Saturday, March 24, 2012

Keeping Your Learners Engaged

It happens in both traditional and e-learning that the learners have a low activity rate through the course and find themselves clueless in front of the final examination. Or, at the most, they have an all-nighter, trying to catch up with what they didn't learn in months because they were disengaged. Although some people might be ambitious enough to actually pass the test after a cram session, the results will be very short term: they'll forget the information soon and definitely won't be able to put it into practice.
In order to prevent that from happening to your course, there are some steps that you can follow. This way, you will keep your learners engaged and focused on the course, which will also raise the graduation rate of your course.
The first thing you need to do is break up your course in smaller bits. If you think a 60 minutes course is already small, try to break it up into four parts of 15 minutes each - which you can easily do with the aid of Moodle or another LMS. In these bits, include multimedia content, simuations and lots of examples. Have a small review at the beginning of each new chapter, because repetition really helps learning. You can do that with the aid of exercises, such as multiple choice on a given scenario. You can use the Lesson module in Moodle to begin your chapter with a couple of questions and only then have the learner proceed to the new information.
To keep your learners on the topic, social media is a successful tool. Create a blog, a Facebook page and/or a Twitter regarding the subject matter. You don't have to update them solely with course-related stuff, but you should keep that the main focus. Try some domain related humor or interesting links to spice things up. For example, if you're in advertising, find some cartoons that make fun of copywriters, but make sure you also introduce some popular commercials of the moment or an article from the web about your company. You can also send out a newsletter or, if applicable, put up a poster in the office.
When the course is done, you can create a very short follow-up course as revision. This should only contain the key points of the initial course, accompanied by memorable images or scenarios that you used in the original.
Another type of follow-up would be the brief email, emphasizing the key points of the course content. You can send it out soon after the course if over, and then you can send it again after another two weeks, four weeks, and so on. If you think this might be boring and a bit spamming, then send a follow-up exercise: something to provide repetition and reinforcement of the information, to be used as an example and to represent a practical application as well.
Keeping your learners engaged in the course doesn't only mean having them focused through its duration. It also implies that they actually learn something from it, something that they can use. And you can help them do that using attention-grabbing as well as follow-up methods.

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