As a course designer, it’s your job to keep learners motivated and receptive to material, so they actually learn it. But even the most exciting course content can feel ho-hum to learners if it seems irrelevant and impersonal. What’s more, if they’re not interacting with the content, learners are more likely to space out.

In this article, we’ll look at three ways you can use interactions to help learners connect with your content—and motivate them to dig deeper.

Personalize Your Course with a Quiz or Poll

Bullet points make your learners’ eyes glaze over. But a mini quiz or poll can quickly gain their attention and communicate relevance.

Let’s say you’re designing a compliance course on Internet usage. Compliance courses are typically information-heavy and can be hard to slug through. There’s not much to motivate learners to take them.

Typically, a compliance course begins with a list of course objectives. But often these objectives are written from the company’s perspective, not the learner’s. As a result, there’s very little personal connection for the learner.

3 Ways to Motivate Learners with Interactions

A typical first slide might read like this:

In this course, you’ll learn to:

  • Identify improper online behavior

  • Recognize appropriate uses of the Internet

  • Define the company’s monitoring policies

There’s nothing wrong with this; the objectives are clearly stated. But this doesn’t tell learners why they should care. It’s impersonal and, as a result, unmotivating.

The easy fix is to rework the objectives so they feel relevant to learners.

For instance, if employees can be fired for Internet use, then the company must be watching what they’re doing, right? That’s something employees will want to know.

So you might rework your first slide into something that feels more relevant, like this:

3 Ways to Motivate Learners with Interactions

Did you know everything on your company computer is tracked? We monitor:

  • Email messages

  • Internet surfing

  • Instant messaging

  • Random screen captures

You add a layer of drama by telling learners that their seemingly private activities are actually visible and tracked by their company. Way better.

But learners are still just passive readers rather than active participants.

To really make the content feel personal, try transforming the first slide into a quiz that brings the content home for the learner. So, for this course, you might ask something like, “Which of your activities do you think we track and monitor?” And then offer choices such as emailing, internet surfing, instant messaging, screen capturing, and none of the above.

By changing this first slide into a quiz or poll, we create a little anxiety around the learner’s privacy and Internet use. They’re motivated to learn more because now the content is about them. And by making the slide interactive, we also get learners interacting with the screen, so they’re actively engaged.

Respect the Learner’s Time with Appropriate Interactions

One of the biggest complaints about online learning is that courses are too long and too rudimentary in their scope.

That’s because many courses simply regurgitate content as static slides, then include a quiz at the end. But what if a learner already knows half the content? They’re forced to read what they already know, wasting their time.

You can solve this problem by building interactions that let learners pull only the content they need. They can dive deeper if they need to, but they don’t have to.

You should also consider what type of learning will best suit the content.

For example, say you need to orient learners on the new features in the latest version of the software they use every day. You might be tempted to build a software simulation, seeing as how authoring tools like Articulate Storyline make it so easy.

But software simulations aren’t always the best option for orienting learners. Instead of forcing learners to sit through a software simulation from beginning to end even if they know most of the material, you might try building an interactive screenshot.

Unlike simulations, interactive screenshots are single-slide interactions with buttons placed over specific areas of the screen. Learners click each button to see a callout with information specific to each feature. And if they already know everything there is to know about a feature, they don’t have to click. In short, they can view the information they need, and bypass the information they don’t.

They’ll get through courses faster. And because they’re in control, they’ll feel a more personal connection.

Challenge Perceptions

Interactions are motivating when they challenge our beliefs and opinions on provocative topics. By challenging perceptions, you pique interest. Your learners will think, “Wait a minute! That can’t be right!” Then they’ll want to know how and why they’re wrong. They’re motivated to keep clicking.

This works really well in compliance and ethics courses, because most learners will feel they know the difference between right and wrong.

Let’s say you’re designing a module around workplace theft. Again, this isn’t a life or death topic, and most corporate employees will likely feel the course has little to offer them. But you can make it feel personal by revealing to learners their own misguided beliefs. For example, many people think the less education you have, the more likely you are to steal. But the evidence shows that, in fact, people with college degrees and high school diplomas are just as likely to steal.

So, the first slide of this workplace theft course might look something like this:

However, challenging perceptions to make content engaging doesn’t mean you need to sensationalize, so be sure to balance your approach with common sense.

Your goal is to motivate learners, not trick them. And because you’re just introducing concepts and trying to draw learners in, you shouldn’t record scores or penalize learners if they get the answer wrong.

Your learners will thank you for personalizing content and making your courses more engaging. Give it a try and let us know what you think! And if you have any questions on motivating learners, or making your courses more interactive, start a discussion right here on E-Learning Heroes.

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