Have there been eLearning courses that you have completed only because they were mandated? Or those that you have completed by just clicking on the ‘Next’ button but not really learnt anything? Then you have experienced what ‘learner disengagement’ is. What about the opposite feeling? Are there courses you enjoyed, that have kept you engrossed and that you’ve had great learning from? That is learner engagement. Research shows, and it is common sense, that higher the engagement more effective is the learning.
Learner engagement is the degree of attention, curiosity and interest learners show during the learning process.
There are many answers. Approaches to engagement vary based on content, culture and audience.
A skilled instructional design team will be able to approach your content from your learner’s point of view and augment it with engagement strategies that make sense in your context.
Here are some approaches we use at Artha:
1) Customised learning paths
Build on the knowledge that learners already have, instead of teaching down to them. Get learners to explore things in the module and then apply what they already know. An ideal way to do this would be to have a customised learning path aligned to a learner’s role and level of expertise. Below is an example of how we got learners to choose their learning path in an inventory management software training course.
2) Simulations and scenarios to get learners to apply their learning
Getting learners to apply their learning to real life situations is what makes eLearning most effective. It offers learners a safe space to experiment and fail, and also makes the material relevant to the learner thereby increasing engagement 2 . Application ensures that the learning loop is complete and performance is not only assessed based on theoretical knowledge alone.
So, if your course is about Sales, consider a branching scenario where your students get to ‘try out’ various responses and see the result. Or in a course for new managers, show the impact of unclear, vague feedback on a team. Building branching scenarios needs an in-depth understanding of the root problem and its various manifestations and impacts – so make sure you have full SME buy-in when designing your scenarios.
3) Use of visuals and animated videos
The simplest way to enhance engagement in your courses is to be mindful about its visual design. Well-chosen visuals and videos attract attention and enhance retention.
Human beings are an emotional species, and we learn best when the learning content connects with us affectively. Consider if your audience will respond emotionally to the visuals and videos you are using. Of course, some topics yield themselves better to the affective domain than others. But even if you are working on a boring topic and using stock images – try and stay away from cheesy, cliché stock pics that we see all around, and are conditioned to ignore. Take time to find the visuals that invite learners to pay attention.
Gamification is increasingly popular in learning design and using it in eLearning can take your course notches higher in terms of holding viewer attention. Remember, your course does not have to be a “game” – but there are different degrees in which game elements can be introduced in a course and build engagement.
You might start with a scoreboard to stimulate some healthy competition. Rebrand your quizzes so they feel like a quest. Give badges to generate motivation. Or, you can go all out and offer learning games instead of learning modules! As in any other approach, good gamification design needs a lot of thought, and consideration to learner type, company culture, and overall context of the content. Having said that, a little fun usually goes a long way in engagement.
As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to add to the EQ(Engagement Quotient) of online courses. However, a word of caution would be to not load activities just with the aim of engaging learners.
Learner engagement is meaningful only when married to a well-crafted lesson plan with clear learning objectives.
Even a well-made movie which contains little actual activity can keep a viewer hooked for hours! So, it’s best not to equate more activity to necessarily more engagement!
Creating an engaging course takes a real love for the profession. Interested in discussing more of it? Book a demo and let’s chat about it!
(1) Thompson, H. (2013). Andragogy, computer-mediated learning: The demise of the lecture. Radical Pedagogy, 10(2), 83-96.
(2) Clark, R. C., & EBL – York University. (2013). Scenario-based e-learning: Evidence-based guidelines for online workforce learning. Pfeiffer, an Imprint of Wiley.