Learner engagement is vital to achieve the desired objectives of an eLearning course. Designing a course where the learner simply has to click on the "Next" button to go through pages and pages of information may not be the best way to engage your learners.
This article presents key elements that will help the instructional designers to develop an eLearning course that engages the learner better.
Optimal and intelligent use of visuals or graphics is an important element as people often judge by the look. It’s a harsh reality that the initial impression is derived from the appearance. If the looks are visually impressive, your job is half done. Researches also prove that visuals play an important role in grabbing the attention of learners.
According to Ruth Colvin Clark, visuals can be divided into six categories and each has a different functionality to represent the various types of training content. The different functionalities are:
a) Representational Visuals
Representational visuals depict the actual appearance of content. They are used to present concrete concepts and factual information related to job roles. They can be actual photographs of any concept or screenshots of software. For example, we can see the photograph of an airport.
b) Mnemonic Visuals
Sometimes, employees need to recall the factual information on a job. In such cases, mnemonic visuals are very helpful and are proven memory aids. Using them learners can easily recall the information. Here is an example of a mnemonic, which is helpful to recall the seven colors in the rainbow in its correct order.
c) Organizational Visuals
Organizational visuals can help to understand the order of the course. They establish qualitative relationships among the various concepts of the course. For example, the visual here shows the overview of the content and its sequence, making it clear for the learners.
d) Relational Visuals
They can be used to establish quantitative relationships. Some examples include bar graphs and pie charts. Instead of text filled with numbers and percentages to present factual information, relational visuals can be used to present the same concepts in a clear and precise manner.
e) Transformational Visuals
They are often in combination with representational visuals to represent procedures and processes. Here is an example of a transformational visual.
f) Decorative Visuals
This type of visual is used to improve the look and feel of the course. They are intended to make the course visually rich. But this kind of visuals should be sparingly used.
The scenario-based approach aims to improve in-depth learning and makes learners aware of the situations where they need to respond promptly in a given situation. Taking the help of the SME, you can develop a scenario of a real-world situation, create a problem and ask your learner to solve.
Example of using scenarios in assessments
Karen, an employee at XYZ, sees some people loitering inside XYZ's facility. She approches them and ask few questions, and is not satisfied with the answers. What should Karen do about her suspicions?
Case studies demonstrate real-life events and shows the way how people actually dealt with those events. Learner engagement can be achieved by relating it to the content. Case studies can instantly connect learners with the subject and allow them to analyze the events of the subject. These case studies can help learners develop understanding about problems and solutions of various cases.
The idea of using case study, as an effective training method, originated in Harvard Business School. Edwin Gay, first Dean of HBS, called it the "problem method" and foresaw its value in creating leaders, able to adjust as necessary, to ever-changing business climates. (Source, HBS).
In maximizing the learner experience, rewards play a key role. It gives the sense of personal accomplishment. Rewards can be like ranks, badges, virtual gifts and points. The one point that you should keep in mind is that rewards should be meaningful and should be of some purpose for the learner; else, he or she may lose interest.
Gamification means the integration of game mechanics or dynamics, into learning content, to create fun and engaging experiences. It assists the learners in learning a skill, as they play and apply it to the real world, when needed. The immersive and engaging nature of this method accelerates learning; improves retention of knowledge.
Avatars are the characters that guide learners through a course. It is a great tool for keeping the learner's attention and holding his interest, by serving as a guide, a mentor, a partner to accompany your learner in the self-paced environment.
Interactivity is the most common word used in eLearning. It is perceived in many ways; however, a simple way to define the term 'interactivity' is 'learning by doing' (Lewin 1951, Brookfield 1986). Interactivities result in learners’ engagement with the course content, other learners and with the instructor, which results in effective learning and exchange of information. Interactivities are intended to enhance knowledge development, in learning environment.
a. Click and Learn: With this interactivity, learners can simply click and get relevant information about any particular topic. For this purpose, we use presentation patterns like Click on Tabs, images and numbers in eLearning courses. We can also use icons as presentation patterns to provide more information. Sound and videos can also be included to engage the learners.
b. Slideshow: Slideshow helps to present the information in step-by-step manner. The screenshot given below is representing a process using slideshow interactivity.
c. Hotspots: It is click-and-learn type of interactivity where the learner should click the spot to reveal the text. For example, in the following screenshot information about a particular area of the machine/equipment are presented using this interactivity.
d. Rollovers: Rollovers are similar to hotspots, but here the learner has to roll the mouse over the spot so that the information is revealed. Below is the screen shot showing the rollover interactivity.
e. Flashcards: Normally flashcards are designed in making learners to recollect the information they learnt. For example, see the screenshot given below. There are five tabs. One side has a question and the other side has the answer. So the learner flips and learns.
f. Drag and Drop: Drag and Drop interactivity is widely used in developing interactive assessments. In the following screenshot, learners have to drag the option to the respective box provided to answer the question.
Based on the content, one can design the eLearning courses with various elements that can engage your learners.