More than 6 million students enroll in online courses, but students’ retention rate in online learning is low. This statistic is ironic since students may be eager to learn something at first, but they can’t maintain the enthusiasm for some reason.
One of the reasons may be the courses are boring. The lack of engagement can make students fall asleep during the class and decide not to continue the program.
In this article, I have collected eight easy-to-pickup tips to make your online course more engaging.
Plan the Course Beforehand
Before creating material for your online course, give yourself time to design the course. Think about what level you’re going to teach, whether it is beginner, intermediate, or advanced. It can help you create suitable topics for each level.
For example, the beginner cooking class will talk about cooking utensils 101 and easy recipes. Meanwhile, the advanced one can focus on food plating and gourmet ingredients.
You may have several ideas, to begin with, but consider the demands and problems your potential students are currently facing. Conduct market research to find out what they need by joining forums on your niche or creating online polls.
After picking a particular topic, plan the session. It can be live via call or with pre-made content. Understand the pros and cons of those two types.
- Live content
This content is easier to make than pre-made content. Just attend the class and be ready with the materials. A live session also helps you get to know and engage with the students. Yet, it can be tricky if you tend to ramble.
- Pre-made content
Pre-made content can be your lifesaver to avoid rambling since you can edit it. The result will be more polished and presentable. But, it takes effort to create pre-production content because you have to write the script, record, and edit.
Next, calculate how many sessions you need and how long it takes for each session. Don’t forget to account for time to engage with the students.
Choose the Right Platform
Decide how and where your students can access the course. You can choose marketplaces to share your course, but I suggest you create a website.
A website offers you the freedom to create a learning flow and design like what you have planned. You can upload unlimited courses, resources, and discussion forums.
Moreover, today website builders are based on drag-and-drop tools, so you can design a website with zero coding skills. Just pick any element (drag) and place it anywhere (drop) on the website.
Pick a website builder that offers free web hosting if you’re starting out with your first course, and looking towards testing the water. That will allow you to save funds on improving the course itself.
Set the Right Tone and Attitude for Your Course
Online learning can be challenging as students may lose their focus. Avoid that by setting the right attitude.
- Show your enthusiasm. Don’t be like robots with a monotone voice. Be genuinely excited, smile, and maintain eye contact by looking at the camera, not the screen.
- Welcome them with an inviting tone. It shows the students how glad you’re for seeing them in the course. Then, let them know what you’re going to discuss and why they need to join until the end of the course.
- Encourage connections. Ask them to express opinions or click icons like thumb ups or smile to make sure they’re still engaged with you.
Separate Content in Small, Digestible Chunks
A study has revealed that people have an attention span of only eight seconds. Thus, keep your session simple and short. MIT researchers suggest making pre-production lessons with no more than six minutes.
But, you can create five-minute videos to explain the basics and expand it to 20-30 minutes for in-depth lessons. Focus on the learning objectives when deciding the length of your course. For example, when you want to create a basic personal finance course, avoid talking about detailed stock markets, like when you explain it to brokers.
Also, make sure every video answers a question and let your students know in the syllabus. It helps them prepare for what they’re going to learn in the session.
Too many chapters can be intimidating, but a short course can make people think it doesn’t contain much information. A suitable recommendation is to have ten separate lessons minimum and keep them below fifty.
If you have live sessions, take breaks before moving on to the next topic.
Compared to reading materials, videos are more appealing. It can provide a lot of information in an easily-digestible form and allows you to show, rather than tell.
Here is an important guideline for making engaging videos for your online course.
- Determine the format and size of the videos. Smaller size videos help your students load the videos faster. QuickTime format has a smaller size than others, but H.264 compression is the standard.
- Eliminate complex music and visual backgrounds. Have a plain background to avoid distractions, and don’t use loud music as it covers your voice.
- Display both slides and your face. Research has shown videos that show the teacher’s talking head with slides are more engaging than slides only.
- Speak fairly quickly to maintain enthusiasm. If you can’t do it, get an adjustable speed feature or timestamp.
- For live sessions, make it accessible for re-watching. Your students may want to replay the videos to absorb the materials better.
Don’t bother making videos at an expensive studio, as you can create your videos at home.
Prepare Short Quizzes
Engagement requires interaction. Ask quick questions between topics if you conduct a live session. The testing effect helps you ensure your students’ comprehension and attention. After they answer, give feedback to encourage two-way communication.
Frequent quizzes expose students with materials regularly, so they can recall what they have learned. Create short and non-graded quizzes to appear less intimidating.
Create Interactive Elements Using LMS (Learning Management Systems)
Separated learning resources like videos, PDFs, and quizzes can make students confused and less motivated. A one-stop LSM site on Spayee or a WordPress plugin like LearnPress can be helpful. Here are essential points to design an interactive LMS platform.
- User-friendly interface
Make videos and other resources easy to navigate. Consider the fonts and colors, so it won’t distract them. You can add a comment section below the video to interact with your students.
- Performance tracking
Display the progress rates or scores and ranking, if any. This tracker helps both you and students have detailed information for evaluation.
Appreciate them with badges or points. These elements can develop a sense of accomplishment, so your students are excited to continue learning and earn points.
When you hold a live session, have time for a question and answer section and give your students feedback.
If you create a recorded course, make sure you’re accessible through a certain platform like emails, video conferencing, or chat. Send updates or reminders regularly to be involved in students’ learning process.
Now, you know how to create an engaging online course. Apply the eight simple steps above to make your own. It will take some time to build a high-quality course, but it will be beneficial in the future as your students will gain maximum results from your course.