Engaged learners are what we are actually looking for in eLearning. In this article, I’ll share 6 tips to create engaging eLearning courses that will allow you to increase your audience’s engagement levels by using a variety of eLearning resources, techniques, and strategies.
How to Create Engaging eLearning Courses: 6 Tips for eLearning Professionals
How your learners feel towards their learning matters. When the eLearning process engages them, apart from indicating the eLearning course’s quality, it motivates them to persist more, procrastinate less, and learn more effectively. When your eLearning course fails to engage your audience, it means that it simply does not work. Therefore, your learners’ engagement should always be your main concern.
Employing synchronous and asynchronous learning has proven to be a particularly engaging strategy; using a wide range of eLearning resources and approaches increases interest, curiosity, and commitment, elements which are fundamental in creating engaging eLearning experiences. Use these 6 tips to make absolutely sure that your eLearning deliverable convinces your learners that it is worth sticking around for.
1. Make sure that your eLearning course is well-structured.
People dislike ambiguity; and when your learners start a new eLearning course, most of it is uncharted territory for them. Especially when following a mixed approach, the structure of your eLearning course must be as clear as possible. A well-structured blend of online resources offers clear-cut eLearning objectives and goals from the beginning. Include specific instructions regarding the guidelines, the estimated workload, and the assessment rules, as well as how interactivity among you, your learners, and the eLearning content will work. This last one is particularly important, as interactions can be significantly facilitated by structure. Carefully structured eLearning courses increase your learners’ confidence about their competence, which in return increases their level of engagement. The more logical and coherent the structure of your eLearning course is, the more easily your audience will navigate through it, and the more interested they will be in following your eLearning approach.
2. Create attention grabbing, relevant, and challenging eLearning content.
Capturing your audience’s attention has the biggest impact on their knowledge retention, and in order for your eLearning course to be attention grabbing, it must both stimulate your learners’ curiosity and be relevant to them. Using a variety of eLearning resources, such as video, audio, avatars, music, and animations, has a significant effect on your learners’ engagement and can dramatically decrease the tendency that they may have to get bored and drop out. It is quite simple: the more interesting your eLearning course is, the more engaging it will be. Furthermore, engagement levels increase in proportion to personal relevance levels; when your learners can relate to your eLearning content, they can absorb the information faster. Use stories and scenarios that offer real world benefits and practical examples of the content. By helping your learners understand how they can put what they are learning to use, you will motivate them to enjoy the eLearning process by doing something not only interesting, but also useful to them. Finally, given that the greater the effort the greater the sense of accomplishment, engage your learners by offering them challenging eLearning tasks and assignments and the opportunity to satisfy their need for achievement. Inspire them to stretch their limits to a better performance via a combination of eLearning activities, such as stimulating eLearning games and branching scenarios that test their critical thinking and problem solving skills.
3. Reassure your learners with your presence.
One of the keys to online learning is to reinforce your learners’ sense of belonging by following a variety of approaches to make sure that they don’t feel alienated or isolated. Reassuring your audience that they can easily approach you when needed is a great way to engage them. Providing them with your contact information is not enough presence for an instructor. Make sure that you actively participate in online discussions to give advice or inspire brainstorming. You could promote the use of social media as an eLearning platform, for instance, by creating an eLearning Facebook group related to your eLearning course, and regularly communicating with them via frequent online chats. This way you will not only establish and enhance an eLearning community by encouraging your learners to interact with each other and exchange ideas and thoughts, but also, and perhaps most importantly, foster a sense of presence that will inspire even the most introverted members of your audience to express themselves.
4. Monitor your learners’ performance.
To make sure that the eLearning experience you offer not only engages your learners but also keeps them engaged, you need to monitor your audience’s levels of engagement throughout your eLearning course. Start monitoring their performance as early as you can, preferably in the first week, and identify these learners who are performing poorly by taking advantage of your learning management system; most learning management systems generate automated performance reports. Use quizzes and tests as online activities and give extra time for your face-to-face interactions with your learners, for instance via video calls, to comment on their test results, answer their questions, and resolve their issues. Having a clear idea of your audience’s performance at all stages of your eLearning course will allow you to observe when and why their engagement levels peak and drop, so that you will be able to take all the necessary measures to keep them high.
5. Offer your audience timely feedback.
Providing your learners with feedback about their performance is essential to building and maintaining engagement, and online learning can significantly facilitate the performance evaluation process. Again, your learning management system will allow you to use its automatically generated reports for offering feedback to your learners in an online environment, but the key here is to make sure that your feedback is immediate. Giving your audience the opportunity to correct errors quickly enhances their retention, as it allows them to immediately learn from their mistakes. Delayed assessments are, more often than not, barely useful; instant indications of performance and progress help your learners stay engaged and interested in trying harder to perform better.
6. Follow up to recapture the disengaged.
Sometimes, even if you are sure that you have taken all the necessary measures to engage your learners, there will still be members of your audience that are more vulnerable to procrastination, disengagement, and, ultimately, to dropping out. To prevent such occurrences, make sure that you maintain a personal contact with each one of your learners, especially with those who have showed a clear tendency to stop engaging, usually at key points, such as tests or difficult assessments. Online learning offers a variety of ways to contact and offer your support to your audience: emails, live chats, threaded discussion boards, blog comments, and video calls. Any of these strategies will help your discontent learners communicate their problems and concerns. Make sure that you offer them the opportunity to negotiate disengaging conditions, such as assessment due dates or alternative ways for evaluating performance, and you will be able to recapture all members of your audience, even those who were hesitant to respond to their eLearning experience from the start.
Keep these tips for engaging eLearning courses in mind and help your audience become true agents of learning, rather than passive recipients.