I was speaking with a senior trainer, who routinely conducts classroom training programs for sales and marketing professionals. He shared his thoughts about the dynamism that is involved in face to face training, and how he alters his training pattern in response to audience verbal and non-verbal responses, at the spur of the moment. He was almost convinced that such dynamism and interactivity is not possible in eLearning. I had to explain that the mode of training is certainly different in eLearning format, and when it comes to engaging the learner, some of the classroom techniques can be modified and applied to eLearning quite successfully.
Motivating a dis-interested learner in classroom and online
How does a classroom instructor try and engage or involve learners, who display disinterest in the subject being discussed? The instructor tries to ask questions or prod them to share their experiences in relation to subject. Engage them in a group activity; or better still get them to lead it. Since learners are physically present, the instructor can use his/her personality, creativity and charm, to get people to participate in the learning process.
How can this be done in case of an online learner? In an online context, there is a twofold challenge.
1. Firstly, you have to get learners to register for the course. It means the communication about the course should enable them to take time off their work commitments to learn more about the course. Here, the onus is on the L & D Manager or the learning/training coordinator who assigns courses to employees.
2. Secondly, you have to ensure that they complete it. Here, the responsibility lies with the instructional designer who designs the course. If the courses are not engaging, learners might enroll and start the course, but might not complete it.
How to get learners to register for the online course?
In the context of corporate learning, you are interacting with executives you are busy with their work commitments and registering for online courses is certainly not their first priority. Therefore, you need to create a reason for them to register to the courses. Once courses are assigned to learners, you could,
- Provide little bit of background information, so that they are prepared with basic knowledge about the subject in question.
- Send clear information about what the course is all about and how the courses would help them in their jobs.
- Create and share a set of teaser questions that gets them to go online and search for information.
By arousing their curiosity on the subject matter, you can build their interest about the course that is being assigned to them.
Of course, learners might register for the course, but they forget all about it due to their other engagements. Personalized email alerts (worded informally) will remind them of their commitment towards the course. Coursera, provides hundreds of MOOCs, sends periodic email alerts to students who have subscribed to a course that is due to commence is a couple of months. The emails are personal, bustling with excitement and enthusiasm that makes the learner involved and eager to be part of the process.
Engaging learners in classroom or eLearning needs definite effort. In case of ILT, the onus lays on the instructor and in eLearning, the onus is entirely on the instructional designers who need to create captivating storyboards. Once learners start taking the course, it is very important that their interest level is maintained and they complete the course within the stipulated timeframe. In the second part of this blog, I will touch upon some techniques for designing engaging online courses taking ideas from classroom activities.