The Rules of Engagement

It’s the million-dollar question for all educators: how do I keep my learners engaged? And elearning is no different. We’ve discovered that incorporating elements of surprise and wonder in our programmes keeps learners eager to know more.  We know that things like breaking down learning into sections, giving ownership and gently increasingly the difficulty are all great ways to encourage learners to keep going. 

I think we’re great at this as an industry - we’re passionate about finding out what helps learners retain information and what keeps them coming back for more. We now know a great deal about what makes our learners tick and we’re constantly finding new ways to apply that knowledge. But we need to keep asking: what’s next? What’s out there to help us do this better? 

At City & Guilds Kineo we’re finding that cutting-edge technology is allowing us to push into a new world of user engagement.  Here are a few examples of where we are right now and a taste of what we’re developing for the future.

Gamification

We’ve been using games in our elearning for a while. Learners have told us that they are not necessarily looking for something that replicates the very high production values of their console games – rather something that makes them ‘feel’ how they do when they play those blockbuster titles. We need to develop solutions that appeal to emotions on a primitive level.

It seems that 3D graphics and surround sound don’t necessarily make a good learning game; the logic employed or the sweep of a perfectly judged learning curve - basically the mechanics of the game - are what makes a game that people love to keep playing.

The till training game that we developed for McDonalds UK is an engagement superstar.  It got record feedback, performance improvement and incredible return on investment. Its addictive qualities led to it going viral, spreading around the organisation as staff competed for the best score - without frustrating any real-life customers while they were learning. A clear business impact was achieved and the game provided a whole new way of learning for the business, building sustained momentum and ongoing success. McDonald’s has since gone on to include it as part of the training programme for all new hires.

Meet their high standards

When looking to create responsive elearning you can’t simply implement what was previously considered best practice and expect it to work in this new multi-device environment. Learning models, course structures, page layouts and methods of navigation all need careful reconsideration.

Learners hold expectations about the type of content and the style of its presentation depending on the device they’re using at that moment.  How about making your smartphone version feature some short punchy performance support information that can be called up on a mobile device ‘just in time’?

A fully responsive course will now always feature scrolling. Just like ‘clicks,’ scrolling page layouts are becoming the norm online.  Each feels different to the learner - an often quoted explanation is that “clicking is a choice, like jumping; scrolling is inevitable, like falling.” A great responsive course will blend the best of scrolling with the more traditional click-based way of interacting (or should that be taps and swipes?).

The right amount of pressure

Kineo’s team in the US has created a suite of courses for new managers called ManagementPlus - and has really taken the challenge to these learners. The courses generate accountability for implementing real life behavioural change by supporting on the job manager assessments. 

The modules are built using the Adapt open-source framework.  It’s easy for managers to see what the learner has studied and test them on it using live scenarios that they can put into practice in the workplace. We can guide conversations between participants and their managers, setting up how they’ll apply skills back on the job and later, reflecting on how well that application actually worked.

The underlying idea is that if you know you’re going to be put on the spot to do something on the job and then be monitored, you’re very likely to be engaged in the learning that prepares you.  It’s based on the old adage, “what gets measured gets managed”. But - and this is crucial - learners at this level are happy to embrace this challenge because of the innate capabilities they have shown in order to achieve their new management role.

And what’s next?  Welcome to interactive video

Although video is arguably the most engaging and popular way of delivering online learning, in the workplace it’s largely underused and unevolved. All that is set to change. Fuelled by advances in digital video technology, and propelled by the advertising industry, interactive video is about to get disruptive!

Interactive video is a more immersive experience than in the past. Learners stay in the moment because they interact with what’s happening within the video the whole time, even when answering questions, making decisions, getting feedback and so on. 

We can now embed hotspots (motion tags) that move within the video, we can use branching within the video to change the storyline depending on the decisions the learner makes, we can show consequences of making that decision, we can add video within video to share expert views, link directly to other rich media or gather real time data via social media tools – all without leaving the actual video.

It’s all about creating a seamless and deeply immersive experience to engage learners. Interactive video is coming to your screens soon.

These are some of the methods that we use to keep learners engaged – the tried and tested, plus something to keep your eye on.  And we’re working with our clients to create new ones all day every day.  

What technology are you using to keep your learners engaged?  Any unexpected failures?  Any quick wins that we should all implement? 

I look forward to meeting you in our Twitter chat - we’ve got a lot to talk about!

Matt Johnson will be taking part in the @OzLearn chat on Tuesday 8 December at 9am GMT