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Five Easy-to-Follow Tips to Enliven Dull eLearning Courses

Dull and disengaging content is an absolute no-no in eLearning. Here are some facts for you, ‘1 out of every 3 employees believes that uninspiring or dull content is a barrier to their learning.’ That is 1000 out of 3000 employees or 33% of the workforce. Therefore, it is imperative that organizations pay special attention to content being delivered to their learners; they must analyze the nature of their online training content and ask, “Will this content engage and inspire learners?”

How do you determine if your training content is engaging and will keep learners hooked? What steps are to be taken to ensure eLearning courses appeal to learners? In this blog, I am going to discuss just that—how to develop eLearning courses that ‘speak’ to the learner and appeal to their emotions in order to motivate and engage them.

Five Ways to Create Engaging E-learning Courses

1. Design a Course That Appeals to Learners’ Emotions

It is likely that the content in your eLearning course has been specifically chosen according to the learners’ needs. But what about the design? Every aspect of design—the typography, the color scheme, and the graphics/images used throughout the course—significantly shapes how knowledge is acquired by learners. Here are some tips to get these key design elements right.

Use the right colors and fonts

Different fonts and colors convey different emotions, such as playfulness, professionalism, or humor. Always keep the audience in mind when selecting fonts for your eLearning course. Ensure the color used conveys the emotion of the course. If the course is on a lighthearted subject, use colors that are vibrant and fonts that are whimsical.

And in case of courses on complex and sensitive topics (such as safety training, compliance training, prevention of sexual harassment at workplace), ensure dark colors with formal and crisp fonts are used. Also keep in mind that vibrant colors such as red and yellow instill a sense of excitement in learners while colors such as sky blue and pastel shades will calm down the learners.

Choose images that evoke emotion

E-learning courses are popular for the excitement they evoke in learners and a big reason for that is the right use of images. Images that affect a learner’s emotions create a better sense of satisfaction; picking the right images for an eLearning course is not difficult. Just pay attention to what each of the slides in your course is trying to convey; then look for an image that reflects the tone and message of your overall eLearning course. And, decide on the format of image to be used and stick to it – don’t have real images, vectors, and line drawings all in one blog – it only adds to the cognitive load.

Note that the goal here is not to fill up the empty spaces in your online learning courses with images. Rather, it is to select images that work with the text, that help learners comprehend the learning materials in a way that it is easy to understand and hard to forget.

Add a human touch to the course by having a narrator

There is nothing monotonous and disengaging than a robot or a machine reading out the script in an eLearning course; this is a major put off for learners. Always ensure a human narrator is chosen over a machine voice in your eLearning course. While the machine voice is quite dull, plain and monotonous, the voice of narrator will be lively and dynamic as s/he will have all the right modulations, tone, and intonation, automatically creating an emotional connect in the learners.

2. Use Storytelling Techniques to Establish Meaningful Connections

Storytelling is one of the most effective eLearning strategies to facilitate a connection between the learners and the content. But for a story to be good, it must be compelling and persuasive. At the same time, a good story should not only draw the interest of the learners, but also make them feel they are part of the narrative, therefore fostering an emotional connect and promoting long-term knowledge retention. Here are some tips to create compelling stories for your online learning courses.

Make the storyline and the characters relatable

Learning occurs and has an impact when it is situated in a context. If the story being used is not relatable to the learners i.e., if they don’t see in it any relevance to their work, there isn’t going to be any impact. In eLearning, stories usually take the form of case studies, online learning scenarios, story-based eLearning courses. These eLearning strategies use dialogues and situations/scenarios that are drawn in some capacity from the learners’ work environment, and from the problems they face or might face at their workplace.

Speaking of characters, characters in eLearning act as a catalyst for behavioral change and motivate learners to perform better. Apart from using them as actors in eLearning, they perform other tasks as well.

  • They take learners through the course by acting as guides.
  • They pose ice-breaker questions at the beginning of the course, introduce them to learning points along the way.
  • They give useful intrinsic feedback, and provide useful tips wherever needed.

Note that the characters and their behaviors that figure in these strategies must always be modeled on the learner, their peers, colleagues, or senior colleagues. This brings a semblance of reality to the course.

