How to keep your eLearners engaged

Published: 8th September 2020

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Just as instructors face the problem of students being bored in class, the challenge of keeping learners engaged can be an issue in an eLearning environment inside businesses. In fact, the online, self-paced setup of eLearning puts up hurdles that are unique from traditional learning, such as isolation and self-motivation.

Engaged learners are active, enthusiastic participants. They do their best. When faced with difficulty, they keep going and ask for help. They go beyond looking to score high in tests and want to learn a course to integrate it fully into their daily tasks.

Even with the differences in obstacles, however, the telltale signs of a disengaged learner remain the same: They delay or don’t complete tasks, they do the bare minimum, they are passive observers. At the root of it all, they just don’t think the course they’re taking is important or relevant to their academic or career goals.

Challenges to eLearning Engagement

There are many reasons why learners could find it hard to engage with eLearning courses. Technological roadblocks are real considerations, whether it’s struggling to interface with a learning management system (LMS) or not having a reliable internet connection.

For those who don’t have to worry about hardware or software limitations, however, the challenges to engagement lie in their environment:

  • Plenty of distractions Outside of a traditional classroom setup with no instructor to look over them, it’s easy for learners to get distracted. This is especially the case for millennials and gen-Z learners who cling to their smartphones. It’s very easy for them to shift their attention to social media feeds, watch a video, or load up a mobile game.
  • Isolation from instructors and peers — The freedom of being able to learn outside a traditional classroom setup that online learning provides has the major downside of not having the social interactions that can make learning easier and more interesting. Learners can’t immediately ask questions, get answers from, or bounce off ideas with their colleagues.
  • Self-motivation and time management — Another big drawback to the convenience of learning any time and place that e-learning offers is that it requires a great deal of discipline. Learners have a much bigger responsibility of pushing themselves to go through a course and manage their time well. Unsurprisingly, self-motivation and time management rank as the first and second most critical elements to online learning, based on a survey of international online learners.

7 Ways to Keep eLearning Engagement High

Knowing how hard it can be for learners to stay engaged in eLearning courses, here are a number of steps you can take to address the problem and drive engagement higher:

1. Outline the Benefits for Learners

Course designers and organisational leaders tend to focus on the results that come from training learners by looking for more deliverables, higher scores, and better productivity. Such objectives, however, aren’t always the top priority for the learners themselves.

Learners need to know that the training they are taking is worth their time. The best way to communicate that is to relate the courses to their routine activities, whether it’s in their line of work or field of study. Will this new skill they develop or new information they absorb make day-to-day operations easier for them?

2. Include Interactive Elements

Learners are more likely to disengage with an eLearning course when all they are doing is merely soaking in information through text and the occasional picture. Add rich media such as audio and video to liven up courses. If your budget and resources allow it, virtual reality (VR) content can take your eLearning courses to the next level.

A good LMS also has real-time engagement features such as Q&A panels, quizzes, polls, and live annotation tools you can take advantage of.

3. Implement Microlearning

Instead of trying to force your millennial and gen Z learners to absorb as much information as possible in a standard length eLearning course, adjust to their temperament and pivot to microlearning.

This means offering focused, bite-sized chunks of educational information delivered in short bursts, as this is much easier to digest for today’s learners who love to multi-task. Videos and animations that are around the typical length of what’s shared on social media work best with this format, which can range from 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

4. Gamify Your Courses

Gamification has long been proven to be effective at motivating everyone from coffee addicts with Starbucks Rewards to amateur athletes with Nike+ to language learners with Duolingo.

From an educational psychology perspective, it’s been shown that using the right kind of game design elements drives motivation. For example, leaderboards, badges, and performance graphs help with showing that tasks are meaningful.

Implementing gamification into your eLearning courses also breeds healthy competition between your learners. To see who is “better,” they push each other to do better in completing courses and doing well in tests. Those who accomplish more are rewarded for their efforts with recognition among their peers.

5. Encourage Social Interaction

To overcome the feeling of isolation that so many online learners experience, you can have planned social activities between instructors and learners who are taking the same courses. It is also much easier to conduct live training sessions virtually with most devices now having webcams and microphones.

Host virtual interactive workshops where learners can share information, have group discussions on course materials, and role-play scenarios to test out skills in a controlled environment. For instructor-learner interactions in training sessions, make use of text and voice chat features to encourage participation.

6. Adopt A Learner-Centric LMS

An LMS is pretty much a requirement for the success of a large-scale eLearning programme, especially since this makes it possible to deliver courses, monitor performance, and analyse data. However, it’s not enough to get just any LMS if you are looking to boost learner engagement.

A learner-centric LMS has certain qualities:

  • Mobile-friendly to accommodate the multi-tasking, on-the-go approach of today’s learners
  • Built with gamification features to incentivise participation
  • Allows for collaborative and blended learning through live social interaction
  • Tools to track engagement so you can tweak and optimise courses depending on learner engagement

7. Provide Support to Learners

Engaged learners are constantly looking to add to their knowledge base with as much information they can get. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to feed their inquisitive minds.

Link out to supplemental training resources in your eLearning courses, whether it’s in-depth academic references or handy tutorial videos. The more they learn, the better it is for your organisation.

Another practical way you can help learners is to provide technical support and remote updates. Running into technical issues is inevitable, especially when accounting for human error. There will be times when learners need help troubleshooting an LMS or an internet problem. There will also come a time when a course becomes outdated.

You need to be able to address both technical and course-related issues ASAP so as not to leave your learners frustrated and unengaged.

Empowerment is Essential to Engaging eLearners

The isolated, self-paced nature of eLearning exacerbates the problem of engaging learners. They lose out on the interaction that can make the traditional, in-person setting dynamic. When provided with eLearning courses that only tell them what they need to learn with no contribution on their part, it’s not a surprise that those learners lose interest and motivation.

By giving learners more choice in how they interact with eLearning courses, whether it’s through interactive media, bite-sized information, social activities, or gamification elements, they are more driven to engage with what you offer them.

Designing eLearning courses with all these pieces coming together harmoniously is easy with the help of Wahoo Learning. Our team of expert instructional design and course production specialists can develop advanced and immersive learning content that will surely engage your learners. Schedule a consultation with us today.

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The author - lloyd smith

The author - Lloyd Smith

Lloyd is the Managing Director of Wahoo Learning. He has a passion for the learning technology industry, particularly the latest innovations and technologies.

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