How to Make Online Courses Engaging in 7 Actionable Steps
Creating engaging online training that holds your learners’ attention is tough. Whether it’s mandatory training or an optional course, it’s essential to motivate and engage your learners throughout learning.
If you’re faced with low course completion rates, figuring out how to improve this should be your top priority. After all, if your courses aren’t being completed, then your learners aren’t learning.
How to create engaging online courses
1. Put the learner first
It’s crucial to put your learners at the center of your training strategy. This is where learner insight comes in. We suggest you talk to your learners and gather actionable feedback before you start creating your training programs.
Find out what training would be of value to them, and what outcomes they want to achieve. Getting their input from the outset gives them an active role in the training, making them more likely to take up it. You’re able to say “we listened to your feedback and we’ve used it to create or improve this course”. It shows your learners that they can share their opinions, and you’ll listen.
2. Make it user-friendly
Taking courses should be easy to do. When launching a new training program, make sure your learners know:
- how to access the training either in your learning management system (LMS) or in-person
- the training that’s available and why they should complete it
- how completing this training will benefit them
If you’re using an LMS, you’ll need to ensure your courses are formatted to fit the environment and device through which they’ll be accessed. Ask yourself, will training happen at work, at home, or in a cafe? Will it be accessed via a desktop, mobile, or tablet device? Is my LMS mobile-responsive?
Knowing where your learners are accessing their training helps you to package the course content to suit their learning environment. If they’re taking training at their desk, then longer modules, featuring a live or recorded webinar, for example, will work best. But if they’re dipping into a course during their commute, then you’ll want to use short, engaging modules, featuring bite-size videos.
We like to clearly signpost the course length and the learning outcomes so learners know exactly what to expect too. This creates a frictionless experience for the learner. If there are no barriers to learning, your learners should complete their training without any issues.
3. Encourage and remind
Positive reinforcement goes a long way, so encourage your learners as they work through the content to improve completion rates. Like, if they take a survey in your LMS, thank them for taking the time to share their thoughts. If they take an exam, provide automated feedback once they’re completed it that shows them what they got right and where they went wrong, helping them learn from their mistakes.
Sending reminders also encourages learners to complete training that they haven’t had a chance to do yet, or may have forgotten about. Helpfully, if you’ve an LMS, this can all be automated.
Reminders are also great for courses with strict set due dates, like compliance training. They reduce the risk of learners falling behind or not meeting a course deadline. And if there are learners that haven’t still haven’t completed this training and you have to intervene, do it in a friendly, understanding way – no one likes to be scolded!
Ask the learner’s manager to chat to them to find out what they need to be able to complete their mandatory training. Often it’s something simple that can be easily addressed, like the learner feels they don’t have enough time to complete their mandatory training.
4. Time to learn
Learners are often given training to complete on top of their day to day work tasks. And if they have a heavy workload, training is going to fall by the wayside. Something we practice here at LearnUpon is setting aside dedicated learning hours each week. This lets your audience know that learning is a top priority. Naturally, there will be times when getting dedicated learning time just isn’t possible. That’s why using an LMS that enables learners to take the training when and where they want to, provides them with the flexibility needed to meet their learning goals.
5. Be an active administrator
“If they don’t care about this, then why should I?” – this is what your learners’ think when you don’t take an active role in learning. You can prevent this perception from forming by asking your learners how they’re finding the training, giving face-to-face and online feedback via your LMS, and let them know that you’re there to support them if they need help.
If you have an LMS, reporting also offers instant insights on how training is going for your learners. This feature gives you the power to check in on learner progress. So, for example, if someone is falling behind, you can send them a gentle reminder that there’s courses to complete.
You can also use reports to identify any issues with your courses. For example, if one module has a low completion rate, it may signify unengaging content or unclear information. By monitoring and improving your courses, you ensure that your learners are getting accurate, impactful training.
6. Vary course content
Repetitive content is boring and will likely turn our learners off completing multiple courses. Therefore, you should mix up the content types you’re using in your training.
Combining a short explainer video, followed by a more detailed piece of explanatory text, capped off with an exam, assessment or reflective question to check your learner’s knowledge and stimulate active learning works well to keep their attention.
Keeping your learners engaged by using different content types, makes it more enjoyable for your learners to progress through a course. Adding interactive elements to your courses by creating content using an authoring tool also helps create a more dynamic experience.
But regardless of whether you use an authoring tool, your content should be aesthetically pleasing. The better it looks, the more appealing it is to the learner. You don’t have to be an artist or a graphic designer to do this too. Doing something as simple as breaking up large chunks of text into short paragraphs makes content easier to read, and more likely for them to complete.
7. Reward and recognize
Rewards and recognition is something we all want when we’ve done a good job. And achieved something, so why not use this in your learning too?
Elements like Gamification, Certificates and Learning Credits are great ways to do this. We see this work for a number of our customers as their learners get motivated to complete their training whenever they earn badges or points.
Improving your course completion rates
By investing in training your learners you’re improving their skills and, in turn, you’re investing in your organization’s future. Hopefully our insights can help you to increase your course engagement rates.
Why not make a checklist with all of the tips we’ve covered above, select the ones you want to try out, and see if implementing them increases engagement and completion of your training.
How do you address low learner engagement? Let us know in the comments below.