Guest post, written by Amy Morrisey of Artisan E-Learning
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the need for effective e-learning into the spotlight. Your workers and volunteers retreated to their homes, training became remote, and your organization’s teams found themselves more physically distant than ever before. Thankfully, whether you’re trying to boost association member engagement or improve employee collaboration and community, e-learning is a powerful tool in the effort.
However, all e-learning is not created equally. Learners are busy, and their time is valuable. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to lose their attention. A course in the hands of disengaged learners is about as beneficial as providing no course at all.
So, how do you create e-learning courses that truly engage learners and make an impact? The following tips are a great place to start:
- Make your courses mobile-friendly.
- Vary your course content.
- Create an interactive experience.
- Emphasize real-world challenges and solutions.
- Test the course for user-experience.
- Ask for feedback.
Are you ready to impress your learners with engaging e-learning? Let’s get started.
Make your courses mobile-friendly.
In 2020, mobile devices are an integral part of society. It only makes sense to design your course to be mobile-friendly. The need for mobile-responsive content is data-proven as, according to Pew Research, 81% of Americans now own smartphones and 1 in 5 American adults are smartphone-only internet users.
This has had an interesting impact regarding motivation in the e-learning sector. For example, 70% of learners are more motivated when learning on a mobile device (rather than a computer). Even further, these mobile learners study for an average of 40 minutes longer than those on a desktop.
In the past, the idea of mobile responsive e-learning was often discussed as a way to provide convenience to learners—that by being responsive, you make e-learning a more enjoyable experience to those learners that prefer to use mobile devices. However, these statistics paint a different picture.
Rather than just being a method to make content more convenient, mobile-friendly is a necessity if you allow your learners to take your courses on their phones. Put simply, if your content isn’t easy to take on a phone, you may alienate potential smartphone-only learners from accessing it. It’s hard to improve their experience if they can’t access it at all!
When creating your coursework, work with an authoring tool that’s responsive by design or consult with a custom e-learning development firm, such as Artisan E-Learning, that can help you do so.
Vary your course content.
One of the biggest reasons to improve the learner experience is to keep your learners engaged for the duration of the course. There are many ways to improve learner engagement, such as encouraging collaboration, using assessments, and as we’re going to focus on in this section, varying course content.
Consider the following factors you can use to vary content:
- Length: In addition to long-form, multi-module courses, consider incorporating microlearning in your library. Bite-sized learning experiences are perfect for highlighting one specific topic at a time. They also provide a refreshing change of pace after completing longer experiences.
- Instruction Type: It’s easy to fall into the trap of slide decks and voiceovers. Be honest, do you like learning that way? You’re risking a boring e-learning experience! Consider exciting new ways to instruct your learners like simulations, instructor-led training, animated demonstrations, and even educational games.
- Media Type: There’s a reason why “watching paint dry” is considered so dull, and it’s because staring at a uniform, unchanging visual isn’t engaging. In your content, provide exciting visuals for learners using images, graphics, animation, and even videos.
There’s no denying that structured education can get a bad reputation for being dull—after all, “sleeping in class” is a common trope in popular media. With variation in your course content, you’ll create interesting, intriguing, and ultimately, engaging experiences that truly encourage learners to dial in.
Create an interactive experience.
Think of a traditional classroom scenario. Teachers instruct students and in turn, these students respond to teacher-provided prompts. Ideally, it’s a two-way conversation that prevents students from “tuning out” the experience.
This can be challenging with e-learning. Rather than facing an instructor, learners are facing a computer or phone screen that’s not going to notice if they’re distracted. However, these learners aren’t going to learn anything if they’re not paying attention. And, if they don’t learn anything, they’re not having a positive experience with the course.
Combat this risk of “tuning out” by making your e-learning a two-way experience. Engage learners with your content by incorporating:
- Simulations: Make interactive experiences for the learners. Use real-life scenarios that they may face in the workplace. They can practice responses to these scenarios to see different outcomes. If you’re struggling to visualize this, just check out this course created by Artisan E-Learning that guides learners through a challenging situation via simulation.
