3 Strategies for Creating Engaging Online Courses

Ronda Barnes | 6.5 min read

Current economic and social realities have caused many corporations to transform the way they train and engage employees, customers, and business partners. State of the art technology has allowed businesses to offer online learning. 

With the onset of COVID-19, many corporations will never return to a traditional learning model. 

An estimated $300 billion is spent on corporate training each year. This is done with the expectation that skills and abilities will improve within the organization. Whether you currently offer online learning courses or will in the future, understanding how to make online courses engaging is vital for effective learning and your ROI.

Poor engagement is one of the top reasons learners fail or never complete a course. For this reason, ensuring your online courses are engaging should be a top priority.

In this article, we will share ideas for improving online courses. We will also discuss ways to boost your online engagement and enhance your audience’s learning experience.

Why You Should Be Thinking About Engagement

Engagement is one of the key elements of knowledge retention in online learning. When you are engaging online learners, you are keeping them involved, motivated, and invested in the learning process. This cultivates a stronger connection between them and the learning goals. It also affects the learner’s efficacy and overall performance level during and after the course.

Perhaps you can recall a course that was visually unappealing, lacked structure or wasn’t interactive. You probably retained very little information that was presented in the course. This is what you want to avoid.

Strategy 1: Integrate New Online Learning Best Practices

In online learning, you don’t have the traditional elements of a classroom such as conversations, hand-on activities, and physical presence. These are the pieces that foster communication and encourage deeper learning. As such, your online course should integrate elements that still allow learners to have a meaningful learning experience.  

The following online learning ideas are considered best practices of high-quality, collaborative online courses.

Realistic. The purpose of any course is for the learner to be able to apply the concepts that have been taught. When the course content doesn’t seem practical or realistic, learners will lose interest or fail to retain the information. For the learning content to be valuable, offer real-life scenarios and examples that allow learners to build a connection to real life. Additionally, they should be able to apply concepts immediately. 

Microlearning. Large chunks of information can be overwhelming and hard to digest. Breaking the course content into smaller ideas or topics can help improve comprehension. Microlearning has also been proven to increase engagement.

Visually Appealing. Design your course to capture the learner’s attention and keep it. Your color scheme is a powerful way to evoke the feelings of your audience. Choose colors and contrasts that will differentiate your content. If your LMS allows you to integrate personalization, it is also a good way to enhance the look and feel of the course. You can also make your course more appealing by making it easy to navigate.

Learning Styles. When it comes to learning styles, one size doesn’t fit all. Your online course should be developed with various learning styles in mind. While it may not be viable to offer a course to fit each specific learner, you can incorporate practices that appeal to each learning style. Examples include:

  • Display graphs, photos, outlines for visual learners
  • Offer printable materials such as handouts or scripts for kinesthetic learners
  • Play videos or sounds for auditory learners

Clear Expectations. Learners should have a clear understanding of the course objectives, topics discussed, duration of the course, and skills gained after completing the course. A course overview mitigates any confusion.

Strategy 2: Think About Your Course Structure

Understanding how to structure an online course is also important. The instructional design should factor in the following structural elements: 

Easy to follow presentation. Each lesson within your course should be separated into modules. This reinforces microlearning and keeps the learning information organized.

Sequence of events. The learning content should be set to a pace that will not overwhelm learners but also won’t bore them. It should also follow a sequence of events that builds and reinforces knowledge. Storyboard your lessons and learning activities ahead of time to ensure your course is engaging.

Learning materials. Learning management systems allow you to integrate additional supportive learning tools. This can include handouts, worksheets, transcripts, and other information that can help strengthen knowledge transfer and retention.

Assessments. Tests and quizzes evaluate what has been learned. It can help ensure that learners stay engaged and retain information. Your online course should also allow them to revisit content that needs to be reviewed. 

Strategy 3: Make it Interactive

Interactive online learning provides an opportunity for learners to actively participate outside of the traditional learning setting. This works well for learners who might not be as attentive without the physical presence of other students or an instructor. With today’s technology, an online course without interactive tools will fail to create engagement.

Here are the top interactive e-learning examples that have been proven to increase engagement and drive home the learning content.

Gamification. One of the easiest ways to increase interactivity and engagement in your course is by integrating gamification. Gamification allows learners to make decisions and get feedback as they learn, similar to playing a video game. It can activate intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to stimulate learning in a fun way. Within your LMS, you can design your course to allow points to be earned, rewards to be given, or a leaderboard. This allows learners to see their progress. Gamification tools can range from simple concepts to advanced options so it is important to weigh the pros and cons of each type. 

Make it collaborative. People spend hours on social media each day and one reason is because of the communication features. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn offer social mechanisms that allow users to “like” or “share” things that appeal to them. This encourages engagement. The same features should be integrated into your online courses as they also show engagement and interest in the content presented. 

Ask questions. Assessments facilitate learning and help increase engagement. Similarly, asking questions throughout the course is a powerful tool to increase retention. Asking varied questions between modules or learning concepts reinforces the ideas presented. The questions should also provide an explanation when a learner answers incorrectly and should be linked to learning materials for reference. 

Improved Courses Equals Enhanced Learning

Engagement is the driving force behind an effective online course.  Hopefully we’ve covered all your questions on how to make online courses engaging. Presenting your course through an interactive online learning platform offers your employees and customers the perfect online learning experience. When you invest in the quality of your learning options, you position your organization for greater success.

Click here to connect with a specialist and learn more about online courses on the Wisetail LMS platform.

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Ronda Barnes is a freelance writer with a specialization in human resources development.  Her professional experience and educational background in HR and Online Teaching and Learning has allowed her to provide engaging and useful content for B2B and B2C companies.  When she isn’t writing articles, you can find her developing online courses on various topics.