The Covid-19 pandemic forced a transformational shift in the way corporate and academic learning is delivered and forced both business organizations and academic institutions to shift to online learning. In this blog post, we examine how the quality of online learning can be improved to boost learner engagement and increase the retention of learning.
If we look into the minds of our target audience and comprehend their present needs, we can make online learning more interesting. Let's now address the important questions:
Who is our target audience?
What strategies should we employ to enhance their educational experience?
Our target audience for online learning in the higher education sector is Generation Z (Gen Z), or individuals born between the middle of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. Gen Z has grown up with Internet access, born with tablets, and smartphones in their hands. It is safe to say that they cannot imagine a life without the Internet. Technology is a part of their lives and there is not a single moment spent away from it. To deliver online learning that holds their attention it should be as engaging as the content that they consume on different social media channels. In the next section, we will look at eight ways in which the online learning experience can be enhanced.
8 Ways to Improve the Online Learning Experience
The biggest challenge for L&D experts is to design online learning solutions that meet the required learning outcomes and also resonate with the learners.
1. Provide a personalized learning experience powered by technology
The on-demand revolution has changed the customer experience and expectations. Gen Zs do not have the patience to wait for content. They want everything instantly with minimum fuss. Personalized learning experiences powered by AI can be delivered to the learners on the learning delivery platform. Learner behavior can be analyzed and the AI-based algorithms can be programmed to send learning nudges and display the appropriate online learning solution to the target audience.
2. Using blended learning
Blended learning is a combination of offline (face-to-face, traditional learning) and online learning. Learners can choose between self-paced online learning and face-to-face instruction. The learning schedule can be made flexible based on the progress of learning. Blended learning is important because it is not limited within the conventional boundaries of learning that may not work for learners with the varying pace and requirements of learning. Additionally, blended learning fosters a sense of ownership over the learning process, which can be a strong driving force for learning. Multiple knowledge sources given in various ways (written or video, let them choose) would increase ownership of learning and the engagement element.
3. Visual approach
Nothing attracts Gen Z more than visuals. When it comes to self-learning, Gen Z prefers a YouTube video to learn a new skill or a new topic than reading a text-heavy eLearning course. So, a shift in content from textual to visual content would improve the online learning experience for our audience. Providing learning videos and asking the learners to co-create their own videos as an assignment, would make it an interactive assessment, rather than a normal quiz or essay-based submission.
4. Learning is fun with hands-on experience
The pragmatic nature of Gen Z makes them eager to learn concepts through hands-on experience. Immersive Learning is an experiential training methodology that uses Virtual Reality (VR) to simulate real-world scenarios and engage the audience in a safe and engaging learning environment. Combining VR with advanced learning theory would improve the effectiveness of learning and increase the learner engagement by making the eLearning content more interesting and interactive.
When we play games, we have fun and that leads to engagement in immersive learning. The more learners get engaged, the better the learning outcomes. Giving them incentives such as a five-star or a winner's badge for a good performance on the leader board can motivate the learner like never before. Such game elements can be introduced across the learning curriculum, right from online learning topic selection, assignment, evaluation, and performance feedback. Gamification is surely the most popular and effective tool for designing high-quality, engaging, online learning.
6. Multidisciplinary learning
Multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary learning is a technique that connects ideas, topics, or texts by combining many fields of knowledge. It is an extremely effective learning strategy that goes beyond the boundaries of a discipline or curriculum to broaden the learner’s reach and depth. If this strategy is used in the online learning environment to connect and promote learning across various subjects, Gen Z will be able to fulfil their personal learning requirements along with academics.
7. Ease of learning
The learner's motivation to maintain their level of interest in online learning is influenced by the ease of learning. This can be addressed by incorporating the following elements:
a. Learning Map
According to Jim Knight, a learning map is “a graphic organizer that highlights the knowledge, skills, and big ideas that students should get from a lesson, unit, or course.” Here are the benefits of a learning map:
Focus on key take-aways
Presentation of the relationship between components of a unit
Used as a study-guide
The accessibility of eLearning content, audio, videos, and visuals can be shown on any device such as desktops, tablets, or smartphones. The learner can access the online learning content anywhere, anytime on any device and the content fits any screen size. This makes the learning process comfortable and stress-free.
Because GenZs have a limited attention span, it is crucial to comprehend how the eLearning content is chunked. Knowing when to give learners a break is just as crucial as making the topic entertaining. It is only natural to quit a lengthy course that does not have proper learning-intervals.
Learning requires motivation just like any other activity. The following steps can be followed to ensure that the learner is motivated and completes the online learning solution within the prescribed time.
a. Tracking Progress
It is equally important for the educator and the learner to view the progress of learning - completion status, time spent on topics, drop-off rate on courses, attempts for online tests, scores, etc. A simple dashboard should be able to show the learner’s data and award a badge if the learner achieves specific milestones. This leads to a high level of motivation for the learner along with an understanding of the current progress of learning. By viewing the relevant data, the learner can improve on the progress and the educator can improve the effectiveness of the courses.
b. Community, Collaboration, and Integrating Feedback
Knowledge-sharing and exchanging ideas are a part of effective learning and must be a part of the online learning environment as well. The sense of community and collaboration can keep the learners engaged in the learning process. Both educators and learners need to be part of discussion boards, announcements, file-sharing, and virtual chats to keep the flow of learning moving towards the desired direction and goal. A system to record and evaluate learner feedback is essential to improve the quality of online learning.
Preparing for a Post-Pandemic Learning Era
As economies open up with schools and colleges re-opening and companies welcoming employees back to the office; the tried and tested online learning solutions of the two years of the pandemic will undergo scrutiny. Changes will have to be made to accommodate requests of employees looking for in-person training sessions after two years of remote work. Students may also like to interact with their teacher’s in-person and discuss topics with their classmates. The post-pandemic learning ecosystem will seek to balance the best of instructor-led, online learning, and blended learning solutions to deliver a holistic learning experience. At S4Carlisle, we specialize in developing customized digital learning solutions that help you meet your learning objectives. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.