First impressions can make or break your elearning. Learn how to create a beginning that engages and motivates learners

A poor elearning beginning can leave a lasting impression. If you want your elearning to get off to a good start, read this article to discover four ideas that will help you create more effective beginnings.

good elearning beginning

People make split-second judgments about an elearning course, so, if a program gets off to a slow start, learners aren’t likely to continue let alone return.  And even if your program is mandatory, and learners don’t have the choice of turning it off, a lack of interest will lead to a lack of motivation, which means that little learning is likely to take place. This article will focus on helping you to design programs with great beginnings, getting your learners off to a good start.

1. Grab attention

To grab your learners attention, your opening needs to make an impact. In the movies this is done with sweeping landscapes, action chases, or a shocking or mysterious event. In elearning, you can aim for the same kind of effect by using high quality images. The human brain processes visual imagery faster than information from the other sensory channels.

Let’s look at some examples of great beginnings:

Cathy Moore achieves this in her opening to the program “Connect with Haji Kamal” by adopting an illustrative style which sets the scene, introduces the characters and hooks the learner in the opening screen:


Jackie Vannice’s short program covering the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa uses full screen, good quality photographs with small chunks of text placed over the top in transparent background boxes. I particularly like this example because it creates a sense of anticipation – complexity, uncertainty, unpredictability all help raise the level of anticipation.


The BBC’s Spanish language learning program adopts a movie style opening, using a graphical design reminiscent of a movie poster. This would be relatively easy to achieve with PowerPoint if you don’t have the help of a graphic artist.


As The Resuscitation Council UK’s ‘Lifesaver’ program opens, you are immediately drawn into the drama with high spec full screen videos setting the scene and getting the adrenalin going.


2. Setting objectives

The next step in a good beginning involves informing learners about the objectives of the program. Instead of listing learning objectives with statements about what they will learn, try to grab their attention and make them care about the subject.

Try framing the objectives as:

  • A wake-up call
  • A challenge
  • A target or goal
  • An explanation of what’s in it for the learner

Through these approaches the learner becomes engaged in the program, understanding what is going to be required from them and, crucially, what they will get out of it. In the example below, a scenario draws the learner into the topic. The goal is to help a fictional character increase his investment, and the challenge is set quickly and simply.


In the next example, you can see that the objectives are communicated as challenges, inviting the learner to become actively involved and to explore each one further.


3. Set the scene and describe what’s in it for the learner

Enticing your learners through a call-to-action is a good technique for opening your elearning. It works by encouraging learners to take a specific action and offering something irresistible as a reward for completion. Thought-provoking challenges and competing against the clock are two ways of achieving such an opening.

In the example below, you can see a compelling scene that invites learners to take up the challenge. The time limit helps to create a sense of urgency and competition.


4. Challenge preconceptions

Another effective way of beginning your elearning program is to present compelling information that challenges your learners’ preconceptions.

A great example of this technique is Joanna Kurpiewska’s Global Food Waste in which she uses full screen, impactful graphics that pose interactive myth-busting questions. Check it out below:

Global Food Waste2

In this next example, learners are presented with a compelling fact and then challenged to recognize how much they actually know about the topic.


This is a fun and engaging way to get learners interested in finding out more about a topic. If they get it right, they get an instant reward – a sense of achievement – and want to go on to see how much more they know. Or, if they get it wrong, they have found out a surprising fact that challenges their preconceptions and entices them to go on to learn more.

Here is the response screen:



Why is a good beginning important in your elearning program? It’s important because a bad beginning can quickly lead to learners opting out. The ultimate purpose of a good beginning is to motivate learners and to give them a reason for engaging further with the program.

For some more great examples of good beginnings, head over to the showcase at Elearning Superstars.

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