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Learning vs. Laundry: 12 Ways to Engage the Online Learner

The power of online education extends far beyond providing access to non-traditional students -those who are limited by time, location, or expense. It has the power to transform and revitalize the educational experience for the learner.


Online learning is more than providing a new environment for the same learning; it is about educational revolution.

Read my 12 tips below to see how you can create an engaging learning environment for your e-learner.

1. Accept that you have lost your captive audience. In a live setting, the presenter has the benefit of politeness. Even if a learner is not completely engaged, he will typically at least mimic learning. By placing your course online, you are now competing with Facebook, texting, other homework, laundry, cooking, and family. Many online learners are motivated by the perception of multi-tasking, and so they will (often erroneously) believe they can learn while completing other tasks.


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2. Don't be intimidated by losing your captive audience; instead, embrace this opportunity to transform the learning experience. Simply placin an in-person training on a digital platform is not transforming the learning experience. Online learning is about creating an educational environment for each individual learner, so that they can customize their experience and take control of and responsibility for their own learning.

The focus must move from the presenter to the learner.

3. One significant benefit is the dismissal of group effect. The larger the audience, the more the learner will disengage, believing this learning is not designed for them, that this is not relevant. With an online course, however, you can lead the learner to believe you are speaking directly to him.


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4. Speak directly to the learner. Use "you." Ask the learner questions and give him time to respond. Give the learner a task to complete while watching the video. This concept is what has made preschool on t.v. programs so phenomenal. Children believe Mickey is asking them to dance; Dora wants them to count with her.


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5. Online learners are excellent at gaming the system. They know exactly what to click to "get done," without learning. It is possible to get an "A" in many poorly designed online courses simply by clicking the right buttons. If you allow multiple chances on a quiz, the learner will take it once, copy the answers, and take it again. You need to outgame the learner.

6. Short, powerful segments are best. Break your content into small units of information. Check out this graph, examining the percentage of video watched. 80% of 30-second videos are watched, whereas only 50% of 2-3 minute videos are watched.



7. Think: How can I make this interactive? How can I make my learner do something? This doesn't have to be lengthy. Maybe he needs to answer a question embedded into the video. Maybe he needs to journal after each 3-minute video segment. Draw a picture? Take a short quiz. 

8. Think: If this topic were not my passion, how long would I engage? Choose a topic of minimal interest, then look at your online module through that perspective. If you were only mildly interested, would you game this system?

9. Romance your learner's eyes. Design each element of your course, from the larger structure to each individual component, to be visually appealing. Break apart large chunks of text with graphics, images, and videos. Integrate and embed. Link blog posts into your document; embed quizzes into your videos; implant YouTube clips into the blog; provide a natural space for comments from readers, rather than an external link.

10. Let go of the linear. Your learners are smarter than you give them credit for, and they have been engaged in an online world, at least on some level, for several years. You do not have to create one and only one distinct direction for every learner on your site. Allow elements of choice. Design your course to have multiple pathways.

11. Touch your learner's heart. Give them a purpose to learn your material. Engage them in your passion. Tell your story. Make this learning meaningful. 

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 12. Challenge your learner. Ask them to make discoveries in their own world. Tell them to apply their learning in their own environment. Challenge them to use this learning experience for a greater purpose. 


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