Last Updated: October 2018
In today’s increasingly digital world, there’s a lot of buzz about the changes happening in Continuing Education (CE) – and that’s something that couldn’t really be said just a few years ago. From the rapid proliferation of eLearning and Learning Management System (LMS) technology, to disruption in the education sector due to automation and Artificial Intelligence, to the increased demand for certificate programs and lifelong learning opportunities, Continuing Education has grown into a full-blown industry in and of itself.
In fact, according to a Markets and Markets study cited by CNBC, the LMS market alone is now worth over $5.2 billion, and is expected to surpass $16 billion by 2020. Moreover, LearningHouse predicts that online-only learners will make up nearly 25 percent of all students in that same time frame. Yes, the eLearning revolution is in full swing!
Did you know that 77% of U.S. corporations are using eLearning to enhance employee training and educational programs? Learn more here: https://goo.gl/yxX7qV via @BeaconLive
However, the saturation of the eLearning industry and LMS landscape does pose a number of challenges to employers, higher education institutions, and CE and CPD program providers alike. How do you continue to attract and retain students in such a crowded environment? What is going to help you differentiate your program from those of your competitors? And how can you use the tools of today to drive better results?
While there are many viable paths you can take, not all Learning Management Systems and Continuing Education programs are created equally. As technology evolves and user experience trends change, so do the expectations of students (of all ages) – and it’s critical that your organization delivers the right content, in the right format, using the right solution.
And we’re here to help!
If you’re offering a CE, training, or professional development program to the modern learner, you’ve come to the right place. This comprehensive guide will help you leverage the most effective tools and best practices in order to provide the successful, intuitive and memorable education experience your eLearning end users are looking for.
Continuing education encompasses a broad range of post-secondary learning programs, activities and courses that are meant to upgrade our professional skill sets to the “next level”, so to speak. And today, the opportunities to pursue obtaining the CE credits of your choice are seemingly limitless.
But the dramatic rise of interest in continuing education… why has this happened?
While there are numerous factors that have caused a surge in participation in CE and professional development programs, there are four trends that stand out. Here’s a quick look at why continuing education has “become a thing” over the past decade.
It’s no secret that the Internet has utterly transformed our lives. We have boundless 24/7 remote access to so much information, so many tools, so much of everything with just a few clicks of a button. And while the standard in-person educational experience isn’t going anywhere just yet, “eLearning” in a virtual environment has become normalized in society – and it’s proving to be quite powerful with respect to results.
In fact, WR Hambrecht & Co. launched a study on corporate eLearning through which they found the eLearning experience increased knowledge retention by 25 to 60 percent. Other organizations—like the American Heart Association—have reported similar findings.
Instant access to course material, more hands-on and sophisticated forms of learning, cutting down on commutes, learn-at-your-own-pace flexibility, data integration – what’s not to like? eLearning facilitates all of these benefits, so it’s no surprise that 67 percent of associations now offer eLearning in some form. And of course, the advent of eLearning has paved the road for more Continuing Education content and service providers to set up shop.
EXPANSION OF THE ADULT LEARNER DEMOGRAPHIC
You know what they say… 30 is the new 20. Heck, age 50 is the new 20! And this is no exception when it comes to education. Professional adult learners comprise the fastest growing segment of the current U.S. higher education market. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly two-thirds of post-secondary students now embody attributes of the “non-traditional” college student.
Interestingly, late career rejuvenation has also influenced this uptick in offerings geared towards adult learners. The Kauffman Foundation reported that the highest rate of business startup activity over the past 10 years has been conducted by 55-64 year-olds. This unprecedented motivation to change career paths later in life has certainly contributed to the demand for meaningful, flexible, affordable and certifiable education. And savvy eLearning and CE platform providers have sprung up to meet it.
In many ways, offering training and professional development via eLearning also makes good business sense. From a corporate perspective, eLearning requires 40 to 60 percent less employee time than learning the same material in a classroom setting. What’s more, revenue generated per employee is 26 percent higher for companies that offer training using technology. Not to mention the serious cost cuts businesses can experience when they replace instructor-based training with an eLearning alternative.
However, eLearning ROI isn’t just manifested as a line item in a financial report. Investing in employee engagement and retention is more important than ever before.
The Harvard Business review has cited a lack of growth opportunities as one of the biggest drivers of employee turnover. And while this sentiment resonates with the majority of all job applicants, a whopping 87 percent of Millennials say “professional or career growth and development opportunities” are important to them when making decisions about their place of employment. Therefore, an investment in training and Continuing Education has become a formidable solution adopted by many companies of all sizes.
Speaking of careers, Continuing Education is actually required to satisfy relicensing agreements or to simply meet standards in more than 50 professions – including teaching, nursing, accounting, real estate, and social services. There are also numerous certifications offered to professionals of all kinds that help people showcase their expertise, justify a raise request, or improve their resumes.
But mandatory classes and upward mobility in the job market—or even at one’s current place of employment—are merely a couple factors contributing to the mainstreaming of CE. According to a recent Marketing General report, access to Continuing Education is also the #3 reason why association members decide to onboard with an organization. So many people are enthusiastic about the concept of “lifelong learning” – and professional development quenches that thirst for knowledge. But the formality and structure of Continuing Education programs also provide not only the motivation to complete the curriculum, but the gratification of earning new credentials.
