How to Design Addiction from “FOMO” into eLearning

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It’s called the “Fear of Missing Out,” or FOMO. It’s that feeling you get when you haven’t checked into Facebook or you RSVP to that event, even if you don’t really want to go. It’s what keeps you scrolling through pictures on Instagram or checking Twitter every five minutes. It’s the sense that if you don’t check in almost constantly, you’re missing out on something amazing.

Of course, we know that not every status update is a gem and every picture posted isn’t Picasso, but it’s not the actual content that keeps us glued; it’s the delivery method. Social media sites use specific updating tactics and strategies that keep you checking in often. It’s bad news for your data plan, but if you can harness the strategy for eLearning, it’s good news for your training strategy.

The Power of Notifications

One of the ways Facebook, iMessage, and Instagram keep you checking and rechecking is that they offer clear notifications for when something changes on your feed. New picture posted? Notification. Someone tagged you? Notification. These notifications keep the app or site fresh in your mind, so it’s hard to navigate away.

Notifications can become a powerful tool in mobile learning. By letting users know when another person has signed in and completed a module, or how long it’s been since their last session, you trigger that fear of missing out and engineer a response to check in and interact with the module again.

Letting Learners Lead

Think about the last time you downloaded a game onto your phone. Chances are that the game gave you a few quick tips to get going, but then you’re left on your own to figure out the game play strategy, controls, and capabilities.

Now, contrast that to eLearning. Do you force users through the same experience? Do your learners have time to test, experiment, and try the module out for themselves? As it turns out, a comprehensive user experience may not be as addictive as one that encourages learners to try for themselves. That’s they kind of experience that keeps learners wanting to come back and master different levels, achieve goals, and find out how to use the module.

Building Anticipation

A little bit of anticipation–or even anxiety–is a surefire way to build FOMO. That’s because when people fear that their friends are doing something cool or that everyone’s talking about the latest trending topic, they want to hop online and get involved.

It’s OK to build a little bit of suspense into your learning modules, especially when they contain game-like elements. Don’t show all of your cards at once: Instead, let learners build their learning experiences by trying new things, making mistakes, and moving onto new chapters and sections as they go. Instead of flat learning trajectory, learners experience one that is multidimensional and tailored to their specific learning styles.

Giving Instant Feedback

When you send a text message and get one in return, it floods your brain with dopamine. It’s the satisfaction of instant gratification, and it’s hard to get more instant than instant messaging. We love our smartphones and computers because they move quickly. From posting pictures to sending comments, liking, and searching, FOMO occurs when you lose access to your quick source of constant information.

When building eLearning modules, remember that instant feedback is a powerful tool to keep users on the right track and motivated to learn. Instead of floundering and wondering how they’re doing, they know exactly where they excel and where improvement is needed.

Whether or not FOMO is a good thing in social media is up to you; but in eLearning, FOMO is a definite motivator. By building in the anticipation and fear that everyone else is getting to experience something awesome, it’s possible to design true learning addicts from even the most casual learners.