How To Create E-Learning Modules That Boost Training Retention

By: Sierra Rogers on September 28, 2022

In early 2022, Software Advice polled nearly 300 HR leaders for the Toxic Culture Survey* and found that nearly half (49%) are spending more than they have previously on upskilling employees in 2022. However, despite the increase in resources devoted to training initiatives, organizations are struggling to create engaging, effective training modules.

At least, that’s what employees are saying: Recent research from Gartner revealed that more than 40% of employees report that the compliance and ethics training they received in the past 12 months did not help them perform their job better. [1]

Obviously, this is not the outcome that employees that are responsible for developing training programs are hoping for. But the reality is that if you want to create more memorable training programs, you’re going to need to go beyond the basics and start incorporating advanced e-learning elements into your training modules.

So, if you’re a corporate trainer or team manager who’s taken on the task of leveling up your current training modules, say goodbye to hastily slapped together slide decks, because we’ve laid out a step-by-step process for creating effective e-learning training modules.

How to build e-learning modules that boost employee retention

Follow the five steps outlined below to start building e-learning modules that improve training retention.

1. Define the goal of your training module at the outset

Before you begin the process of creating training content, you need to determine what it is you want your employees to take away from the module you’re building. Is it a concept, a set of best practices, or a new process they’ll be learning? Depending on the answer, how you format your training module will be different.

Thought exercise

According to Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve, people forget an average of 50% of new information they’re presented with within an hour and 90% within a week. [2] Knowing this, we suggest keeping your training modules short and focused (rather than trying to provide as much information as possible on a topic). This may mean breaking down a larger training objective into smaller milestones.

For example, let’s say that you’re working on creating an e-learning module that will help prepare a new sales representative for their first call with a lead.

In this scenario, the goal of your module could be for the rep to master the sales script your organization follows. Or, the goal could be to teach the rep how to research the lead they’re calling and tailor their pitch to their background.

Either way, the idea is to be specific about the training objective your module is targeting and to not cram too much information into one e-learning module.

2. Decide which content formats to use to present information

One benefit of using an e-learning tool or learning management system to create training modules is that there’s a whole wide world of content formats available to you. With that level of possibility at your fingertips, knowing which content formats to use (and when) to get a point across is essential in order to boost your employees’ knowledge retention.

Below, we’ve provided you with a cheat sheet that gives an overview of seven common types of e-learning content formats and what they’re best used for.

Content format

What it's best used for



Video content is especially useful when it’s used to show how a process or workflow happens.

A screen recording of a user navigating a new software system that employees are expected to use.

Social learning (such as discussions or roleplay)

Social learning is great for showing how to apply knowledge in a scenario.

Two employees rehearsing a sales pitch with one another.

Podcasts and audio recordings

Podcasts and lectures can help learners grasp concepts related to soft skills such as leadership or communication.

A TED Talk or interview with an industry leader.


Visual aids are best used to illustrate processes or present data.

A flowchart showing the steps in a complex manufacturing process.

Quizzes and tests

Assessments are a great tool to measure a learners’ understanding of what was covered in a module.

A scenario-based knowledge check at the end of a compliance training on harassment in the workplace.


Slides are used to deliver information through a combination of text, images, charts, and graphs.

A PowerPoint or Google Slide presentation that gives an overview of a company’s core values.


Similar to slides, eBooks combine text and visual aids to go in-depth on a topic.

A downloadable employee’s handbook.

Use this table to determine what content format(s) your module should include, and to avoid overloading trainees, stick to two or three content formats per module.

Continuing with our example from the first step, if your goal is to help a new hire master your company’s sales script, you could first show a video of two employees running through the script, then have new hires reinforce what they’ve learned through roleplay (social learning) with another employee or through an e-learning simulation.

A roleplay scenario used to train customer service representatives in Day One

A roleplay scenario used to train customer service representatives in Day One [3]

3. Create e-learning modules with a course authoring tool

Once you’ve determined what your content will cover and how you will present it, it’s time to start creating your e-learning modules.

Tool tip

You will need a course authoring tool of some kind to create e-learning modules. Course authoring is a feature of many learning management systems and employee training software tools. If you need help finding a course authoring tool that works best for your business, you can get started by chatting with one of our advisors (it’s completely free).

A dropdown menu shows content format options in TalentLMS

A dropdown menu shows content format options in TalentLMS (Source)

Building modules is a responsibility that should be divided between HR professionals and team managers. For instance, if the module is a compliance training, a corporate trainer should be the one to develop it, but if it’s team-specific (such as introducing a new project workflow), then a leader from that team should take the reins. All this to say, make sure that your course authoring tool of choice allows for multiple individuals to be assigned an admin role so that the task of creating training is easy to manage.

Lastly, before you begin, have a quick brainstorming session, and map out the contents of your module in a data management tool, such as a Microsoft Word document or a spreadsheet. Keep this step simple: Write down the information you plan to share with the learner and the content formats you’ll use to accomplish that. That way, you’ll have a reference you can turn to when you begin building your module in your course authoring tool.

4. Plan for a successful deployment of new modules

Now that you’ve built your module, all that’s left to do is follow a few steps to ensure that employees know how to access it and by what date they’re expected to complete it. Follow the four tips below for a successful training rollout to your workforce or team:

  • First, have managers give their direct reports a heads-up. Whether in one-on-ones or team meetings, managers should communicate to their team members what they are going to be trained on and why. This step is especially important if your module is a part of a larger training plan that will take place over the course of weeks or months.

  • Notify those who are expected to complete the training of its release. The best way to do this is to send an email to said group with a link to the live training for easy access.

  • Set a due date for completion. Include a specific date you expect the employees to complete the training by in your initial email. We recommend giving them at least a week between the initial email and the proposed due date.

  • Send a reminder email: A few days after you first notify employees of the training, send a reminder email that includes the same information (due date, where to access the training, etc.).

Tool tip

Most LMS have a reporting feature that shows you completion rates for training modules. You can use this feature to determine who needs a follow-up reminder to complete the training, as well as how long it took employees to complete it, and how they performed in any knowledge tests.

A manager dashboard shows completion and participation rates in 360Learning

A manager dashboard shows completion and participation rates in 360Learning (Source)

5. Provide opportunities to apply new knowledge post-training

Lastly, in order to prevent the concepts or practices presented in your training module from becoming long forgotten, you need to provide a chance for your employees to use what they’ve learned. Without doing so, the new information they’ve taken in will fade away, and the work you put into building the training will have been a waste of effort.

For example, if you watch a YouTube tutorial on how to bake a soufflé, but then you never pull out a ramekin or beat an egg white, the chances are low that you’ll remember the specific set of instructions you’re supposed to follow.

So what does this look like in a professional setting? The truth is that it will be different depending on the subject of your training, but here are a few examples of how this step could play out:

  • Sending a fake phishing email to your workforce a couple of weeks after a cybersecurity awareness training

  • Asking a team member to spearhead a new project or initiative after they’ve completed leadership training.

  • Sending a sales representative on their first call after they’ve been trained on the sales script.

As someone who’s in charge of developing training programs for your organization, think about how the contents of each module you create will be applied in the workplace. Then, once a training module has been developed, look ahead a few weeks and plan an opportunity for employees to apply what they’ve learned.

Need help planning larger training initiatives? Download our employee training plan template now.