The Secrets of Learner Engagement and Online Course Development

online learner engagement
December 17, 2018

This is the first of a two-part series about online learner engagement. 

If every topic of every course was fascinating stuff that learners were hungry to learn, then engagement would be no problem. However, course content sometimes isn’t all that engaging, which means your employees are not getting the training they need to help your business thrive.

online learner engagement

However, there are some simple tips for designing online training that will increase employee engagement and help make a difference in your bottom line.

Engage learners by providing choice

The primary rule of engagement is to make the course into a series of interesting choices, ranging from assessment questions, scenario exercises, and even navigation options, available extra resources, links and so on. The less passive the course content is, the more engaging it will be.

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Make feedback meaningful

Another point is to make feedback meaningful, so that even a bad choice is treated as a learning opportunity. With correct answers to quiz questions, reiterate the learning objective, instead of just saying “well done”.

If it’s a wrong choice you can branch them away to some remedial learning, or at the very least you can put them on the right path by telling them what was wrong and what the right answer is.

Don’t teach content learners know already

Another thing that makes a course boring is to have to wade through content that you already know, or that is so obvious it is an insult to your intelligence.

Use pre-tests to allow experienced learners to jump ahead

This can be dealt with by pre-testing. A challenge can be presented that demonstrates the learning objective is already achieved, allowing the learner to jump forward if they already know this.

Try putting your assessment questions at the beginning of a topic rather than the end. If your learners can’t answer the question, or solve the problem, then they would have to go through the content in order to try again, but if they already know it, then on to the next assessment.

Understand what motivates learners: getting training over with quickly

Finally, the reality is that most employees engage with online training simply because they must; your employees want to get training over and done with as quickly as possible and with the least amount of effort. Training often doesn’t seem like “real work”, so why not get it out of the way quickly?

See also: What Are Adult Learning Styles, and How Do They Affect eLearning?

It may seem counterintuitive, but employers can use this seeming lack of engagement as a powerful motivator that can make training more effective.

Make the quickest and fastest way the most informative

One way to harness this “get it over with” attitude is to design the course so that the fastest and easiest route to completion is the one we want employees to take.

This could mean:

  • utilizing branches to remedial content that only becomes available when people take short cuts
  • guessing at answers to situations that require a choice
  • skipping rapidly through screens

In summary, construct the course so that an informed choice moves the employee learner swiftly forward while a bad guess always requires extra time to get back to the point of moving forward.

Learners will soon get the message.

An interesting challenge, not a picture, is worth a thousand words

We cannot overemphasize that a challenging choice is worth a thousand fancy effects or beautiful graphics. Just think how challenging a word game can sometimes be, or a text scenario, and how boring an elaborate animation with no meaningful outcome can be.

So before wasting time and resources on graphics, videos or animation, instead think through the choices you will offer, and then decide how best to present them. That doesn’t mean that an attractive course makes no difference: pictures often do speak a thousand words.

However, think carefully about illustrations, and don’t just slap meaningless clipart into place. Try to tell the story with the image and keep text to a minimum.

Questions About Online Learning? Contact Udutu for Answers!

Udutu’s free course authoring software lends itself to teams who must collaborate to create training, or to groups who are scattered, and to Subject Matter Experts who don’t have the time or inclination to become technologists.

As always, if you have any questions about course authoring and creating effective elearning content, don’t hesitate to contact the team at Udutu.

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