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Making Online Content As Engaging As Your Students' Social Media Feed

Making Online Content As Engaging As Your Students' Social Media Feed
Summary: There are some basic strategies to consider before you start designing your next online course, that can make your students read your content with the same interest with which they browse their social media feed.

Social Media As Online Course Design Inspiration

With an increased volume of courses being available online, be it for learning or professional development, it is easy to see what engages us and what makes us totally disengage from the content being presented. Considering that most people easily engage with social media, it makes you wonder what would make people read your online course with the same eagerness.

Who Is Your Intended Audience?

Before you start designing your online course, you need to think about the people who’ll be reading and learning from it. Your content may need to be for an accredited course or it could be for professional development. If you know who you are presenting information to, you will be able to get the tone right for your eLearning course regardless of what platform you use to deliver it.

What Are Your Learners’ Expectations? How Will You Find Out?

You cannot see learners purely as recipients of content. They will need to be engaged in your content, interested in reading/watching it. You need to do your research before you start the designing process. Here are a few questions you can use for your research:

  • Are your students located in one specific geographical area, or are they located around the world? Are there any cultural aspects you need to be aware of?
  • Why are they taking the course? Is it only for professional development or is the course part of a diploma or degree program?
  • What do your learners need to learn? Outline the course objectives before anything else.

Once you’ve got a clear picture of your audience, you can think more carefully about the content format and platforms that might resonate with them most. That’s what marketing professionals do—and you need to learn from them here. Understanding who your audience is and what’s driving them will also give you greater insight into their language and needs, which means you’ll be able to use the language they use or expect and meet their needs and expectations.

When you start your planning stage, keep in mind that there are lots of different kinds of online content, that can be deployed in distinctive ways, for different results. It’s important to get the tone of your online content right.

Online Tone? What’s That?

This is how you present your content, expressing it by the way you use language, images, and videos. You may need to use different tones, depending on the type of message you want to convey (i.e., urgent, important, fun).

Tone needs to be broadly consistent. However, there are always instances where you can change it! This is how you keep your learners interested and engaged. There are always interesting facts that you can present with a lighter, or even in a funnier, tone. Consider this to be like an interesting conversation, or like how you plan your next social media post. Do you always present information using the same tone? Don’t you sometimes add an interesting or fun experience when you are sharing something online? Remember how enjoyable it was the last time you shared a beautiful pic you took somewhere in nature and all your friends commented on it and loved it? Teaching online should provide the same experience to designers and learners. You need to change your tone, sometimes, to keep your audience interested in what you are telling them.

Do Learners Like Reading Online?

The first thing to remember is that people often don’t read content at all, but instead skim it. Hence the importance of designing online content that contains images and videos, not long texts that make people lose interest in the subject. This is how you make online reading more interesting. Think about how you engage with your own social media content. What makes you click and read an article? What made you click and read this one?

How Do You Achieve Learners’ Engagement With Content?

You can do this by using a range of software that helps you do so. You can use H5P, for example, which has a range of ways to present content that is fun and interactive. You can achieve the same with Storyline and Rise 360 if you have the skills to use them properly. These can be used not only to present content but also to check learners’ understanding of the subject (formative assessments) in a fun and interactive way.

Never underestimate the power of the gaming strategies that these platforms can give you. You can create informal ways for your learners to check that they are on top of what they are learning.

How Do I Find Interesting Images For My Online Content?

There are many online copyright-free images that you can download and use for any project. Check rights and ownership. Try to avoid presenting content without images; chances are, your learners may choose not to read it or only to skim quickly over it.

What About Using YouTube?

There is a lot of published research on the benefits of using YouTube videos as a tool to enhance learners’ experience. Integrating YouTube videos that are relevant to the context being presented generates more interest as it is already familiar to students (Moghavvemi, Sulaiman, Jaafar, and Kasem, 2018).

However, you need to be really careful when using external sources. They should be intended as a complement to your teaching, and never be used to teach the main aspects of your topic. If carefully used (and carefully selected), you can reap the benefits of using a range of methods to present content. Try not to use videos that are longer than ten minutes. This applies to any video you produce. The way to engage learners is to give them interesting snippets of information.

Some Final Advice

Try to present content in a range of different ways, using interesting images and videos. Obviously, you need to try and keep your online course consistent, but try not to turn consistency into boredom!

Some online courses are really consistent and well-presented, but they can make the learner expect exactly what they’ll find in the next section. Would you open and read your social media content (or anything online, really) when you know exactly what you will see or read next? Nope. The secret to catching people’s attention is to surprise them with something new, be it a nice picture that relates to the content, a story that aligns with it, or a video that presents some aspects of the topic in an interesting and fun way. That's when the learning happens.


Use your creativity when designing online courses. You can do this for any course, be it a formal or an informal one. Use the strategies outlined above and don’t be afraid to test something new next time you are designing online courses. In the end, students will only remember what interested them in the content and triggered some emotion in them. This is called engaged learning.


  • Moghavvemi, S., A. Sulaiman, N. I. Jaafar, and N. Kasem. (2018). "Social media as a complementary learning tool for teaching and learning: The case of YouTube." The International Journal of Management Education16 (1): 37–42.