This is a guest article by Maria Varankina
As the coronavirus is in no hurry to disappear from our lives, we are getting more and more immersed in the online realm. Some of us who already have experience in digital learning may feel a bit more comfortable staying at home and learning remotely. But for many people who have never taught and learned online, this transition is becoming a genuine challenge with more questions than answers.
How do I organize an online course? How can I deliver learning materials to learners? What software should I use? How can I keep learners motivated? Almost every instructor asks these questions while separated from learners and unable to supervise the study flow the same way they did before the lockdown. One question “How can I motivate learners?” has always been a challenge, since it requires a combination of pedagogical and psychological efforts to solve. And today this question is more relevant than ever.
Motivation depends heavily upon engagement. In isolation, the level of learners' engagement can plummet. There are many factors at home that distract from training and negatively affect employees’ engagement and motivation.
Here are some ways to keep your remote learners motivated that can help make online learning more effective:
1. Always be well prepared
Keep in mind that when you teach employees online, it is very easy to kill their motivation by relying on improvisation. Improvisation works great when you support your ideas with examples or have a discussion with learners after explaining the theory. But improvising with the training’s flow can bring confusion and learners will get lost in the material.
Learners’ concentration is weakened at home and the instructor may not notice when the learner is lost and needs further explanation. That's why courses need to have a structure and lectures must be divided by topics or chapters. Always move from general to specific, and from abstract concepts to concrete examples.
Remember to set clear goals and expectations for the class at the beginning to make sure that learners understand in which direction they are moving.
2. Create novel and exciting learning content to draw learners’ attention
Don’t support online classes with long, boring learning materials. Studying from day to day with the same resources can discourage even the earnest learner. To avoid this, use a combination of learning materials and teaching methods with different levels of difficulty: interactions, games, demos, examples, and quizzes. Alternating between methods will hold your learners’ attention. Tools for making eLearning courses will help create diverse content.
Be more creative and enrich your course content with visual variety. Add relevant photos, videos, graphics, and animations. Our brain absorbs visual information better and faster than written words. It takes only 13 milliseconds for the brain to process an image. Adding visuals makes the message we want to deliver more appealing to the audience. Also, always keep in mind that learning content should be fresh.
3. Maximize learner engagement
As mentioned above, there is no motivation without engagement. First, learners have to understand the benefits of the class they're taking online. Thus, the instructor has to make sure the course has actual value and applies to employees’ current and future needs. You might request experts’ help with real-life examples and stories. Real-life scenarios and examples always add more meaning to the course.
Use proactive questions. Keep learners interested by asking them questions that stimulate curiosity. Such questions can determine how they react to challenges in the future.
Stay enthusiastic because your learners are your reflection. The emotion you send to them will be sent back to you. Juice up your narration and examples with humor and emotion. Humor in online teaching serves multiple purposes: it revives learning materials, allows employees to take a breath and prevent mental overload, and highlights certain materials. What do learners remember after a long day of study? Anecdotes told by the instructor. So, why not use them at the right time?
4. Inspire confidence in your learners
Instructor-learner relationships remain very important even when learning is asynchronous. Instructors need to boost learners’ confidence and help them perform better, showing perspectives instead of limitations. Make them unafraid of failure by explaining that online learning is designed to allow one to make as many mistakes as possible to prevent them from happening in an actual work situation. Failure while learning is an opportunity for success in the future.
Personalize your lessons and ask and give advice consistently. Keep in mind that when learners lose confidence, they lose motivation as well.
5. Enhance learners’ satisfaction
Make sure that your learners feel satisfied with what and how they learn. Don’t hesitate to give and ask for feedback on a regular basis. Invite them to ask questions if they don’t understand something (remember about their confidence). Leaving the chance to improve at any moment is critical. Remember about positive reinforcement and reward learners for engagement, creativity, and critical thinking because these are the keys to success.
6. Make your learners interact
For many people, being a part of a physical community is an important source of motivation for learning. The lack of social interactions and an emotional and physical connection between learners had always been a downside of eLearning. In today’s reality, when all social interactions are minimized, it is very easy for employees to get depressed and feel disconnected from their colleagues.
To compensate for the deficit of social interactions, instructors can add group activities in a learning process. Creating open communication channels and social media pages for online discussions, peer interactions, and evaluations are also excellent ways to have learners interact.
It is evident that the transition to remote learning and working caused by the spread of COVID-19 became very challenging for many specialists.
Social isolation and lack of communication became one of the biggest problems reducing learner motivation. Therefore, instructors need to think through all of the ways to engage learners and increase their level of motivation, adapting them to the new reality. Adopting the tips listed in this article will make your course more engaging to learners and increase their motivation.