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Online Learning - It Is Not Always Easy To Stay Focused

So you have decided to create a series of online courses or (more likely!) are wanting to jump into the world of online learning and want to find out what sets apart a high quality online course from that of a lesser one. In either case I have the article for you! 

There are two main aspects that make online learning worthwhile: content and engagement. Now, the content itself is obviously not an aspect that can be neglected- as this will be the basis of your entire education. However, what is the point of having full, well-sourced content if you (or your students) can barely make yourself get through it? This is where the latter point, engagement, comes in.

Engagement, put simply, is a media’s ability to grab and maintain the attention of a reader and continue to keep them invested within the product. One may argue that if students are truly interested in a subject, then they will simply push through with learning, regardless of engagement. Well continue with this mindset at your own peril, as it has been proven that students who are less engaged with a subject matter are more likely to drop out and less likely retain information. It makes sense, right? If something is boring to you  you are less likely to give it attention- regardless of whether or not you want to. So on this note I will be talking about how you can make online learning more engaging and what to look out for when choosing your own.

1. Make It More Interactive

One of the main problems with online learning is that it allows for a certain amount of disconnection on behalf of the student. As the teacher isn’t able to directly speak to the class and ensure that all students are interested and motivated, the course itself lends itself over to the risk of losing engagement.

The best way to prevent this while doing online learning is by making the modules more interactive and in line with the student’s interests and goals. There are numerous ways in which a course can do this, for example: 

  • Incorporate multiple quizzes throughout the modules.
  • Introduce a rating system for each module or class, to ensure students feel their voices are heard (and to allow you to make tweaks and changes where necessary)
  • Allow for a customizable learning path (so students can choose the pace and volume of their work)
  • Include mini games where possible (regardless of student’s age, a game is always a great way to provide more interactivity!)

These are just a few examples, however there are multiple ways in which interactivity can help towards engagement. Essentially the situation that you are trying to avoid is for students to be reading for long periods of time without pause. While non-stop reading is something that should be avoided when focusing on engaging students, there will inevitably be a certain reading aspect to any online course. Which is why it is important to…

2. Keep It Brief And Easy To Digest

Let’s be honest, who actually likes reading big, educational blocks of text? Sure we might have dabbled with academia at school, or picked up a huge informative textbook once or twice to make ourselves feel smart, but in reality reading long, dry educational text is dull. No matter what it is about. As one could imagine, this does have quite negative effects within online learning, as we will be relying on educational text a lot, so how do we fix this?

While the content itself is largely up to the one writing it (and could probably warrant an instructional article on its own), a huge determinant of its engagement with the reader is how it is presented. Overall any reader will want to be able to get to the point of what you are trying to get across as quickly and easily as possible. To this end, the course must have two aspects: Scannability and conciseness.

In terms of scannability, you must accept that not all students will read all of what you write, often when studying people will tend to scan the paragraph for the information that they would consider to be valuable. You must both accept this and enhance the content for this process. The best way to do this is to split the course into smaller, easily digestible modules, paragraphs and sentences, to both allow easier scanning from your students and to encourage them to continue reading. 

It is also important that content remains as concise as possible, meaning that the writer must not get away from the point unless entirely necessary. No one has an endless attention span so make it easier on everyone and don’t ramble on about topics that are unrelated to the subject matter!

3. Maintain The Human Element Where Possible

As I previously mentioned, one of the biggest weaknesses in terms of engagement within online learning is the lack of the traditional in-person teacher and class setting to guide students. While this can partly be countered by introducing more elements of interactivity within an online learning platform, this does not substitute for the lack of human interaction or encouragement that can be found in a real life classroom. 

While advances in technology have led to huge leaps and bounds in what we can do with tech and computers alone, society hasn’t quite caught up with it yet. As such, students are much less likely to engage with a platform that relies too heavily on automation and technology, as it can feel impersonal or even inaccurate (depending on the users feelings on technology).

That is not to say that you should throw away all aspects of technology and teach the class via messenger pigeon! Technology should still make up the backbone of your class, however there are ways you can use it that can provide a more human approach to education and make online learning more interactive. Below are just some examples of what you could do: 

  • Assign a member of your staff to each student as their personal “tutor”, this will allow students to put a face and name to their education and ask any questions they may have.
  • Include multiple, human-marked assessments that provide personal feedback.
  • Encourage students to interact with each other via message boards or social media, provide resources so students feel like they are in a community with their fellow students (to replicate the classmate setting)
  • Provide multiple images of people throughout the course.

4. Use Multiple Forms Of Media

As we already covered, no one likes looking at a huge block of text and trying to disseminate information from it. However even if you followed our tips and split your text into digestible segments, you are still left with what is essentially a very long online book. 

Overall you should avoid depending too much on text when providing an online course. By using multiple forms of media, you will be creating an online learning experience for your students, one that will help them engage more with the content you are providing. This also acts very similarly as to what we spoke about creating paragraphs in your text and splitting modules. The break from the monotony of reading content will help them maintain focus. Here are a couple of examples of the type of media you could use:

  • Photos 
  • Videos
  • Games 
  • Songs
  • Sound clips 
  • Presentations 

You will probably find that the content of the course itself presents multiple opportunities for media to be incorporated without you trying to force it in. Overall approaching the subject matter using different resources will ultimately only help students.

So now you know what it takes for online learning to be truly engaging. What a coincidence! So do we. Hospitality Academy are unveiling multiple online hospitality courses to help budding hospitality professionals gain the skills they need to succeed, contact us as and we can get you started today!

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