One of the most important factors instructional designers consider when developing eLearning material is the user experience. Online courses are created with the learner in mind – the objective is for them to gain knowledge they didn’t have prior to taking the course.
Despite this, it can be hard to find high-quality, engaging learning content that goes beyond learners ticking the necessary boxes.
When information is presented in an interesting, attention-grabbing way, this can be the difference between the learner being able to apply their new found knowledge, and forgetting it completely after completing the course.
We recently looked at how to assess learners’ engagement in online courses. Regularly assessing learner engagement is crucial to a successful learning and development strategy.
In this article, we will explore how to select engaging online content and the features you can look for to help with this process.
What makes eLearning content engaging?
Depending on the quality of the learning culture in your organisation, it can be challenging to convince your colleagues that taking time out of their busy schedules for learning can be beneficial.
Knowing what makes an online course engaging is the key to combating this. When you provide staff with learning they can really connect with, they are far more likely to see the upside, and this will create momentum. When searching for the right content for your team, start by asking the following questions:
1. Can the learning be personalised?
Personalising learning is the difference between content being engaging or boring. Content needs to address an individual’s learning needs as accurately as possible, and advancing technology is helping to simplify this process.
Some courses will do this better than others, or perhaps include features which enable you to integrate learning with platforms your workforce uses regularly.
Having to listen to a familiar concept being taught in great detail is neither engaging or useful. When the average employee has only 24 minutes per week to learn, even slightly irrelevant content is a waste of precious time.
2. Are opportunities for active learning included?
Active learning involves any activities which encourage the learner to participate in learning beyond consuming media, such as text or videos.
When learners are actively engaged with a task, they will need to use high order thinking skills to complete it. These include applying new knowledge to practical contexts, or using the knowledge they have gained in a creative way.
An example of an “active” task would be to ask the learner to read a text and record five key points as they do so. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it just needs to go beyond basic consumption of information to be more interesting.
3. Does the course have clear learning objectives?
Clear learning objectives are essential to any well-designed lesson. Without them, the purpose of the learning can easily go astray, and the learner will become disengaged quickly.
It is also important that these objectives are referenced throughout a lesson, not just at the beginning. This way, the learner can stay on track as they complete each activity, and reflect on whether or not they have achieved that objective. If they haven’t, they might need to revisit a section of learning or do further research.
When assessing the quality of learning objectives, look for action verbs that describe what the learner will be able to do by the end of the course.
It is also important not to confuse learning objectives with learning goals, which are longer term and less defined. Objectives are included to give structure to a specific lesson or course.
4. Are practical stories included?
Practical stories help to put learning in context, and are particularly important for workplace training. One of the main goals of staff training is for the participants to be able to apply their knowledge in a practical context. Acknowledging this during the learning process makes the transition from online to real-life scenarios much easier.
Stories also give learners a familiar context to work with. This forms a great basis for gaining new knowledge and information, as they can make connections between new information and situations they already understand.
5. Is the visual design attractive?
This might seem obvious but the success of an online course is highly reliant on the quality of visual design. Jorge Reyna, scholar of digital media for learning at the University of Technology Sydney, explains that, “design aesthetics have a profound impact on how users perceive information and learn, judge credibility and usability, and ultimately assign value to an online experience.”
Pay attention to the quality of visual content and the learners will reap the benefits.
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