Challenges of Online Learning: 4 Ways to Keep Your Online Student Engaged



When I set out to take my Social Media Training Courses online, I realized early on that online courses only work if people actually consume the content.

It’s one thing to sit through a live training. Sure, retention may be low, but at least you do learn something.

But one of the main challenges of online learning is that unless the learner has the discipline and the motivation to focus and watch the lectures, they learn nothing at all.

Here are four ways to design self-paced learning programs that keep people engaged:

  1. Ask Questions – Make it easy for people to discover what they don’t know by asking plenty of challenging questions. When they realize how much they have to learn, they’re more likely to stay tuned.
  2. Percolator Pace – Long videos are the kiss of death.  Like in a coffee pot, knowledge is delivered best one drop at a time. Index each video with search friendly text so people can pinpoint the information they find most engaging, and then consume it in the order they want. Chunk it up and make it browsable. A six-hour class can be delivered in three hours with better retention rates, says Jim Recker, a product specialist at Citrix GoToTraining.
  3. Interactivity – Create downloadable exercise files so your students can practice what you’re teaching. “Generally, if you’re going to be learning something, you should be doing something while you’re learning,” says Michael W. Allen, Ph.D., chairman and CEO of Allen Interactions. “You can watch video after video of someone playing the piano. But until you start playing the piano, you haven’t learned much.”
  4. Flip the ClassroomFlipping the classroom is a reversal of conventional teaching where knowledge transfer happens on-demand and homework gets done as a group. It’s a concept inspired by education technology pioneer Karl Fisch who used screencasts as an instructional tool so that students could watch lectures, explanations and demonstrations on their own, and use class time to discuss the material and practice applying the knowledge to solve problems.  Consider using live sessions to reward those who have completed the on-demand courseware.

Udemy recently introduced an assessment functionality that allows instructors to insert multiple choice questions into their courses.

Conventional eLearning courseware built on rapid authoring software packages like Captivate, Storyline and Lectora have had that capability for a long time, but because they present their courses in a single HTML page with embedded Flash “slides,” there’s no way to effectively SEO or index each individual lecture for search.

If you’d like to see your students complete more of your online courses, try implementing these suggestions. And let me know how it goes.

erics_headshotAbout the Author

Eric Schwartzman is CEO of Comply Socially, a online social media training provider, and bestselling coauthor of Social Marketing to the Business Customer. His Social Media Bootcamp is available to readers of this blog for 50% off through May 1, 2013.