How To Develop An Engaging Learning Experience
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How To Develop An Engaging Learning Experience

I am sure at some point in time in your learning journey you might have come across a lengthy, mind-numbing eLearning experience that had too many slides, tons of information loaded on screen, probably an animated avatar with standard actions and of course, and so-called interactivity—"Click Next to Proceed"—to keep your learners engaged.

Well, that’s not what I want my learners to experience while taking my course. I am sure even you do not want your learners to skip the slides while taking your course. Most  Instructional Designers struggle with the challenges of developing engaging eLearning material. I understand under the professional setup you need to accommodate a lot within the given limitations imposed by stakeholders, but the key is how you make your way out of it.

In this article, I am going to talk about eLearning development tactics that can make your content impactful, result-oriented, and engagement-driven. So, when I say engaged eLearning, what does that exactly mean? Let us dive deep into the difference between eLearning versus engaged eLearning.

Difference Between eLearning And Engaged eLearning

Mindset is the vital ingredient that can make your eLearning a real engaged experience. You must be surprised, why I am betting on Mindset? Well, a little change in your mindset can shift your eLearning to the category of engaged learning; here is how this shift happens.

You might have observed I have used the word experience quite a few times so far, well I am going to use it, rather impose it as effective terminology to replace the word course in order to empower the essence of effectiveness. When we, as Instructional Designers, start working on any training requirement, we might limit ourselves with a conventional belief that we are supposed to "develop a course." This is what I call the unconscious bias of the Learning and Development domain.

To develop engaging eLearning, start with a mindset of developing an experience for your learners rather than focusing on dumping information on them disguised under the title of "course." A course focuses on your learner’s takeaways, but an experience focuses on how your learners have been through your course, how did your eLearning help them understand better, what was the best part of your information, how innovative you were to present your deck, and finally did your learner enjoy the process of learning.

You might think I am mixing the analytics with the term experience or does it really matter to care about whether my learners enjoy learning. Well, with the technology revolution, we have access to deep diving data analytics that can help us leverage various aspects of the learning journey and with a changed mindset, you can deliver a powerful learning experience.

So here is how you can start executing the idea of the "engaging experience."

When you start with a mindset of developing an engaging eLearning experience, strategize the various ways to make learning easy, concise, and to the point. While developing eLearning or training, understanding the target audience is vital, thus it is the usual practice that you refer to the learner’s competency, cognizing the training needs. So basically, you start your development by evaluating the learner profile and then develop a course to meet the defined learning objectives. But for developing an experience, this is not enough. Even if your learner is highly skilled and overqualified for your training, ultimately the learner has a human brain, which means first you need to understand the learning psychology of a human brain. This is important because understanding the limitations of the human brain is equally important as understanding how the human brain learns. With the revolution in technology, the average attention span is drastically affected and thus it becomes one of the toughest challenges of the learning industry.

A study by Microsoft suggests the average human being now has an attention span of about eight seconds. This is an alarming decrease from the average attention span of 12 seconds in 2000. More shocking, perhaps, is the fact that Jampp’s research says the human attention span decreases by a gigantic 88% each year.

So, the alarming facts are:

  • Learners don’t have enough patience for your 50–80 slides.
  • Too much comprehension can kill their interest.
  • Anything static onscreen with nonstop audio irritates your learner.
  • Basic interactivities will not engage your learners.

So how do we develop an engaging learning experience for learners? Here are simple tactics to address the modern-day challenges of digital learning.

Length

For an engaging experience, course length can be the most strategic point to start with. Nobody loves an elongated slide deck full of text and constricted layouts. We already have the decreasing attention span standing across the table, so try to have a tactical length, this doesn’t mean you can’t accommodate elongated information. The key is to break your content into short and concise modules. A course with a greater number of modules is always better than one module having all the content. For example, instead of demanding 90 minutes at once, ask for 10+15+10+5…and so on. Watching a longer list of modules practically justifies the self-paced learning ideology rather than imposing one big module.

For a more in-depth strategy on Length, stay tuned for a specialized article.

Content

Too much information ruins your learner engagement. Your explanations should not be running around the bush, as much as possible make communication to the point. This doesn’t mean you cannot absolutely omit supporting information like scenarios, research papers, or forms. It’s a very popular content structuring principle in the editorial industry, they arrange the information in an inverted pyramid style (i.e., the most important information comes first, then the detailed information, and lastly the supportive information. This can be effective in eLearning too. For example, keep your most important content at the top and include supportive or extended information as handouts or reference links or information pop-ups but definitely not as main stage content.

For effective structuring ideas, stay tuned for a specialized article.

On-Screen Elements

Too much text, too many concepts, close-fitted layouts, burning color theme will definitely be visually painful for your learners. No learner is going to read word for word the information on your screen if it is too much. Remember the decreasing attention span, so instead of placing a lot of static text, have the least amount of text as possible on the screen, use animated elements with basic transitions to highlight important parts. Use tabs, pop-ups, or lightboxes (Articulate 360) to distribute information in an effective way. The layout may be last on the list but try to make it simple and straight-forward instead of having too many graphical elements. A crowded layout may affect the visual delight of your eLearning. Never miss on this, the non-stop audio with the un-synced screen movement delivers ineffective learning.

Want to explore more on On-Screen Elements, stay tuned for a specialized article.

Interactivity

An engaging eLearning experience has effective interactivity at its heart. Sadly, sometimes this interactivity is translated as Back-Next, Click-Reveal, or Carousal, and so on. But engaged eLearning should always focus on interactivities that evoke learner interpretation and involve thinking, analyzing, and decision-making. Think about this, new-age learners are well-equipped with auto-understood interactivity where there is no need for thinking about Back-Next or Click-Reveal, these aren't enough for engaged eLearning. Think about including scenarios, decision-based branching, or maybe post-course assignments. Interactivities can be the most promising part of your eLearning experience, the best arena where you can demonstrate all your creativity, try to think outside the box. The key is: do not limit yourself within a tool (Articulate or Camtasia), try using creative ways to engage your learners; for example, include third-party engagement, like quizzes on Kahoot or Blackboard Learn. Try to use rare elements like QR scanning or upload a video presentation.

There is a lot that can be done to level up your eLearning with out-of-the-box interactivities. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

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