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ATD Blog

How Trainers Use Prework to Increase Learner Engagement

Friday, February 28, 2020

Engaged learners are the fantasy of every corporate learning and development professional.

These learners are motivated, ask questions, and do the training you assign. They take responsibility for their learning and are likely to exhibit the performance outcomes for which you designed. That’s why more and more trainers are using prework as a strategy to increase learner engagement.

Here’s a brief look at how three L&D professionals design prework into their training.

Why Learner Engagement Matters

Learner engagement is hard to define but known when seen. Typically it is referred to as learners being so curious that they want to learn (as opposed to being forced to learn by their company, manager, or other authority).

Learner engagement matters to the success of your training for a multitude of reasons. When learners are engaged, they are more likely to attend, participate in, and rate your classes. One of those is probably a KPI for your team.

Research also shows that learner engagement is indicative of learner performance. If your learner is engaged, they are more likely to retain and apply your training.

So the perennial question regards how to increase learner engagement even if your delivering compliance or systems training.


What Is Prework

That’s where prework comes in.

Prework is generally defined as any activity or assignment you assign to the learner before they show up to the classroom (whether that is an in-person or virtual space). For example, you may ask your learners to read a chapter of theory so you can discuss it as a group. Or you may task your leadership learners with assessing their team before the class starts.

How Trainers Use Prework to Increase Learner Engagement

In Mimeo's recent e-book The Trainer’s Guide to Prework, we interviewed three trainers about how they use prework to increase learner engagement.

Prework can be used to pique the learner’s interest in the topic, which is key to getting them engaged in their learning. For example, Lou Russell at Moser Consulting uses interactive content “like puzzles, stories, and fill-in-the-blanks,” so learners become curious about the subject.


Brian Washburn at Endurance Learning has used prework to prime learners on a subject matter, which both engages them and increases retention. “Reading articles, case studies, or other information in advance can help with retention as it provides an opportunity for the learning to be ‘spaced’.”

For leadership training, Linda Berke from Taylor Performance Solutions uses surveys and quizzes before the class. “Our learners are often very busy and sometimes overwhelmed with work. The prework helps them get into the mindset of learning before the workshop.”

Bottom Line

Your training is going to be more effective when your learners are engaged with their journey. Prework is a great way to start that journey earlier and provide more opportunities for your learners to get curious.

Looking for more ideas? Overwhelmed with how to start with prework? Download Mimeo’s The Trainer’s Guide to Prework.

About the Author

Katie Flanagan is on the marketing team at Mimeo, where she hosts monthly webinars for the Learning and Development community on everything from designing good handouts to measuring your training to getting executive buy-in. Find our more about Mimeo and our webinars at

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