Create engaging online learning with some simple tweaks

Need tips to create engaging online learning ? I’ve got you covered in this post.

Online learning via conferencing software has been thrust into our lives faster than anyone could’ve anticipated. With 56% of CFO’s globally planning to invest in future video conferencing to reduce travel costs, the need for online learning post-pandemic will only continue to rise.

As learning and development professionals we need to create an offer that can support learners’ transition into remote-working.

Nobody knows what the new post-pandemic world will look like but its likely that the requirement for online learning will remain.

I’ve noticed as both a participant and a facilitator of online learning, a distinct difference between the types of delivery. They can be categorised into transactional (disengaging) and transformational, engaging online learning. Read on to find out how to make the shift.

Transactional online learning

Online learning isn’t new, webinars have been around for some time. This isn’t to say that all webinars are transactional. In my experience, they usually share similar qualities to what I would refer to as transactional, not engaging online learning.  

The focus is:

  • Led by the presenter – The presenter leads by imparting their skill, knowledge or ideas.
  • The learner interaction is usually limited – Participants engage with the chat function but usually on a one-way basis to feedback to the presenter. The presenter is unable to participate with every learner due to the group sizes typically being larger.
  • Large group sizes – Given the usual large group size, discussion is less personal. This means less opportunities for learners to share and collaborate.

Transformational, engaging online learning

Transformational online learning is very similar in terms of delivery. Some slight tweaks can create a transformational experience rather than a transactional one.

Transformational learning is: ‘the process of deep, constructive, and meaningful learning that goes beyond simple knowledge acquisition and supports critical ways in which learners consciously make meaning of their lives’.

That may sound like a big claim for online learning to achieve for an individual but hear me out… transactional learning is ‘simple knowledge acquisition’. You attend, are told new information and are expected to retain it.

Transformational, engaging learning on the other hand, is heavily participative by sharing ideas, questions and comments on the content. This process helps the learners to ‘make meaning’ of the content and understand how it can transfer into their daily lives. This is where the transformation lies.

an infographic covering how to make your online learning transformational with some simple tweaks

How to create engaging online learning

Below are the simple steps you can take to make the online learning engaging and transformational:

  • Use smaller group sizes – Smaller group sizes provide the opportunity for more personal interaction, social learning and collaboration.
  • Questions throughout – Provide opportunity and time for questions throughout the learning. Use questions to ensure content is in alignment with learner needs.
  • Lots of interaction – Use polls and chat for interaction. This provide a two-way conversation helping the group to bond and share together. It also makes the learning experience personal to the group and provides you with great anecdotal feedback on the topic.
  • Facilitate, don’t present – Shift the focus away from you as the expert imparting knowledge, and assume the role as a facilitator of discussion. Take the learning where the group needs to get the skills and have the reflection time to transform.

My other article how to turn classroom training into online learning quickly, covers how to create online learning full of interaction. I’ve also created a top 10 list of online learning tools.

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Simsek A. (2012) Transformational Learning. In: Seel N.M. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer, Boston, MA

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