Learner participation in the digital age

In recent years the emphasis on learner participation has increased. This is in part due to increasingly tight schedules of learners, and decreasing attention spans. But it is also due to the ease of creating truly engaging digital learning in today’s age.

What is learner participation?

Our understanding of learner participation truly varies from company-to-company, industry-to-industry and so on. Many rely on LMS reporting to tell them how many times a learner has engaged with content. This gives rudimentary tracking of learner participation.
But true learner participation is much more than this. Research shows that true learner participation involves doing, thinking, feeling and belonging. Increasing, and developing true learner participation in this sense is paramount for success.

Meet learners at the water cooler

Okay, the physical location of the office water cooler probably doesn’t exist any more (especially in post-covid times). But you can still meet your learners where they frequent. Places that don’t necessarily feel like ‘work’.
If you’ve got a company intranet, Slack channel or even Zoom group – share your digital learning content on there. But remember your setting – don’t send a formal message demanding everybody completes the course by 3pm on Friday. Let them know the content’s there. Tell them why you enjoyed it. Pique the intrinsic motivation in your learners.
Integrating a social aspect to your learning platform is also a great way to increase learner participation. Most learning platforms integrate a form of social learning in their solutions. Docebo does a great job at this, with Coach & Share. This informal, relaxed approach to learning grabs learner attention – and is known to increase retention by 70%.

Up the interaction

In recent years, interactive media has become commonplace. Films are interactive, games are increasingly user-controlled, and webpages are more personalised than ever. This increase in interactive digital content in the wider market poses a problem for L&D professionals. “Why?” I hear you ask. Well remember, your learners are human. They are the same people who scroll through social media, watch Netflix and play video games. You are competing with these interactive mediums (and their multi-million pound budgets).
But don’t panic. All the best authoring tools allow us to up the interaction in our courses to grab attention. One of the best methods of ensuring active learner participation in your course is with branched scenarios.
Branched scenarios put your learner in the driving seat, allowing them to experience real-life decision making in a digital environment. Whilst eliminating the fear or risk of failure, that learners may find in a more traditional learning environment.

Tell a story

At the beginning of this blog post I defined true learner participation as involving ‘doing, thinking, feeling or belonging’. Many may assume you cannot evoke these emotions in an eLearning course. But you can. It call comes down to the art of storytelling.
Storytelling in learning helps you cut through the noise of today’s media rich world. With reports showing we check our phones up to 160 times a day, its unsurprising that our learners aren’t paying full attention to our content.
But a good story will capture learner attention. It will create learner empathy and an emotional connection (feelings) with the content at hand. Which in turn creates a sense of belonging with the content, truly increasing learner participation.

Speak to your learners

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to speak to each of your learners one-by-one. But it’s important that you speak to them through the learning content. Whether you’re engaging with learners through a webinar, eLearning course or other digital mediums, they need to know the benefit it’ll have for them.
The phrase “What’s in it for me” (WIIFM) isn’t unheard of in the L&D industry. And that’s because it’s exactly what your learners will wonder. If they’re participating in digital learning that has no relevance to their current – or future – roles, they’ll switch off immediately.
Tell your learner upfront what’s in it for them. Tell them how it’ll help their day-to-day role, their career growth or similar. They’ll appreciate the honesty and direct approach. Plus, if it’s a goal they are striving to achieve, they’ll immediately be more engaged with your learner content.

Final thoughts on learner participation

As I’m sure you’ve figured, there are an abundance of ways to increase learner participation in your digital learning content. But to truly improve learner participation, you need to take a step back and consider what truly makes your learners ‘do, think, feel and belong’. What intrinsically motivates your cohort to learn? How can you push them to go that extra step and truly engage with your content? Answering these questions is the only way to ensure true learner participation in your digital learning content.