- In-Course Gamification: Educational games in e-learning courses are in high demand, with 80% of learners claiming their experience would be more productive if it was game-oriented. Whether it’s a short game instructing on a specific topic or a longer, simulation-based game, learners will appreciate the engaging experience. For more information on the benefits of gamified learning, check out this webinar.
- LMS-Based Gamification: Your organization’s learning management system (LMS) should also offer valuable opportunities to use gamification. For example, you can create learner leaderboards to create a sense of healthy competition across your organization. Highlight a few top achievers each week and motivate others to aspire toward a high ranking!
With these interactive elements, you will not only encourage learners to complete your courses—but they’ll enjoy the experience!
Emphasize real-world challenges and solutions.
While it’s crucial to present an engaging experience, it’s equally important to remember the purpose of strong e-learning content. To teach your learners how to do something.
Learners should emerge from your e-learning courses with renewed proficiency and enthusiasm for the task at hand. This holds true whether you’re helping workers combat stress or training nonprofit volunteers to navigate ways to contribute to your cause.
So, before you begin designing a new course, come up with clear answers to the following:
- What are the key real-world tools you want the learners to take away?
- After completing your course, what do you want learners to do with the information they’ve received?
When learners understand why they’re completing a course—what they’re truly going to achieve after expending time and mental energy to learn—they’ll have a better experience and be more receptive to the coursework.
Test the course for user-experience.
You could create the most engaging, intriguing, and educational e-learning course, but if it has a negative user experience, your learners are going to opt-out.
Quality assurance testing is crucial to provide a great user experience. This ensures that the course doesn’t break when the learner accesses it and that they don’t stumble upon one-too-many grammar errors.
Before releasing a new e-learning course, test the full experience across multiple device types and web browsers to ensure you have a fully functioning course. When doing so, consider the following:
- Are there any aspects of the course that aren’t intuitive across devices, such as the navigation on desktops versus mobile devices? How about across internet browsers?
- Are there any loading issues or aspects that slow down the experience overall?
- Are there clear instructions for the interactive experiences?
- Are there any unforgivable grammatical errors?
These are just a few questions you should ask yourself when testing content from the learners’ point of view. The list can go on!
If you want to know what kind of impact your course has, recruit course testers that aren’t part of your design team and haven’t ever interacted with the course before. If you’re partnering with a company for custom e-learning development, ensure this partner has a team of trained testers that will carry out this process.
Ask for feedback upon course completion.
Whether you’re providing a self-guided learning game, a multi-module e-learning course, or taking a page from this guide and planning a full virtual event, be receptive to learner feedback.
There are a few ways to go about this. First, you can request feedback in the form of a game—such as by using the poll feature of the trivia game in The Training Arcade. Further, you can provide an easy way for learners to reach out to your organization, such as an email or chatbot.
To make giving feedback especially easy for learners, you can send a survey about the course to assess their experience. In your post-course surveys, ask questions like:
- What did you enjoy about this course?
- What did you dislike about this course?
- Were there any subjects of this course that were confusing to you?
- What recommendations do you have to improve this course going forward?
- Do you have any additional feedback for this course?
There’s no better way to understand the learner’s experience than by asking them about it. But remember, if you ask for feedback, actually use the information provided to improve your courses going forward.
Your organization and members, whether staffers, volunteers, or even association members, are likely feeling the impacts of social distancing more than ever before. Thankfully, strong e-learning can step in and train your learners to best adapt to this situation!
Whether you’re training new employees from afar or instructing long-time workers to adjust to new procedures, effective e-learning may be the solution for you. However, this involves much more than just creating courses.
With these tips, you’ll improve the learner experience and with that, their engagement and information retention. You’ll be on the fast track to effective training from a distance in no time!
Amy Morrisey is the President of Artisan E-Learning and serves as Sales & Marketing Manager. Amy started with Artisan as a contract writer/instructional designer. She was their Production Manager for four years and helped the team to double its capacity. As President, she stays focused on maintaining the high standards our clients have grown to expect. She believes that staying close to their clients, their people, and their work is a smart way to do that. One of her favorite things to do in the e-learning world is jump in with a client to write a storyboard that is creative and application-based. Before working with Artisan, Amy spent 17 years in corporate training and development predominantly teaching leadership development and coaching teams and executives. She currently serves on the board of ATD Detroit.