6 Tips To Create Meaningful eLearning
Undoubtedly, there is a very common way to learn something: Repeat, repeat, and then repeat some more. But who wants to sit through a monotonous and tiring technique like rote learning, when learners are given the opportunity to deeply understand and quickly memorize a topic by relating it to knowledge already stored in their brains? This is exactly what meaningful eLearning is about: The eLearning process through which new knowledge emerges when a potentially meaningful concept or proposition is related to learners’ previous knowledge, so that they can successfully store it in their long term memory. It sounds ideal for eLearning professionals, doesn’t it? In this article I'll reveal 6 tips to create meaningful eLearning courses, so that you will be able to offer your learners powerful, effective, and meaningful eLearning experiences.
- Keep your eLearning objectives clear and your expectations realistic.
Meaningful eLearning means meaningful eLearning objectives. When learners are able to fully understand what is required of them, it is more likely to get engaged in the eLearning process. However, asking your learners to master easier eLearning objectives than they should be could have the opposite effect: If your learners feel that despite the fact that eLearning objectives are too easy to be mastered, they are still unable to successfully complete the requirements of your eLearning course, they may feel frustrated and this will prevent them from learning the eLearning material provided. It is important to present specific eLearning objectives and to explain clearly to your audience what exactly is expected of them, as well as how long it will take them to complete your eLearning course. Never forget that "meaning" is your key for success. Your learners need to know not only “what”, but also “why”. Carefully design your eLearning course in order to motivate your audience. Explain each concept, that is "what" to be learned, in order to help them understand and justify your explanation, that is "why" to be learned, in order to help them apply the newly acquired knowledge to their personal or professional lives.
- Follow a learner-centered approach.
Meeting different eLearning needs has always been a challenge in the eLearning industry, but there is a proven lifesaving solution for eLearning professionals: a learner-centered eLearning approach. Learners are more motivated to fully get involved into the eLearning experience if they feel that it meets their own individual skills and levels of expertise. To create a meaningful eLearning experience via a learner-centered approach, focus less on overloading your audience with information and more on increasing the relevancy of your eLearning content. Provide your learners with eLearning content they can apply directly to their lives or their jobs and encourage social interaction by integrating social media into your eLearning course. Finally, customize your eLearning course in order to offer your audience variety in terms of accessibility. Some learners may prefer to access your eLearning course from their mobile devices, though others feel more comfortable when using their laptops. By following a learner-centered approach you can accommodate all. This way, your eLearning deliverable will be relevant to the personal and professional needs and goals of your audience and will offer them a meaningful eLearning experience that engages them both intellectually and emotionally.
- Address your learners’ emotions.
Speaking of emotions, you may feel that your audience may not engage in your eLearning course as much as expected or desired. In case of corporate learners, it is not uncommon to observe employees just waiting for their online training course to finish, so that they can go back to their offices and finish their work. This may indicate that your eLearning course, no matter how beautifully designed, isn’t effective enough. A possible reason is that your eLearning course may lack elements that appeal to your learners' emotions. Emotions are key in eLearning; they drive attention, which increases engagement, boosts motivation and enhances knowledge retention. An emotionally-driven eLearning approach evokes positive emotions in learners and makes them feel involved with the subject matter. In order to inspire positive emotions to your audience, consider using affirmative language for the stories and scenarios of the eLearning courses you develop, so that your eLearning content becomes "a personal affair" for all learners. Storytelling is a great way to stimulate emotions, but only when they can be directly related to the personal or professional experiences of your learners. Thus, always remember to keep your stories, scenarios and case studies relevant. In addition, another element that can play a big role in evoking your learners’ emotions in instructional design is color. Study the effects of colors in human psychology and use orange to communicate optimism, blue to create a calming effect, purple to stimulate imagination, and so on.
- Use eLearning interactivity.
Interactivity is a very popular eLearning feature that greatly increases learners’ motivation. But how exactly does it affect meaningful eLearning? The answer is quite simple: by using interactive eLearning activities, learners acquire a sense of meaningfulness over the eLearning content, as they interact with it in a way that makes the most sense to them. Drag and drop interactions, multimedia elements and games, challenge learners to pay more attention and develop their critical thinking skills while having fun at the same time. Furthermore, if they are able to experiment and explore different paths and outcomes, they feel more excited about the information they receive. Videos, audio and animations have the power to influence emotions and make your audience feel more connected. In addition, games give them a sense of autonomy and provide them with the opportunity to improve their knowledge and skills through repetition and trial-and-error, that is by learning from their own mistakes in a risk-free environment. All in all, interactive activities can make the eLearning experience particularly meaningful, while increasing at the same time learners’ retention and engagement.
- Present real world benefits.
There is little meaning in eLearning if it doesn’t offer real world benefits. After all, it is almost impossible for learners to be interested in the eLearning content if they cannot relate it to their personal or professional lives in some way. Be sure that your eLearning material makes obvious to your learners the benefits of attending the eLearning course, as far as its impact in their lives or their job performance are concerned. Use tangible ways to "pass" this message and choose case studies that connect to real world problems and challenges. Knowledge becomes meaningful only if it can be applied; otherwise, it will subconsciously be labeled as “useless tip of the day”. Give your corporate learners real problems to solve and encourage them to make connections between the eLearning content and its practical application at work. Finally, stimulate the imagination of your audience by allowing them to make choices that lead to consequences. This way, they will be able to transform the dullest subject matter into a meaningful eLearning experience and make the audience apply the newly acquired knowledge into their real lives.
- Give and ask for feedback.
Last but not least, in order to create a meaningful eLearning experience never underestimate the power of feedback. Feedback is particularly important for learners that are looking for meaning in your eLearning course, because knowing their performance levels makes them feel more confident. Make sure you provide your audience with immediate and accurate feedback throughout your eLearning course in order to let them know if their performance goals have been met and ensure that they remain engaged. Also, have in mind that feedback works both ways. In order for you, as an eLearning professional, to be able to provide your audience with a meaningful eLearning experience, you need to know their needs, skills, and expertise levels. After all, it sounds difficult to develop an eLearning deliverable if you don’t know exactly whom it addresses to. Thus, assess your audience often in order to be able to successfully use this data and adjust your eLearning course accordingly to the specific needs of the audience you are addressing to. This is an easy way to create truly meaningful eLearning experiences.
Now that you know how to create a meaningful eLearning experience for your learners, you may be interested in some extra ways to enhance their learning motivation. Read the article 5 Tips To Enhance Motivation in eLearning and find out how you can inspire your learners to eagerly experience your eLearning deliverable.