Best online learning formats to engage your staff

The best content formats

Last year saw the acceleration of digital learning in most organisations. 

The Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns meant that employees required digital resources to help do their jobs and learn new skills. In 2020, learning and development teams shifted to a digital first strategy for supporting the organisation.

As we have discussed in a previous article, there are now new drivers for learning technology post Covid-19. These include timely, focused communications and the sharing of resources to support colleagues with wellbeing, working from home and so on.

Learning formats to engage your staff

So what are the most effective formats for engaging staff around learning? Now that we are fully immersed in the digital space it is worth stepping back and acknowledging the type of content that people like to consume online.

According to research cited by Tech Crunch, the video-sharing social network TikTok is expected to hit one billion monthly active users in 2021. When it does it will join the likes of YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

These platforms are the most popular platforms on earth. And their focus is video and communications. Video is a hugely popular format outside of work, so it will come as little surprise that video content is second only to Goggle search as the most useful tool for learning, according to research carried out by Emerald Works. The findings are based on the responses of 18,435 employees over the past four years.

Research from Fosway Group found similar findings. Its data shows that the most successful type of learning content through the first lockdown was video, followed by curated content, mobile learning, blended and micro learning.

The evidence shows that video is a hugely popular format for learning, as are shorter, bite-sized resources more commonly known as micro-learning. Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and the availability of consistent bandwidth, these formats can be easily consumed on any device.

Delivering digital formats in new ways

Covid-19 has been the catalyst for organisations to deliver learning resources in new ways.


5app helps organisations quickly create and share playlists of assets. As learning teams have turned to curating resources in order to quickly respond to employees’ needs – especially the need for wellbeing resources – so the playlist has become useful way to present and share information. Playlists are a popular and familiar format that allow L&D teams to quickly pull together a mix or resources on one topic or to support a specific task.


This act of bringing together a set of resources on a specific topic, for a defined audience, is known as curation. As the Fosway Group research we mentioned earlier shows, curated content has been one of the most successful types of content through the Covid-19 lockdown. This is because content curation is an effective L&D strategy, enabling organisations to quickly respond to employees’ information needs. The alternative of creating content is expensive and takes longer to produce which makes it a less effective option when speed and responsiveness is of the essence.

On-demand blended resources

Earlier last year, 5app, along with our partners Hemsley Fraser, won a gold award at the Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence Awards. The award was for the Greystar, a global leader in rental housing, corporate business school. The project provided more than a home for the company’s learning resources, however.

After the novelty of the launch had worn off the L&D team saw a dip in engagement. To remedy this they started curating stories that related to modules and resources in the business school. They used a diverse set of content, from news to fun pieces of content and supported these with regular corporate messaging.

This mix of content shared regularly in playlists, encouraged employees into the business school. As a result, engagement with the business school increased. This activity also helped to build a culture of learning within the organisation.

The key to Greystar’s success was to focus on a mix of relevant and timely content, in a range of formats, and an approach to communicating about resources that was responsive to the need of employees.

It is important to use a mix of digital formats but this needs to be supported by an effective communications plan.

Responding to employee needs

Curating resources enables L&D teams to be responsive to the needs of their employees. But how do you know if what you are curating is working? How do you know which formats work best for your organisation?

By using data and generating actionable insights, L&D teams can build a picture of what resources work and for whom. By taking a granular approach to measuring the impact of different content formats, L&D can see which formats work and for whom. These measures can also be used to determine which topics are in demand and how that differs according to different segments of the employee population.


The last 12 months have shown that being flexible and responsive is key to delivering effective learning and development. The shift to digital-first learning and development provides organisations with an opportunity to mix formats, curate a range of different resources and share them in a timely way.

Digital also provides the opportunity to use formats that employees like to consume outside of work. That’s why video has become such an important part of the mix for L&D. And by using data and insights, all L&D teams can experiment and learn. By looking at the data you can see which formats work well and for whom. Using these insights will help develop a more efficient and effective learning function.

Use a platform that supports your new ways of working and learning. 5app can help in supporting your L&D strategy, creating a learning culture and in aligning learning with the business needs and objectives.

Get in touch to find out more.

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