into the correct order (e.g., a flow diagram or step-by-step process). The simple act of thinking about the information provided and processing it increases retention.


Providing remediation (feedback) at the end of an activity increases retention. If learners answer a question or solve a drag-and-drop correctly, the answer is reinforced and further elaborated. If learners answer wrong or match a drag-and-drop incorrectly, the correct answer is provided in the remediation. Either way, learning occurs, and the correct information is relayed.

Whether you are searching for the right online training content or building your own, learner engagement and retention are critical. Consider using animations, characters, thought questions, drag-and-drop activities, and remediation to increase engagement and retention.

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Joe Mlynek is a partner and subject matter expert at Safety Made Simple, LLC He has over 25 years of experience in safety at the corporate level and as a consultant. He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and Occupational Safety and Health Technician (OHST). Joe can be reached at [email protected]