How To Boost Learner Engagement In eLearning
Getting learners engaged online can be a real struggle.
Without the face-to-face interactions of instructors and classmates, online learning programs often lack a natural social component of the human learning experience. This isolation often limits learner engagement which, in turn, can lead to lower completion rates, lower enjoyment levels, and overall lower comprehension of the material.
While modern learning technologists have yet to uncover a social equivalent, we can still use an array of available tools and strategies to boost online learner engagement.
Why is learner engagement important?
Learner engagement is more than just the trendy bells and whistles you see on your LinkedIn feed. It’s about tapping into human emotion. It’s about keeping learners motivated. It’s about encouraging the entire process of learning, from start to finish.
Research continues to support the connection between high student engagement and information retention, highlighting the positive effect on cognitive development and future outlook on personal learning.
And it makes sense. While the growth of online learning increases accessibility for point-of-need learning, it also adds new challenges of ensuring learner engagement and information retention.
Our job as instructional designers and eLearning developers is to design creative, innovative ways to engage learners in an ever-changing online setting.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Create high-quality videos
In our digitized world, using video in your eLearning program is a must. Videos appeal to both visual and auditory senses, creating an engaging learning experience that few other eLearning mediums can provide.
But not all video equates to ‘engaging.’ Extensive time and effort must go into creating meaningful learning videos that people want to watch.
They must be well-scripted, beautifully designed, and generally entertaining for your specific end-user audience. If you’re creating your own videos, make sure you plan accordingly and check out our tips for creating your own eLearning videos.
Taking learning video a step further, some programs allow for interactive elements to be embedded directly into your video. Rather than passively viewing a video, learners can interact with the screen, answering quiz questions or providing comments and feedback. This type of interactivity maximizes engagement and allows for a deeper learning experience. To try this feature in your next eLearning program, check out software such as PlayPosit or Wirewax.
2. Design compelling visuals
While content is always the top priority in any learning program, design still matters. A lot.
If your eLearning program feels old and outdated, it’s a sure sign that your audience will instantly disengage. Toss on your ‘creativity hat’ and aim to create modern, engaging visuals in the form of clean charts, graphics, illustrations, and videos.
Captivating visuals also help guide your audience through the user experience. After all, the most impactful Powerpoint presentations contain mostly images with very little text. Depending on your learning objectives and scope of project, aim for using images/audio about 60%-80% of the time. Use text only as a supplementary tool to reinforce the learning material.
If you aren’t experienced in visual design, try sharpening your graphic design skills. Or hire a graphic designer to help create a beautifully branded eLearning experience.
3. Record a crisp voice over
Audio in eLearning is often an afterthought. While many courses focus on glitzy visuals and interactive gamification, audio tends to get left behind.
Well-recorded voice over audio is a critical component to increasing engagement in your eLearning program. The popularity of podcasts and audiobooks is steadily on the rise. This is a meaningful realization that learners crave quality audio content.
Hearing is one of the core senses of human beings. With this knowledge, we must allocate sufficient resources to create an enjoyable and engaging listening experience. Just think of how fast you turn off a YouTube video if the audio doesn’t meet your expectation.
The first step in recording a good voiceover is to write a script. This helps keep your voiceover clean, on-subject, and most efficient for the learner. Once your script is cleaned up, you’re ready to start recording.
If you’re serious about eLearning development, it’s beneficial to use an external microphone. Try starting with a simple USB microphone and moving your way up to higher quality microphones as you gain experience. You’ll also need a pair of headphones for the recording and editing process. This helps ensure your eLearning voiceover will sound clean and crisp on any device.
4. Keep everything on brand
Have you requested brand guidelines from your client? How about their logos and color palette? If not, checking in with your client is the best place to start. They will often have a deck for you to use, or at least a few branded documents for you to base your eLearning program on.
In general, it’s best to avoid using a mix of too many colors. Stick with two to three of your client’s top colors. And if you have a little flexibility, consider integrating colors that have been shown to improve learner engagement.
Be thoughtful about color choices in every asset you build: images, infographics, videos, logos, headers, and beyond.
Next, consider your font choices. These should also come directly from your client. If the client has no preference, make sure you use just 1-2 fonts that are simple and clean. Serif fonts are always a quality choice to make it easier for learners to read.
5. Add meaningful interactions
Testing learners through recall is the most effective way to achieve long-term comprehension. Plus, it makes your eLearning program much more enjoyable!
Meaningful interactions such as video embeds, quizzes, flip charts, or discussion questions are all simple ways to increase learner engagement.
Another option is creating a game-based eLearning, also called gamification. When used properly, competitive games can be overwhelmingly powerful for boosting engagement and retention.
To add meaningful interactions, you need to make sure your selected eLearning software has these features built-in. Software like Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, and Articulate Rise are our preferred eLearning development tools. And all three have a lengthy list of interaction options to boost engagement in your eLearning.
6. Use humor or other elements of surprise
Most online training programs have a reputation for boredom. As soon as online learners see a cheesy stock image of a man wearing a suit, they have already checked out. Disengaged. Over it.
Try conducting a deeper analysis of your audience. What would make them pay attention? What would evoke emotion? What would make them laugh?
While humor should never distract from the learning material, thoughtful injections of relevant comedy can be monumental in boosting engagement and enjoyment.
Try gathering ideas from social media. Browse Facebook or trending videos on YouTube, and view what users are “sharing” and “liking” on these online platforms. While most content is used purely for entertainment purposes, they often provide deeper insight into the human psyche of interests and engagement.
7. Keep your lessons short
Trim the fat. Cut out the fluff.
Learners in corporate settings are often not personally choosing to take an eLearning course. It’s most often assigned by a manager or an HR team member. This means that many employees will have limited time, and may have limited interest in the subject material.
To combat these barriers, make sure you keep your lessons short. A good rule of thumb is to keep self-paced eLearning courses to under 45-minutes. To do this, make sure to edit your text and voiceover scripts relentlessly.
Break up modules into smaller, bite-sized chunks that are easier for learners to digest. Especially when it comes to video, aim to keep each video under 5-minutes.
8. Use relevant analogies and examples
Analogies are one of the most powerful tools in the world of learning. By using a relevant comparison of two items, learners are forced to analyze one item and transfer that analysis to the other item. To do this successfully, the learner must have a firm comprehensive grasp on both items. Aka, they must have learned something.
This simple comparison helps transform a complex idea into a relatable and memorable concept. Before you begin brainstorming analogies, it’s best to ensure you fully understand your audience. As mentioned earlier, conduct a deeper analysis so you know your audience’s culture, interests, likes, and dislikes. This will be immensely helpful to develop powerful analogies to enhance the learning experience.
9. Simplify, simplify, simplify
Is your eLearning program simple enough?
Could someone with zero knowledge on this subject be able to follow along?
As an instructional designer or eLearning developer, it can be difficult to answer these questions as you are deeply involved in the content and material. Odds are, the information could be simpler.
And without the help of a human instructor that most in-person training courses have, simplicity in eLearning should be an ultimate priority.
Ask a co-worker or friend to user-test your eLearning course before going live. Their feedback will help make adjustments and add clarity to boost learner engagement.
Hopefully these engagement tips are helpful as you develop your eLearning course. But this is just the start. There are many more useful ideas at your fingertips. What tips or trick do you use to engage learners in an online setting?