Ways to Keep Learners Attentive During an Online Course
Learning can be challenging. The anxiety and stress associated with time crunches, work pressure, and information overload can pose huge barriers to learning. As course developers, we have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders. We don’t merely have to create courses, but we need to maintain learner’s interest in the online courses that we make, serve them with useful information, and are easy for them to consume—all at the same time. Below are some tips for maintaining learner attention in online training.
Start with a warm welcome
There is no better icebreaker in a course than a good opening. Surprise your learners with useful quotes, a welcoming interactivity, or perhaps a pre-assessment get them involved right from the beginning.
Sprinkle in interesting facts
Having a fun or novelty factor in the learning can help perk interest, while providing variety and a refreshing “mini-break.” The information should be valuable and relevant to the key topic—but provide the sort of interesting nugget you might relay to a colleague during a coffee break, or to a family member at the end of the day. Surprising statistics, fun facts, and “did you know” call-outs can all work very well here.
Go beyond just providing content—present it
Don’t feed your learners unending miles of text. The way most audiences consume media and information has changed dramatically in the past twenty years. Long blocks of text can be daunting for certain readers—and even the avid readers in your audience will value a nicely laid-out page that’s easy to scan, with visuals that support or enhance the text.
On the text side:
- Keep your course content as concise as possible. Remember that your learners may be under time pressure both from your course and from their other obligations at work or at home. Don’t tempt them to multi-task by taking too long to get to the point.
- Use bulleted points or numbered lists, where appropriate, to help learners skim. This formatting can also help emphasize your key points. Visual callouts or pull quotes for key points can also help here.
- While you could theoretically put the equivalent of pages of text on a single screen and have the user scroll, this can often lead to the learner perception that the course contains an insurmountable mountain of material to process. In general, it is better to offer up short “easily consumable” chunks of content. Taking it step by step, the learner’s perception shifts to feeling that the work is more manageable, even though the total amount of content is the same.
On the visual side:
- Where possible, use images to reinforce the meaning of the text and make it easier for learners to understand it and identify key points.
- Where that is not possible, use mood-setting visuals to increase the immediacy of your message and keep your courses alive and colorful.
Everyone needs variety in life and elearning is no different.
- Vary the pace of the course, following heavy content with activities or lighter content.
- Spice up your elearning with varied templates and interactions. A scenario or periodic review game can keep learners from falling into a rut of “just listening”—and possibly zoning out. The active participation helps focus attention and increase the retention of the content. Too hard to create these? Not at all. There are many tools on the market that can help you—though, of course, we are huge fans of our own! You can create a professional looking activity or game with a few clicks with 360training’s templates.
Help learners learn—and add value to your online courses. Try out one of these attention-keeping tips today!
—Shazia Wajid and the 360 Authoring Team