New eLearning platforms offer lots of bells and whistles, but often times this can prove to be more distracting than anything. Remaining simple can be an invaluable tool to effectively and consistently engage learners.
Learning programs have expanded well beyond the traditional lessons in brick-and-mortar schools that require students’ physical presence. This nearly limitless accessibility to learning and continuing education has led to the proliferation of various kinds of online materials devised for students, working professionals, and others who want to acquire new skills and knowledge.
Previously, technology was often flat and one-sided; it didn’t effectively communicate topics. Now, new innovations provide opportunities to reach and engage learners. But these new advancements have also uncovered new challenges.
Often, courseware is overcomplicated, inundated with distracting text, images, links, and graphics, there is a lack of cohesion and consistency in the learning message, and navigation is far more complex than necessary, making it difficult for students to focus, understand, and learn things as desired. The end result is students who are disengaged, unmotivated, and disinterested in their online learning courses.
The quality of online learning courses, however, has boundless potential for growth and evolution when proper attention is paid to the seemingly small details that are so easy, and often, overlooked.
So, in order to boost online learners’ engagement to facilitate learning, consider these 9 tips:
1. Keep It (Visually) Simple
For improved online learners’ engagement, remove any extraneous graphics, images, and text, limiting them to only a few items, properly structured, relevant, high quality, and neatly arranged. When courses prove complex, supporting aids such as graphs and charts offer the appropriate time to choose more over less. Otherwise, a good rule of thumb is to choose white space over unnecessary and distracting clutter. And for clean visual structuring, use headings, bullet points, and short paragraphs so online learners can quickly identify important items within the text.
2. Choose The Right Colors And Fonts
Fonts should be clean and simple without distracting stylistic elements. In fact, it’s been long argued that simple serif fonts are the easiest to read and that a long-standing typographic maxim is that the most legible typefaces are ‘transparent’ to the reader—that is, they don’t call undue attention to themselves. Consider your audience, consider your message—and consider keeping it simple.
Just as with fonts and the less-is-more approach to limiting visuals, the same is true for colors. Use appropriate, thoughtful colors in your logos, images, links, text, and beyond. Consider that some colors boost online learners’ responsiveness while others may have a calming effect. For example, red is known to provoke excitement while green is associated with peacefulness.
3. Make Navigation Easy
Learners should be able to navigate easily and unguided through a course. Navigational aids like arrows, icons, and buttons need to be thoughtful, useful, and clearly visible. Navigating a course should be much like navigating a road: it is simple and obvious enough that you can stay focused on the task at hand.
4. Use Microlearning
When you consider that most people get information outside of work in little chunks and snippets—watching videos, accessing Instagram or Facebook posts, searching retailers, buying things online, and checking emails several times a day—it explains the efficacy and growing popularity of microlearning.
Now, everything comes into the brain very quickly and in small pieces and as such, eLearning courseware needs to reach learners where they are—with short snippets of information, available through apps and mobile devices that are ready and accessible when the user is ready and available. In fact, studies have shown that breaking information down into smaller chunks of related content can increase retention and learning speed.
Gamification increases engagement because it taps into motivators—recognition, rewards and a sense of competition—to keep employees engaged. Adding gamification elements creates the intersection of technology and productivity that can be accomplished even without a full game-based learning course.
Even simply adding badges to your course to recognize student accomplishments as a reward for achieving particular competencies can encourage continued engagement. In fact, almost 80% of learners say that they would be more productive if their university, institution, or work was more game-like.
6. Be Social
eLearning provides multiple avenues for communicating on diverse social platforms. Consider social media to engage students. Add a Twitter badge to your course homepage and use a hashtag to push posts with course-relevant content to your students to help build a sense of classroom community.
Consider also including embedded audio and video, chat rooms, instant messaging, broadcast text messaging, and homepage announcements to socially engage users. Additionally, explanatory screencast videos have become increasingly easy and inexpensive to create and provide yet another channel for communication.
7. Give Your Learners Room To Breathe
Make sure your slides are clean and uncluttered to allow your learners time to consume the information and process it. Facilitate discussions, take breaks for questions, or respond to real-time questions via Twitter or chat to encourage engagement without burying them in the details.
8. Be Human
Find ways to humanize your course – introduce yourself and ask the learners a few questions. If your course doesn’t allow for live interaction, consider using a pre-recorded video where you share a little about yourself to break the ice to help to build rapport with your learners. Also, try to remember to speak in plain language, being conscious of the fact that while the technical jargon may be a second language to you, it’s likely completely foreign to your learners.
9. Include Self-Assessment
Provide opportunities for self-assessment, allowing students to take more ownership of their learning. Allowing students to grade their own discussion posts or provide input for their own grade for course participation can prove motivating as students are encouraged by taking responsibility for their own learning experience.
These online learning tips aim to improve online learners’ engagement and motivate them to extract the most from their online courses. And while some of them may seem obvious, it’s often the overlooked—but critical—‘small’ or ‘simple’ details that prove essential to the success of a course.
Focusing on boosting engagement—and not just transactionally delivering content—will elevate the quality of a course’s message, ensuring engagement and, ultimately, retention.
By: Victoria Zambito
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