How to Design Content for a Successful eLearning Program Office Hours Recap Blog Feature

How to Design Content for a Successful eLearning Program Office Hours Recap

The modern learner has changed drastically over time. They are often distracted, overwhelmed, and impatient. In a digital environment, there is a lot of noise happening. So much so, that people unlock their smartphones up to 9 times every hour. So, what does this mean in terms of how we design our learning programs?

We need to keep these distracted learners in mind in order to build engagement and create stickiness with our learning programs. How do we work with the modern learner to create an optimal learning experience?

Joe Miller, BenchPrep’s VP of Learning Design and Strategy, recently hosted a virtual office hours session where he answered questions about how to design online learning content experiences that are relevant and engaging for your learners.

Question: What are some strategies for faculty/speaker development (in terms of learning design)? And what are some strategies to increase learner engagement and outcomes?

Answer: The best way for me to answer this is to talk about my own journey as a learning designer and instructor. About 12 years ago, I started coaching soccer for my kids, which is also when I entered the learning industry. At the time, I was not a great coach. I thought I could go in with a quick plan, but I wasn’t aware of my actual objective. I had to ask myself how I could develop my skills as a coach. I started to really learn by watching other good coaches. One thing I saw was that they all had specific objectives and could measure the outcomes for their teams. For the next team I coached, I had a meeting with the parents to come up with the goals for our soccer season.

You can apply this same thought process when it comes to your learning programs. The first step is something known as backward design: start with your end-goal in mind.

Think about anything you’ve tried to master competency in. You need to have a goal in mind and determine how you can measure success incrementally. Don’t be afraid to test different things and to learn from what others are doing. Look into gaming applications to think about how we interact in an online environment. I often get inspired by looking at the tools other people are using and developing.

As far as strategies go, one thing I like to incorporate are feedback loops or gauging the learner’s confidence. Recently my son got me into playing video games, but, in the beginning, my confidence level was very low. I watched videos on YouTube and practiced playing. My son recently watched me play and told me that I’ve gotten much better at playing video games. Getting that feedback really helped boost my confidence and made me want to be more engaged.

Another great strategy is microlearning. Duolingo does a great job with microlearning allowing you to study a language in as little as 5 minutes a day. The algorithm will then adjust to how proficient you are to help you stay engaged. The application also sends you badges, milestones, and encouragement along the way to help you stay on your learning journey.

One last strategy is to incorporate polling, pop quizzes, or trivia to make sure your learners are staying engaged with your content. Gamification employs features such as badges, incentive systems, leaderboards and games, and simulations to keep learners engaged without a classroom. We’ve seen that learners who play a game during a session spend more time interacting with learning modules.

Question: How long is too long regarding the length of online courses - 60 minutes? 90 minutes

Answer: This is a great question, but I don’t know that there is a right answer. You could have a robust course, but what matters is how we present the curriculum. If I have a 60-minute course, how do I present it in a way that enables it to be engaging for my audience?

Maybe you break the course up into twelve 5-minute sessions. You could incorporate flashcards or trivia to help your learners stay engaged. But it’s not about the course time, but about the module or lesson time. I would say the maximum per lesson should be about 20 minutes. And make sure you are celebrating the milestones and success along the way.

Question: I recently saw BenchPrep posted a blog about confidence-based learning. What are some methods of figuring out your students’ confidence levels? And can you talk a little about why are confidence levels important?

Answer: Surveys are a great tool and there are many free survey tools out there like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. You can also use discussion points to gauge interest and to trigger a conversation around the topic. Another option would be to use self-grading where you provide your students with a rubric and allow them the opportunity to grade themselves throughout the course.

Confidence-levels are important because they’ll let you know if your learners are actually understanding the material or if they’re just guessing. Confidence-based learning methods assess learners on the correctness of their knowledge, as well as how confident they feel about their answers. Learners often feel like getting the right answer is enough. Even if they got 50%, they still passed, right? But barely passing won’t improve performance. You want to ensure that your learners are understanding the material and feeling confident about their answers.

Question: Do you have any tips for the facilitators who are transitioning from an in-person experience to eLearning?

Answer: There are many ways you can take your current learning experience and transform it into an online learning environment. First, write down all of the different tools and tasks that you use as an in-person facilitator. Then, think about how you can repurpose those tools and tasks to the online environment.

One way to do that is to create a facilitator guide. You have an in-person curriculum for the in-person class, so do the same for your online program. You can also schedule follow-ups and points of engagement with your learners, hold virtual office-hours sessions, and send follow-up emails and notifications to your learners. There will be a lot more communication needed when in an eLearning environment. It’s about transforming what you do in-person and do the same thing online.

Want to hear what other questions were asked during this virtual office hours session? Watch the on-demand recording of Joe's virtual office hours session to learn more about how to design a successful eLearning program.

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