Have you ever done things that were fun and easy instead of a really hard and really important thing that you really had to do? You know, like sorting through 10-year-old pictures and reordering them in new files with improved — and more creative — names, instead of doing that major spring cleaning of the house that you have planned for two months in advance.
According to TED speaker and procrastinator expert Tim Urban from Whait But Why (a website that I've stumbled upon during a procrastination session), all people are procrastinators! All of them. You and everyone you know are procrastinators. Some are more pro than others, though.
If you happen to be a teacher, a university professor, an independent instructional designer, or you have any relation with the teaching world — basically being in charge of preparing students to deal with the unknown future — let me tell you something: you're screwed.
You know the golden rule: before starting to create a course, any course (and an e-learning course makes no exception), you need to know everything about your audience. Well, your audience are all procrastinators! And I have a hunch that the younger the audience, the harder it is for them to control the instant gratification monkey in their heads.
But don't despair. All is not lost. There are some things that you can do to trick that monkey and make students engage with your courses and have fun while doing so.
First, you need to understand this monkey that I'm talking about (which is Tim's pet, FYI) and learn more about why procrastinators procrastinate and how to beat procrastination. You have to know the system; otherwise, you can't beat it. It's not that hard, really.
Then, you need to consider the following:
5 easy ways to create engaging e-learning courses
While you won't be able to make all your students stop procrastinating and pay uninterrupted attention to your courses every time, these solutions can certainly help them get more things done and enjoy learning as the fun and easy thing it really is.
1. Make the content relevant to students
The purpose of a course should be to provide students with relevant content that is packed with useful information, it's easy to understand, and helps them reach their learning goals.
At the beginning of each lesson, clearly state what they are to learn about, if they need any previous information and how much time should take them to go through it all. Sprinkle these learning objectives throughout the course and add some salt and pepper with a quiz here and there. Also, divide your learning content in at least three categories:
- Basic knowledge — without which they shouldn't even dream about passing your class. This should be rather short and clear.
- Going there — covering the in-depth information about the main subject and letting them getting closer to an A.
- Expert — give anyone a chance to impress you by adding extra long-form resources on the topic and bonus points.
2. Make the content visually appealing
An e-learning course should include a variety of elements that make it more appealing and keep the students engaged. Make sure that the content is clean, easy to follow, and includes resources such as pictures, videos, and other multimedia files.
With an ever-shrinking attention span, students today are bombarded with information from any channel you could think of. You never know when your online course competes with a cat video for the precious time of your procrastinating students. Don't add a cat video in the course unless, of course, it's relevant (see point 1), but you can always improve the visuals: add pictures, create some graphics, record your voice while lecturing, even make them create short videos.
3. Use gamification
Students enjoy gamified elements such as leaderboards, earning points, and badges because they make the learning experience more enjoyable and drive participation.
A twist in the terminology you use, ridiculous amounts of points in the grading system, a healthy approach towards mistakes and the possibility to getting incredible amounts of relevant data about how students interact with your course can make your gamified courses very successful. Find out more about how a few small changes can lead to big results with the use of gamification in the classroom here.
FREE Resource: How to make learning engaging with gamification
4. Allow students to collaborate
It's important for students to talk with each other about the class, exchange resources, and collaborate on projects. That's why class tools such as groups, chat rooms, forums, blogs, and wikis are great ways for them to connect.
Social interaction plays an important role in the learning process and even if an LMS has not the same human touch of a brick and mortar classroom, students can easily collaborate online if they know each other. Tech devices are like arm extensions for most of today's youngsters anyway.
5. Use storytelling to captivate students
Stories make courses more interesting, intriguing, and motivate students to learn more. It's easier to remember the concepts if they are taught through inspirational stories that excite them.
Try to set a context behind any dry information. Create a character and invent a story if there aren't any already available. For example, if you need to teach Newton's law of gravity, you could copy and paste the definition and formula and let your students deal with it, or you could share the story of how Newton actually got the idea that led to the law and formula and only then include those.
And those were the five easy ways to create engaging e-learning courses. They may not be the perfect recipe for winning the war on procrastination, but they can certainly win a battle or two for you.
I now leave you with the infographic our awesome team created. Please don't forget: sharing is caring!