July 12, 2017

4 Ways to Engage a Digital Learner

By Danielle Babb, PhD | Business

As a professor, I’ve learned quite a bit about how to connect to an audience in the digital space. And, the practical concepts I’ve developed in my online classroom can be implemented in business as well—for employee training.

As a boss, a human resource manager, or any other facilitator of online training, you’re trying to find the best way to communicate exactly what your company wants (i.e., the class lecture), give your employees the opportunity to show their abilities and personality (i.e., homework) or to impart knowledge (i.e., simulations or modules). It’s important for digital training to be accessible, thorough, well-executed and should ultimately allow your employees (learners) to walk away feeling accomplished.

So what works? Here are some key tips.

4 ways to engage a digital learner

1. Create a sense of community

A sense of community is a crucial element in program retention, and, as a facilitator, you want to foster a desire for lifelong learning in the workplace. It’s important to prepare employees for the career they want in the future by helping them see the relevance of what they are learning in your training today. Support, motivation and inspiration are all key ways to boost engagement and curb turnover.

2. Use social media

As an experiment, last year I integrated a Facebook group option into a course. Current, prior and future students of mine were all invited. Then, other instructors teaching the same course also invited students. As time went on, instructors teaching in the same program but other classes also invited their students. Now, we have a lively growing group of professionals.

Seasoned students are helping the new learners get acclimated to our expectations. It’s helped improve retention, removed group work frustration (rather than setting up a time to chat by Skype, many are choosing to simply use Facebook Messenger), and students are now using it to network for jobs. In a recent course I was teaching, one learner alerted me to another learner’s mother passing before the learner had told me herself! They look out for each other and will build a sense of community; but you must go where they already are!

3. Keep it convenient

While there is a big push in online training and facilitation toward live chats and livestream, this hasn’t worked well in the classroom. People enroll in online courses to avoid being tied at a specific time and place to a computer, mobile device or phone. I find that when teachers or companies make this mandatory, we create a burden for the learner rather than benefit. I prefer to choose training and facilitation tools that are asynchronous, yet interactive. My usual lineup options (not requirements) include features like: FaceTime, Skype, Instant Messenger, Facebook Messenger, Facebook, text messaging, iMessaging, phone calls, email, and Twitter. This kind of “going where the learners are” thinking can help retention, reduce frustration and shorten training wait-times.

4. Make videos

Many employers require videos with the goal of tying the knowledge together into one neat package. This is great, useful and serves a “face to the name” purpose, personalizing the classroom a bit. I’ve found that frequent, meaningful and consistent videos can engage learners by seeing you and your company, throughout the training period.

It’s easy to prepare them, upload them unlisted on YouTube and provide the URL. And they don’t have to be long—in fact, 2 to 3 minutes is enough to get the job done, especially if you’re incorporating other interactive training modalities.

If you’re interested in learning more about HR management, leadership management, or nonprofit management, or other business concentrations, be sure to check out Concordia Nebraska’s MBA program.

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About the Author

Danielle Babb, PhD

Dr. Babb is a business adjunct with Concordia University, Nebraska. Beyond being an educator, she owns a small business helping educators find jobs, and is an author and television commentator.

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