Online education is great, no doubt. It helps people efficiently gain knowledge and skills they need, online courses cover a huge variety of topics, a lot of students enroll… yet much fewer finish the course. In this article we will discuss the importance of student engagement and form a checklist of 10 steps to making a course epic.
In our previous article on LMS comparison we focused on the right choice of LMS platform for each particular case, their pros and cons, etc. However, choosing the most appropriate LMS solution is only the beginning of the job, as online course should engage learners, positively challenge them to finish the course and make them feel they've learned something new and useful.
10 details that make the online course shine
- Great UX. Provide a convenient interface, smooth learning process, efficient and simple to use tools, etc. In short - this greatly depends on the right choice of the LMS.
- Intrigues. Learners are intrigued both by predictable and unpredictable events. Brightly depict all the magnificent benefits and outcomes of the course and people will be reassured they put their time and money to a good use. Briefly warn them of custom weekly tests and challenges with hardly predictable rewards (appraisals from other students and/or lecturer, showing results of surveys, publishing the best task solution on your website, etc.) - and they will anticipate this with higher interest. Emphasizing the final outcomes (You will learn how to fly!) and pointing out intermediary achievements (This week you will learn how to craft wings!) helps keep the learners intrigued.
- Lecturer’s proficiency and charisma. There is a huge gap between offline and online courses, because in online education there is no direct interaction between a teacher and a class, no “presence effect”, meaning that online students can be distracted much easier than in a real lecture class. Therefore, keeping online student’s attention requires great lecturer’s personal knowledge and educational experience in particular topic, his own engagement with the material. A professional who loves and has proficiency in his subject can ignite the audience much more than an actor with a perfect speech.
- Interactivity. The students should not be merely listeners of an online course, they should be active participants. For example, a “pause trick”: a lecturer suggests the students to pause the video and guess the answer to the question before it is displayed (after pause). In-video quizzes also help to keep the students engaged (and intrigued, by the way).
- Emphasis on practice. The students should begin doing practical tasks at once, not after a week of theory and history on the subject. Provide the absolute minimum of theory required for material understanding and let the students move from practice to theory to keep them engaged. This rule is obviously not ubiquitous: the course on the history of barocco will have little to none practice.
- Visualization. Online courses allow intense material visualization with infographics, slides, pictures, schemes and other methods. Listening and viewing allows much better material comprehension as compared to listening without displaying the data.
- Relearning encouragement. Allowing students to pass the test once again without changing the course score positively affects their desire to check themselves once more and review the material once more. They can track their own progress, compare their performance as they move forward through the course. Relearning boosts the material comprehension and student's satisfaction, thus boosting the intention to share this experience after the course finishes.
- Gamification and gratification. Millennials adore gamification but it does not mean the other generations will not appreciate it. Everyone likes receiving awards and presents, the feeling of being appreciated, noted, important. Gratification works wonders with the students, greatly increasing their performance. Give them badges for achievements, let them compete with each other, let them demonstrate their skills during the course, not on the final exam only and you will receive much better retention rates.
- Mosaic. There should be a core project of the course and the student should be sure each topic you cover adds some more pieces to the mosaic. In the end all the aspects of the material form a meaningful picture of the course topic, embodied in the core project the student has to accomplish.
- Outcomes bundle. This is invaluable for future advocates of your eLearning solution. When a person has more than a certificate to show, when they can demonstrate the product they created while completing a course (and continue to improve it over time) - this will be a boost to their portfolio and self-confidence. Knowing this fact from the very beginning will help keep them engaged throughout the course.
If you manage to implement all these details into your course content, you will surely turn an average online course into a great one. The devil is in the detail, you know…