How to successfully engage learners

Let’s face it, folks today are pretty media savvy. No matter the delivery method, we are surrounded by an onslaught of mass media during our working hours and even during our leisure time. But despite the role that say the internet, television, digital games, social networking etc, have in the way we build and share knowledge, when engaging with learners in any official capacity, we inevitably take the fun out of learning.

It’s been drummed into us that learning is serious business and the relationship between learning and entertainment is often disputed. The terms ‘infotainment’ and ‘edutainment’ have been thrown around the academic world and have often been defined in a negative light, but the techniques that draw us to mass media can also be applied to how we engage and excite learners.

Here at Be Learning we approach learning design with the following in mind: ‘Apply a Narrative’, ‘Can it be Gamified?’, and ‘Make Learning Social’.

Apply a Narrative

By harnessing the power of storytelling you are able to create content that engages the hearts and minds of your learners. A strong narrative effectively cuts through complex and dry content and encourages Learners to embark on a journey, rather than telling them how to be and what to do, and ultimately builds their confidence and self-mastery.

It’s important that you thoroughly understand who your learners are, their needs, as well as taking into consideration culture and language (tone of voice). If behavioural change is what you’re after, then a good character driven story will definitely do the trick.

We created a narrative driven motion graphic for a large bank in Australia. The story began with the problem being introduced, and through a character we illustrated how to attack the problem via different approaches, finishing with our character successfully overcoming the issue, Illustrating that simple steps can be taken to change your environment.

2Can it be Gamified?

Gamification describes the action of using game mechanics to make non-game content more engaging. Marc Prensky (2007) wrote a book on digital game-based learning. He surmised that games provide structure; they have goals that provide motivation, they are interactive and therefore allow us to act, they encourage us to be adaptive with our skills allowing them to grow, and most importantly, they have consequences and feedback that allows us to learn – all this in a safe environment!

There is a risk for communicators to see this idea of Gamification as trivialising important content, a common fear, but ultimately this type of learning experience helps to increase subject knowledge, the development of collaborative skills, and can be used successfully in a group context as well as in the online space.

We applied this approach in an induction app that we created for a large Telco in Australia. We provided a 90-day journey in which we asked the learner to solve puzzles, inturn improving their knowledge about their new employer. Instead of serving the information, learners were asked to discover information.

Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand” (Confucius circa 450 BC)

Make Learning Social

1Bandura’s Social Learning theory says that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation and modelling. This theory has been that ‘all important’ bridge between human behaviour and cognitive learning theories because it speaks of attention and motivation.

When creating online learning or workshop activities, we need to create the catalyst for peer-to-peer interactivity, in order for social learning to take place. In the online learning space, giving the learners a platform to connect with their collegues or coaches and review, share and see their learning journey unfold, is an effective way to socialise the environment.

When we create content and present it in a format or style that learners are used to (remembering mass media and how we receive communication everyday), we encourage an attraction to the content, which is the ultimate goal of any successful learning communication. Get their attention, reel them in, and make learning fun!