Allow learners to participate in the story

Are your learners just able to watch the entire scenario or are they able to interact with the story? Ensure they are indeed able to interact with the story. Ask them what they think the problem is and allow them to make primary decisions by suggesting potential solutions. Encourage them to put the knowledge into context and consider how they might use it in their real lives, as well as analyze their performance so that they can learn from their mistakes.

Break the eLearning course into multiple learning points to help learners reflect on the content and their experiences. Incorporating self-reflection breaks after each learning activity, topic, or knowledge check maximizes knowledge retention and participation.

Each story must focus on one learning point

Are the scenarios included in your eLearning course too long? Are they focusing on too many ideas? If this is the case, you will end up overwhelming your learners with too much information. You may even risk your learners not paying enough attention throughout the story. Always ensure each story focuses only on a single message, allowing learners to grasp the details better and understand the big picture easily.

3. Create Courses That Follow the Adult Learning Principles

eLearning courses are typically offered to learners with varying learning styles. However, there are some generic characteristics shared by adult learners and the adult learning principles are based on these characteristics. Here are two important adult learning principles your eLearning courses must address.

Make the navigation simple and free

Adult learners prefer having control over their learning and want it to be self-directed. Restricting the ability to navigate through the course will lead to learners feeling controlled and frustrated. This is why you need to ensure all the eLearning courses have a simple and free navigation, where learners are free to move around and learn whatever topic is most relevant or important to them.

Make the training goal-oriented

“The search for meaning is a drive that exists in all of us,” reads a line from the book ‘A Whole New Mind’. Learners of online learning, too, search for meaning in their training courses. They want to know the benefits of taking the course and how it will help them at work; before the training even begins, conduct a clear analysis of the target audience—the knowledge and skills they are lacking for which training needs to be provided.

The learning objectives of your eLearning course must reflect these knowledge gaps and must denote how the training is going to fill them. Learning objectives, therefore, specify what exactly a learner will be able to do once they complete a particular course; thus, driving learners to take up the course with interest rather than taking it up for the sake of it.

4. Offer Encouraging and Constructive Feedback

Offer Encouraging and Constructive Feedback

Blocks 1 and 2 represent two different ways of providing feedback in eLearning assessments. Which of them is more likely to promote learner participation and motivation?

In classroom training, trainers constantly provide feedback to ensure learners stay on track and get better; whereas, in online learning, the absence of an instructor necessitates that feedback be included after each activity and assessment in the eLearning course. Feedback in online learning courses is most often meaningless (think of all the one-line feedback statements) and lacks constructiveness.

To ensure learners get the most out of the online learning course, feedback mechanisms must use encouraging and positive language (as seen in Block 2) and make the learner feel appreciated as well as encouraged.

Also, showing learners how their actions are directly related to the real-life situations is an important part of eLearning feedback. Therefore, do not just limit feedback to stating what the right/wrong answer is but also provide constructive explanations as to why the learner was wrong or right.

5. Add Elements of Fun to Make eLearning More Appealing

“Not just seriousness but also play,” says Daniel Pink in his book. How often do you notice elements of fun in eLearning courses? Using fun as a key element in courses not only makes learning more appealing but also increases the rate of knowledge acquisition and retention.

Incorporate gamified elements in the course

Remember the game candy crush? According to an article, users have played 1.1 trillion rounds of this game to date with the highest score being 1,999,259,792. What do you think made this game so engaging? The magic lies in the elements within the game. The various elements such as points, leaderboards, boosters, and badges make users want to play more and more. To enable learner motivation, you need to ensure your eLearning courses incorporate such gamified elements too.

For example, each time a learner chooses a right choice in an assessment, they can be awarded points. In case they get it wrong, no points are awarded. A leaderboard can be integrated within the LMS such that the scores of every employee are visible. This will motivate learners to score more and get higher into the leaderboard. Apart from this, each time the learner completes a module, a badge or trophy can be provided which will be showcased in their profile within the LMS.

Concluding Remarks

Motivating learners to take the eLearning courses and keep them hooked is a big challenge, but this can be resolved by following the simple steps that I have mentioned in this blog. It is not enough to have courses with content ready to be assimilated. The content and the course on the whole must be aligned with the learner needs, appeal to their emotions, use good instructional design strategies and most important of all, establish relevance with the learners’ work environment. All these come together to constitute good, motivational eLearning courses.

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