How To Motivate Learners Before, During and After an eLearning Course
The task of not just creating content, but creating content that resonates with your learners is a critical but difficult task to master. You can offer great content in your eLearning courses, but you can’t be totally sure if your audience is learning from it. The learners are in control of what they learn and it mostly depends on their level of motivation.
But ... how do we do it? This post is going to break down what seems like an art -- connecting with learners through your content -- and turn it into more of a science. There are certain motivational techniques that, if you implement them into your content, will make it more relevant and impactful for your audience. If you can understand what motivates learners, you can definitely enhance the learning experience. Therefore, your job is to find out what motivates these learners and then use those insights to engage them into the course.
Here's what you can do to motivate learners before, during, and after eLearning courses:
Before the Course
Technique #1: Understand the Learner
Think about your audience and their work environment before gathering any kind of instructional materials. The training directly needs to address the learners real needs. You need to think about the type of people they are working with and what jobs they are currently doing in the company. Are they seasoned employees with years of experience or fresh from college? Do they already have specific and reliable methods that they use on the job every day? Is the group diverse or similar in gender, age, education and job position? All of these factors will contribute to the dynamic of the course. Remember, the key to meeting students needs and keep them motivated is to know and understand their characteristics and design your eLearning project based on them.
Technique #2: Make Learning Meaningful
The truth is that most employees are interested in learning new information only if it can be applied directly to their daily lives. If they don’t see the real benefit they aren’t going to be engaged with the course, therefore not completing it. A key motivational factor in eLearning includes instructional materials and ideas that will be meaningful for the student. If the new skill or information won't be useful to the employee, they will most likely find less value in the course. Instructors and trainers should always stick to relevant content and describe specifically how and when the students can use it on the job or in daily life.
It’s a fact that adults are motivated to learn that content which helps them achieve their goals. This way courses should be oriented to the problems faced by students in their daily work. For this reason, we recommend a practical learning architecture based on learning through problems (problem-based learning). Include authentic exercises and concrete examples directly applicable to their daily struggles.
During the Course
Technique #1: Stimulate Curiosity
An effective way to get students on board during any course is to stimulate their curiosity. When people are curious they exhibit a higher desire to know more about a topic. As a result, students will be more naturally motivated to learn new material when they are curious about how it can affect their duties on the job.
Through the entire course (but especially at the beginning) you should seek to gain attention, build curiosity and sustain active engagement.There are a variety of approaches you can use to achieve this, for example: complementing text with visuals by presenting interesting graphics, including animated sequences with audio, video streaming, or any kind of event that introduces incongruity or conflict.
Other strategies to foster curiosity:
- Introduce thought-provoking questions, knowledge checks or surprising statements.
- Give learners a problem to solve: Introduce a conceptual conflict when possible. Learners will feel compelled to explore the conflict until it is resolved.
- Encourage students to learn through active exploration. You’re better off if you can create an environment where the learner has to pull information in. The key relies on creating courses where the learner doesn’t just passively receive information. Instead, where they have opportunities to explore, discover and actively use information to make decisions. Provide resources, videos and podcasts to create a environment for exploration.
Technique #2: Give Relevant Feedback
Feedback should always be specific and relevant. While everyone likes a few pats on the back, it doesn't have a lot of value when it isn't specific or relevant. Letting learners know how well they are learning the content acts as an incentive for greater effort. As well, it should be continuous through the course, not just at the end, when the accumulative evaluation is made. When giving feedback, it works best when you actually show what happens when you make a mistake, don't just tell them they are wrong! Moreover, trainers should give them feedback that applies directly to the job they do. Think of hints that you can provide or reference materials learners can be directed to for helping them solve a problem correctly. It's important to make each student feel like his work is validated.
Technique #3: Deliver content in the right format
Learners want quick, bite-size pieces of content to make it easier to progress through a course and to make the training experience more “manageable”. Overload them, and they will disengage. Each time you're tempted to add something, ask yourself 'is this 100% neccesary?
Chunking content for example, gives you the opportunity to guide the learner by structuring content in a progressive and logical way according to how their brain processes information.
Whether it's deciding to organize information in a logical way by defining modules, sections and topics, or if you are strategically cutting a screen into 2 different slides to make it more digestible, determine what content format will help you get your message across in 1) the clearest way, and 2) the way your audience will most enjoy to read it.
After the Course
Technique #1: Celebrate Course Completion
Provide a way to celebrate the accomplishments of the students and all of the time and effort they used to complete the course requirements. Instructors can give students a certificate of completion or provide the boss with a list of employees who completed the course.
Technique #2: Provide Helpful Support
One of the most important key motivational factors in eLearning is to provide the students with material to use once the course is over. It might take the form of helpful handouts to refer to as they apply new information and techniques to daily tasks. Instructors can provide a list of online references or helpful web sites or even make their selves available for questioning via email or phone.
As trainers and/or instructors, we can not do anything to students to make them learn, they will learn if they are motivated to accept the information provided. However, as we can see in this post, we can create the right environment to help them learn. What are you doing to motivate your learners before, during and after eLearning courses?