In my short time working within the eLearning world, one word has consistently jumped out from all the jargon. Engagement. At eLN Connect last year it was all anyone could talk about. ‘How can we engage the learner?’ ‘Are we engaging them enough?’ ‘What about millennial learners?!’ ‘Look there’s a learner! Somebody, quick – engage them!’
People learn differently, we’ve known this forever. One of our goals in the eLearning community is to find what unites us. What is the common ground? I decided to conduct my own miniature study on the Nice Media Team.
For me… Subject and delivery method are key. If it’s relevant it’s engaging. If it’s of special interest it’s engaging. My favourite delivery forms are a passionate, knowledgable speaker or a well-designed, snappy video.
I like a stimulating documentary like Adam Curtis’ TV and Laurie Taylor (Thinking Allowed) on the radio. I like to study reference books, highlight sections and then type it all up. As a way into that book it’s great to see a summary video such as a Ted Talk. Where there is a good video asset available I like the way it can give you an overview of the learning very quickly which enables you to know what bits to focus on in.
What engages me most is being told the “why”, not the “what” – so if you tell me “Flugzeug” is plane in German I may remember, but explain that “flug” means “flight” and “zeug” is “stuff” so a plane is a “flying stuff” (which sounds a little concerning to me), that sticks.
John Cleese famously said “He who laughs most learns best” and I’m inclined to believe him. Humour is very disarming and if I’m laughing I’m already engaged – you’ve got me! You don’t have to overdo it, but content that takes itself incredibly seriously can seem cold and distant and my brain just shuts down.
When it comes to practical learning content (like an online tutorial for instance) I’m most engaged when the information is concise, bite-sized and easy to navigate. Avoid pointless preamble! I want to get to the point quickly so I can a try something out myself, then easily re-visit the information as and when I need it.
What engages me most when learning is to have more control over the content. The ability to pick and choose my own path can keep me involved far more than being lead through a template. I think a good example is the difference between school and university. At school I was disengaged, disenchanted and distracted – just being taught how to pass some exams. Whereas at university I thrived through having more of a say in what I did and when I did it.