One Quick Exercise to Build Better Online Learning Experiences

When you think of online learning experiences in government, you probably think of static slides that you click through or videos with a droning moderator. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

At a recent Digital Communications Workshop, GovLoop’s Learning Strategist Jamie Catania and I (Senior Learning Consultant) explored:

  • What engagement is.
  • Why it’s so challenging to engage learners.
  • How to solve your engagement problem (keep reading for a quick exercise you can do to improve engagement).

Defining Engagement
The first hurdle to creating engaging digital experience is defining what you mean by that term. Engagement is about getting people to take action.

Rather than seeking intangible, immeasurable results like excitement, you should define an action that you want the learner to take after completing your online training. That should be your baseline measurement of engagement.

The Problem with Engagement
Yet even with an actionable definition, it’s difficult to pin down engagement in the real-world. While the signals and actions of engagement are easy to recognize, the means to achieving that immersion are less clear.

Depending on the content you’re presenting, the ways to make it come alive and enthrall your audience will inevitably be varied. To make it even more challenging, effective ways to engage one person may be drastically different than successful tactics for a separate individual.

Yet we have to meet those diverse preferences and learning styles if we’re going to educate government workers.

Solving the Anti-Problem
But rather than looking at the challenges to engagement as an overwhelming hurdle to successful trainings, consider taking a different approach to the issue. Look at disengagement.

Unlike the signs and tactics of engagement, which are diverse and person-specific, disengagement is more universal. What’s more, the signs of disengagement are even easier to recognize. Certain factors almost always lead to disengagement. Some of these include:

  • A monotone presenter.
  • Overly complex or obtuse language.
  • Text-heavy slides.

So to solve the problem of engagement, focus on avoiding the universal factors of disengagement to improve the likelihood of engagement.

The Exercise
How do you do this? Start with this exercise.

  1. Ask yourself and your team these questions:
    • How might we generate as little activity as possible?
    • How might we actively disengage people?
  2. Write down your answers to those questions individually, then compare them with your team.
  3. See where there is agreement or overlap on disengagement tactics.
  4. Now flip them. Ask yourself “If that’s how you disengage a learner, what rules can you set in place to make sure you never do that?”

By the end of the exercise, you should have a long list of rules for building engaging online content. And that list was developed without talking about specific content, user preferences, or learning styles.

The next time you’re trying to build a meaningful online learning experience, take a step back and ask how you might disengage your end user. It can be powerful inspiration for improvement.

I'd love the chance to talk with you to see how our learning team can help your organization develop better online learning experiences. Email me at [email protected] to set up a meeting!

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