Emily Witko is the Online Engagement Manager for General Assembly Enterprise. She executes engagement strategies for GA’s enterprise level training platform, “The Essentials of Digital Marketing.”
When it comes to online learning, one of the toughest challenges is ensuring that your employee base remains active and engaged in completing online lessons over extended periods of time. Engagement is one of the top metrics for illustrating the success of an online training program for obvious reasons — launching an online training solution that doesn’t get used by your employees is a significant waste of budget and may increase skepticism towards the effectiveness of future training solutions. So how can organizations provide online training that is both informative and engaging over time?
As an engagement manager for General Assembly’s online training platform “The Essentials of Digital Marketing,” I make sure that our students are learning from the platform, completing online training lessons, and remaining engaged with the platform over time. So far, we’ve been quite successful. Recently emerging from an initial beta program with foundational partners including Coty, Viacom, FCB, Staples, American Express, and more, we’ve been able to maintain an average of over 80% engagement.
So how can you deliver online training that employees will actually use and be excited to learn from? Here are 10 key features of an engaging online learning platform.
1. Constantly refreshed content
One of the most important aspects of an engaging online learning platform is to constantly supply new, fresh content. A steady, consistent stream of new content arriving to the platform provides the latest information to your employees and helps them stay ahead of the curve. New content also provides an opportunity to reach out to employees and notify them of new lessons that they have not yet been exposed to, which can drive them back to your online training platform and encourage repeat interaction. While “The Essentials of Digital Marketing” currently offers 30 different lessons within five topic areas, our learning platform is constantly being augmented. By the end of 2014, the platform will include 50 lessons that will delve deeper into each of our topic areas — giving employees a reason to keep coming back throughout the course of the year.
2. Interactive lessons
No employee will be eager to return to a learning platform that provides a stale, boring user experience. Retaining the focus of your employees is essential for them to complete online lessons. An engaging online learning platform must interact with employees through short video clips, quizzes, and assessments. Using prompts and visual cues will also keep employees engaged and interested in the topic being discussed.
3. Accommodation of varying skill sets
More than likely, your team includes employees of varying skill levels. In order to make the most of your online training solution, it’s important that the platform be able to provide unique experiences that cater to each of these varying skill sets. You can increase user engagement and get the most out of your training platform by segmenting introductory content for more junior employees and advanced content to more seasoned employees.
4. Short, digestible lessons
Quick, bite-sized lessons are ideal for increasing the rate of learning across teams of employees. The ideal lesson duration is around 15 minutes, which is the perfect amount of time to quickly convey a digestible idea for practical improvement. Breaking up lesson format throughout these 15 minutes keeps employees further engaged.
Understanding where your employees’ knowledge currently stands, prior to training, is important for long-term success and engagement. Unless you have conducted your own internally, your online training provider should provide employees with an assessment to gauge their initial knowledge. The results from this assessment should then be used to identify knowledge gaps and potential opportunities for growth and development through training for each individual member of your team.
6. Individualized learning paths
After employees have been assessed on their initial knowledge, that information should be leveraged by your online learning platform to identify unique, individual learning paths for each of your employees. Providing the most relevant experience for your employees and avoiding unnecessary content will help personalize the learning experience. Individual learning paths make the most of your employees’ time by outlining recommended lessons based on their existing knowledge.
7. Dedicated engagement managers
While many online learning platforms leverage automation to notify users about their recent online training activity, dedicated humans assigned to each client are substantially more effective at driving engagement across teams of employees. Taking a human approach, engagement managers can email students with either simple reminders to log in and take a lesson or a link to an interesting article that is currently relevant to their industry or business. Engagement managers can also serve as an additional resource learning for students. With 24-hour email response times, engagement managers can quickly and efficiently provide value and answers related to the training platform or its subject matter. By providing a human resource, employees and students will have personal guidance through their online learning experience and reduce any feeling of being lost in a sea of information.
8. Bridges online and offline learning
Online learning is an excellent tool for reinforcing lessons learned during offline training. By tying in online lessons with in-person training, connections are established between online training and real application.
9. Outside instructors and subject matter experts
Content that is developed with insight from seasoned veterans in your field will provide the most enriching experience for your employees and can help improve the quality and relevance of information that the training platform offers. Outside subject matter experts provide students with real-life examples and case studies they’ve experienced in their careers.
10. Created by instructional designers
In addition to acquiring content prepared by outside subject matter experts, it is crucial that the content be synthesized into engaging, interactive online lessons by expert instructional designers. Instructional designers are experienced education experts that sculpt and organize lesson content to be clear, concise, and engaging.
While keeping employees engaged with an online training platform may be a difficult task, selecting an online training provider that incorporates these 10 elements will help improve your team’s skill sets over an extended period of time.
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