Rules of Engagement
In the eLearning space, a phrase that I see used a lot by designers and developers is their ability to ‘create engaging eLearning experiences’. But what does that really mean? Well, according to dictionary.com the word “engage” is defined as:
“To occupy the attention or efforts of (a person or persons)”
Sounds reasonable and definitely something we should be doing but if engaging eLearning is being created by so many, why is there still so much poor eLearning around? (Sidenote: I realise that an eLearning module isn’t always the solution to a performance problem so I’m coming from the instance of when it is).
Authoring tools alone don’t create engaging eLearning, not without human intervention consisting of design and adding objects into them. So I suggest that perhaps there’s different ‘types’ of engagement in eLearning experiences used by designers and developers.
Visual engagement comes from the appearance or look-and-feel of the eLearning. It’s about the colours, fonts, images and layout used. It’s how these elements are connected and how well they support the message and content. But while a visually appealing module can draw you in (and occupy your attention), looks are superficial and will wear off on long, dry, content driven eLearning experiences because boring is still boring even if it looks pretty.
Physical engagement comes from having to actually do something during the module and in many cases this will probably involve a combination of clicking, dragging and hovering (requiring some attention and effort). Now I’m all for doing in eLearning but I do question whether clicking/dragging/hovering does anything for real engagement, I mean if there’s some information and instead of just displaying it, users need to click some buttons to reveal the same content but in small pieces, is that any better? I wrestle with this sometimes – is more clickable/dragable and hoverable more engaging?
This type of engagement is about using the mind. It’s about provoking thinking, providing a challenge or challenges. It’s about applying information to situations, making decisions and dealing with the consequences. It’s using stories. It’s making you feel something. It’s also about creating an experience that’s relevant and useful to people that will ultimately improve their performance. For me personally, these things are what really makes an eLearning experience engaging.
In creating an eLearning module, all these types of engagement are needed (maybe there’s more?) but often the mental engagement is left out and what’s left is just beautiful, interactive content that’s quickly forgotten.
So, what are your thoughts on engagement in eLearning? What about measuring engagement? Do you do it and if so how?
Image source: Shutterstock