Tips for Learner Engagement and Online Course Development

Tips for Learner Engagement and Online Course Development
January 18, 2019

This is the second of a two-part series about online learner engagement. This week, instructional and eLearning designer Laureen Barry provides some tips on online course development and how to make your curriculum more engaging.

Tips for Learner Engagement and Online Course Development

Make Learning Personal

Adding a personal touch to elearning content is one of the most basic ways to boost learner engagement. For example, use the first person: I, me, you, your, to make the learning more personal.

The personal touch can form the fundamental structure of your curriculum as well. You can do this by using scenarios or characters throughout the course that the learner can identify with.

For example, let’s say your research indicates that most people taking the course are too busy or angry about having to take “another stupid online course”. Why not start with a scenario of someone who has the same mindset as your typical user?

Other Ideas for Personalizing Learning

As the scenario progresses, this person finds themselves in a situation where they could have in fact used the training to avert a serious accident. They may become crippled or disabled in some way. Capture your learner’s attention right at the beginning with a story that arouses their curiosity.

Other ideas for including a personal touch in your elearning content include interjecting short videos of the actual instructor (you can also use an actor) speaking to the online learner. The personal, human-to-human touch is better than wading through loads of boring text.

Keep Things Simple

Learners should be focusing on mastering learner outcomes, rather than spending mental energy figuring out what to do next.

Try to keep things simple when designing curriculum by removing as many cognitive barriers as possible that learners might encounter.

This could include making the course navigation E A S Y. People who are not technically savvy will get frustrated with a course that is difficult to navigate. Use the KISS principle without appearing condescending or insulting their intelligence and skills.

One useful feature that removes complications and keeps things simple are section menus that are checked off when a learner completes each section. This allows learners to know where they are and what they have completed in information-heavy courses.

As well, make it easy to quit. When it comes to assessments or scenarios, always give the learner a way out. Nothing is more frustrating that being caught in a loop of wrong answers with no way to get out!

Bite-Sized Modules, Glossaries and Options for Audio

Break lengthy topics into “bite-sized” modules that the learner can quickly and easily complete and digest. Seeing that you are on screen 10 of 200 screens can be totally overwhelming.

Other ideas to keep things simple include providing a resource list and glossary for complicated subjects that require frequent referencing.

Consider adding audio, slow readers or language learners will be forever grateful! Udutu has a toggle button to mute the narration for those fast readers who don’t want to listen to the audio.

Tell Stories

Telling stories is one of the most powerful ways that teachers can connect with learners. Storytelling forges connections between people and ideas, making it an effective strategy when designing curriculum. Everyone will remember a shocking, interesting or well-told story.


Like stories, games are also an important tool for creating curriculum. Many learners are motivated by the opportunity to complete goals while receiving recognition for their efforts.

Give Your Learners a Voice

Let them rant! A disgruntled learner may just want to vent once in a while, without repercussions. Learners can use a text form to type in their rant. Even better, they could use the Voice recording option to record their rant and listen to the immediate playback. The voice recorder lets them listen to their own rant. It might just spark some humor to get them through the frustration they may be facing.

In the case of written text and voice recording, nothing is retained or tracked – they are for the learner’s benefit only. Why not use it to give them free rein to say and write whatever they want?

Online Course Development Checklist

This is a lot of information and ideas, so, to keep it simple, here’s my personal course development checklist:

  • Why should I CARE?
  • Please, DON’T BORE Me!
  • Make it FUN
  • Show me the QUICKEST PATH
  • Tell me the IMPORTANT PARTS (I can research the rest)
  • Tell me WHY
  • Make me LOL or SMILE
  • Make it MEMORABLE (Sticky)
  • Give me FEEDBACK
  • Give me an OUT

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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