eLearning has become an effective and efficient way to develop career ready college students. Online learning enables university professors to transfer new knowledge and skills to students in asynchronous environments capitalizing on student autonomy and minimizing schedule conflicts. However, not all eLearning courses are the same. In order for students to apply what they’ve learned, online courses should incorporate several student-centered design strategies.
Understand Student Learners
Prior to engaging in the design and development of eLearning content, learning practitioners should understand the needs of their students. Pre-course surveys can be used to determine what students already know or understand about certain topics, what topics interest them, and what lessons they want to learn after completing specific eLearning modules. The objective of this type of student research is to gain critical insight about the target population for the online course. eLearning content that’s created with an assumption of what students already know and want to know leads to disengaged learners and flat content.
In addition to pre-course surveys, eLearning modules should include frequent assessments or quizzes rather than a cumulative assessment at the end of the course. These recurrent assessments allow students to receive periodic feedback on their progress while providing course designers with critical data points. For example, if students consistently provide an incorrect response to a quiz question, course facilitators can closely examine the question to determine where the knowledge gap exists, why it exists, and provide students with supplemental resources, additional practice, and even modify future courses.
Leverage Student Experience
eLearning content that’s anchored to student experience helps create relevant, meaningful learning interactions. Adult students approach content with certain experiences and schematic knowledge, and online content that utilizes student background and knowledge enables students to connect with content in a more meaningful way. Applicable and relatable anecdotes, examples, and stories all help bring static content to life in an eLearning course.
Focus on Practical Application
Often, college students feel disconnected from real-world learning experiences as most of the content covered in university classes focuses on theoretical concepts. eLearning courses, on the other hand, can place students at the center of learning allowing them to gain hands on experience. For example, students who are taking an online course focusing on the presentation of data can watch a demo video of data presentation online and then jump into an eLearning simulation which requires them to complete a similar task. The practical application of online content in an authentic scenario will resonate with the learner. This makes the experience more relevant and allows for greater knowledge retention. Course designers have a variety of mediums to choose from in order to create authentic and meaningful learning experiences such as branching scenarios, online simulations, demo videos, or live webinars with subject matter experts.
Break Things Up
It can be tempting to create a long eLearning course for topics that are dense and contain a large amount of information. However, quality eLearning courses provide students with many opportunities to process and absorb what they’ve learned by breaking the content into smaller, manageable chunks. It’s critical to break content up into smaller, bite-size pieces as this allows the learner time to digest the material. In addition, strategically chunking content also takes into consideration limited learner attention spans. Strategic break points in online courses allow learners to diligently focus on the content for short bursts, approximately 20-30 minutes, while taking breaks in between learning modules. This leads to higher retention rates of online course concepts.
While there are many factors that contribute to creating high quality eLearning content, several of the critical factors include understanding student needs and goals, leveraging student background information, creating real-world eLearning experiences, and strategically organizing content. eLearning modules that can incorporate the above strategies will results in higher retention rates and engaged learners who are eager to experience meaningful learning content.