While an impressively knowledgeable speaker or a particularly captivating topic may increase online CE sales or OnDemand content views and replays, your eLearning course isn’t going to generate much enthusiasm (or have a substantial impact) if the presentation format and user experience are falling short. That’s why it’s so important to facilitate an engaging and interactive experience for your eLearning audience.
Yes, today’s learners are expecting a wide variety of high quality content. Yes, they are expecting a sleek CE platform design and intuitive tools. Yes, the registration process should be streamlined, and yes, you should be using technology that automates grading and post-exam certificate delivery. If you aren’t offering your audience these practical eLearning essentials, you’re already falling behind your competitors.
But what will take your CE program to the next level? Read on for an analysis of the Continuing Education UX trends you should be following in order to delight the modern CE participant.
1. Interactive Content
Interactive content has become all the rage – not only in education but in marketing, sales, professional services, SaaS, and just about any industry where a digital user experience has become commonplace. To provide a little more context, “interactive content” is browser-based content that is specifically designed for active participation from the intended audience. It is NOT just something you read, watch or listen to.
Due to a shift in the consumer’s buying cycle where more self-service options are available and self-directed buying research is a given, digitally savvy eLearning enthusiasts looking to continue their professional development are coming to expect the same level of autonomy, engagement and content customization they’ve experienced in other environments. Now, how does this translate to the world of Continuing Education?
It’s important for CE service providers, presenters and curriculum engineers to think about ways they can generate a reaction, encourage thoughtful reflection, and promote retention. To do this, first it’s critical that they invest in the right technology – a platform with specific attributes that enhance the virtual CE experience. For example, eLearners will quickly benefit from interactive features like:
Q&A or chat modules
Integration with social media
Moreover, consider the types of content that will contribute the greatest value-adds to your program. Start by asking yourself: what’s going to help your end users process information and achieve positive results? Traditional lectures aren’t really cutting it anymore. Perhaps, try to incorporate more engaging content like:
Animation video and imagery
Scenario-based eLearning and simulations
Quizzes and assessments at the end of each learning segment
Particularly with the adoption of the flipped classroom—another trend taking the education industry by storm—interactive content is key. The idea behind the flipped classroom is that core content can be consumed outside of scheduled class time, while your virtual sessions are used for deeper discussions, informed conversation and collaborative learning. The whole concept is about promoting an interactive experience! While online education providers for younger K-12 audiences have already been deploying these new ideas for some time, the lifelong learning market can (and will) certainly benefit from them, too.
2. Microlearning Opportunities
One of the primary reasons why so many people are turning to virtual Continuing Education programs is simply because they are very busy. When you’re a full-time employee, it’s not so easy to fit live education courses into your calendar. But these days, scheduling demands are through the roof – and even many online CE courses aren’t catering to the needs of the busy professional quite like they used to. Enter the concept of microlearning.
As its name would suggest, microlearning is online education that you receive in bite-sized bursts. For instance, a CLE student might watch a brief series of video clips on a particular topic and then complete a quick related task. By providing smaller segments of highly focused content that really home in on a single theme, you are creating a user experience that will be much appreciated by your on-the-run target audience.
ALSO – yes, that’s an all-caps “also” – technology once again plays a vital role. CE providers who hope to pursue a microlearning strategy will ultimately need to offer OnDemand content that 1) is organized in an easily accessible and intuitive resource library, and 2) allows users to pause course content as needed and subsequently pick up where they left off without “losing their place.” Again, making eLearning as convenient as possible for the user is the goal. Note that there are different regulations around this type of functionality, so make sure you’re paired up with a platform provider that knows the rules of the road!
3. Customized Learning Experiences
These days, it’s all about the end user and how you cater to their specific eLearning preferences. Though this concept of user-centricity is far from its infancy, there are some innovative ways it can be manifested in the digital classroom. CE providers must focus on leveraging customized content to make the coursework as relevant to each individual learner as possible.
For starters, your end user could have access to a personalized (and interactive!) dashboard that contains all the information they need to complete a particular eLearning workflow. This dashboard could also contain records of their completed courses, grades, certificates, etc. that they can generate and print themselves, saving hours on administrative procedures that take place on the back-end.
If your participant has indicated several specific learning objectives, it could also be possible to automatically modify the beginning and end of presentations to be more customized to those objectives. Similarly, another way to deliver a customized learning experience is to change content based on answers to questions that the participant provides throughout a presentation. Following an if/then branching logic model can facilitate effective self-learning scenarios. Additionally, utilizing software that enables “smart” Calls-to-Action that recommend related courses based on content previously completed provides a logical next step for the eLearner that encourages further engagement.
Finally, LMS products that integrate with a CE provider’s preferred interface will quickly emerge as leading technologies. Rather than sending every learner to an identical LMS interface that’s external to the provider’s website, more CE providers will essentially be able to embed technology into their existing systems that are already working well for their audience.
4. Mobile-friendly Technology
Okay, we saved the biggest trend for last. Today, CE service providers should be subscribing to the philosophy of Go Mobile or Go Home – or else they can kiss their long-term success goodbye, particularly as Millennials increasingly engage in Continuing Education programming.
Not sure what to make of this? Well, the data doesn’t lie; mobile eLearning is on the rise. Statista has already reported that the worth of the worldwide mobile contents market is expected to reach $53 Billion by 2018! But take a bite out of these statistics:
Smartphone learners complete course material 45% faster than those using a computer. (Source)
70% of learners felt more motivated when training on a mobile device, as opposed to a computer. (Source)
Mobile eLearners typically study for 40 minutes longer than students using a desktop or tablet. (Source)
Keeping these numbers in mind, CE service providers must tailor their content for consumption via mobile devices.
What’s more, Google also reported last year that mobile searches had finally exceeded desktop searches. And since then, they’ve been prioritizing mobile-friendly, responsive websites in search results. Consequently, ensuring that your OnDemand videos and webinars are accessible from mobile devices is imperative. When building your upcoming eLearning content plan, work with a vendor that provides mobile accessibility.
Bonus Tip: There are many tools on the market today that can help you measure and assess user experience, no matter what device your visitor is using. One such tool is Hotjar – which enables you to watch recordings, poll visitors and create heat maps that help you understand the way your customers (and prospective customers) are utilizing your website. Give the tool enough time to collect solid data, and you’ll be able to identify patterns that allow you to make more informed decisions about your website’s content.
It’s no secret that a stellar user experience leaves a lasting impression – and keeps people coming back for more. Think about a positive user experience you’ve had online! Didn’t it make you happy? And, perhaps more importantly, didn’t it set a high bar for other websites that offer similar products, services or content? The same goes for your CE program. Heed this Continuing Education UX advice and you’ll be the bee’s knees!