‘People don’t buy features, they buy benefits’ is a marketing term. If you want to sell something, highlight the benefits, not the features. Perhaps the same is true in elearning.

A feature is something that your product/service has, benefits are the outcomes or results that users will (hopefully) experience by using your product or service.

Learners are interested in the benefits they will receive from investing their time in any training. However, if there aren’t any benefits, it’s unlikely that they will be invested or engaged. As we used to say, What’s In It For Me?

For example, would *gamification be a feature or a benefit?

I’d say that it’s a feature. It’s unlikely to help me do my job or understand something. It’s a delivery style.

I know as a learner I’m becoming more and more impatient. I know what I want and actively seek it. If I can get it quickly, so much the better.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

It’s from a series of videos which are part selling, and part product tutorials. I’ve learnt a lot from them, they look nice and there’s a little bit of humour. I’d have settled for learning a lot, but the other bits are nice touches that just make it a bit more attractive.

For me, the features are that it’s a video which looks good, pitched right, easy to follow and I can hear what the different settings sound like.

The benefit I get from it is that I can use/control the software more effectively. This helps me get the outcome I want.

If it had just been a slick piece of marketing, I’d have lost interest early on – but I find myself going back to these, maybe to learn something about the software, but often to learn something about what I think makes really effective elearning materials.

When we design, commission or buy elearning materials, perhaps we need to think about the benefits, not the features, the actual takeaways (what I call objectives), and question whether this is really something that a colleague would buy into.

*I use gamification in the sense of adding things like timers, leader boards, challenges and so on to make something game like, as opposed to a learning game – a game which is used for learning.