While leveraging a series of renowned speakers or touting captivating course titles and topics may increase participation in your org’s Continuing Education or development offerings, that’s not enough to maintain your competitive positioning within the CE marketplace. The level of engagement and enthusiasm your eLearners demonstrate—as well as the results they achieve—are going to be heavily impacted by the decisions you make regarding content delivery, user experience and technology.
Now, a LOT of advancements have been made in these areas over the past few years or so. In order to attract your target audience and, perhaps more importantly, impress them enough to keep them coming back for more, it’s critical that you stay on top of these influential trends. What will take your CE or training program to the next level? Adapting to the following industry developments will certainly make a difference!
It’s not just about what content you deliver to your eLearners; it’s also about how you deliver it. No matter how great your course material is, remember that it can easily get lost in a cumbersome presentation or poor formatting.
But becoming a content connoisseur is a lot easier said than done. With the availability of countless tools on the market, sometimes it’s challenging to simply decide on the right medium(s) for your audience. But fear not! These four content delivery trends are all the rage – and frankly, they’ve become eLearning necessities for those CE pros who wish to stay ahead of the pack.
First and foremost, if your education, development or training program isn’t mobile-compatible, you’re already failing to meet a rather low bar with respect to today’s technology standards.
Take a look around… everyone is on their smartphones. And the modern eLearner absolutely expects content to be available at their fingertips (quite literally). Should they prefer to complete an online educational track via their phone or tablet, your course content should be responsive – or designed on the backend in a way that automatically scales and displays your content to adapt to various screen sizes.
Note: You may need to discuss this in greater detail with a developer. But if you’re using a sophisticated LMS or online training platform, your content should already be displaying properly on mobile devices.
Rest assured “going mobile” isn’t just about making your content look great. For many on-the-go professionals, mobile learning is the preferred practice. What’s more, LearnDash reports that 70 percent of learners feel more motivated when training on a mobile device (as opposed to their computer). That and more:
Don’t lose customers to your competitors simply because your content isn’t mobile-friendly. Making this change is well worth the investment – and will only become more important as time goes on.
Pro Tip: To make your content even easier to consume via mobile, serve it up in bite-sized chunks, design clickable images and buttons to appear large, and when possible, offer courses that can be paused and continued later at the user’s convenience.
In the virtual world, the majority of live eLearning events take the form of webinars. Because this content delivery channel makes it so easy for thought leaders and businesses to connect with and disseminate information to their audiences, webinars have become a universal go-to across all industries.
But Continuing Education webinars are a special breed. These online events involve a virtual audience receiving educational content from a speaker who leverages interactive elements to field questions, conduct surveys and polls, and gather feedback. When using a topnotch Learning Management System, CE webinars can be followed up by a post-session evaluation, a test or quiz, a recommendation for another course in the webinar series, or even automated certificate delivery.
Continuing Education webinars help eLearners earn credits in their field without having to interrupt their schedules and travel long distances. Therefore, they should be designed to impart practical and actionable knowledge that can be put to use by the content recipients within the context of their profession.
Pro Tip: It’s a best practice for webinar content geared to Continuing Education students to be peer-reviewed prior to launch. The most prepared organizations will document the relevance of the presentation by conducting a needs assessment, in addition to incorporating feedback from surveys and post-course evaluations, as well as state and federal requirements.
For many people, traditional barriers to pursuing Continuing Education—even live webinars—include complicated work schedules, family obligations, personal commitments and things that just come up unexpectedly. While webinars allow for access to eLearning content from anywhere, using any device, the availability of on-demand content provides even greater flexibility for the busy professional. So it comes to no surprise that the demand for on-demand is growing!
In a nutshell, on-demand content refers to a catalog of recorded webinars, webcasts and other video-based virtual events that viewers can watch at their convenience. It was once commonplace that learners had to watch an on-demand “replay” of a webinar all at once in order to receive their respective course credits. However, technology, as well as the regulations set for the use of that technology, has changed. The best CE providers offer a platform that enables eLearning end users to view on-demand playback in segments – and they can “hold their spot” if they don’t have enough time to soak up the material in one sitting.
Recent studies also show that 26% of webinar registrants only sign up in the first place for access to the on-demand recording, emphasizing the importance of recording the session and offering it on your website, course catalog or resource center. What’s more, by adding on-demand content to your CE repertoire, you’re also boosting your potential to increase sales and revenue should you decide to monetize your virtual events.
Pro Tip: Since many people are tapping into on-demand content, it’s a good idea to coordinate with the speaker and take the time to record a more concise, scripted version of the live webinar. In many cases, a 45-60 minute session can be summarized in 20-30 minutes or less. By creating shorter, easily digestible chunks, not only are you accommodating the busy schedules of your audience but you’re creating a seamless, more professional piece of repurposed content.
It’s estimated that by 2025, Millennials will comprise nearly 75 percent of the world’s workforce. And educating or training them calls for a way to meet the growing demand for visual representation of information. To cater to this evolving workforce, businesses and CE organizations alike are turning to video for a solution.
Marketers and sales professionals have discovered that video increases engagement, social media and email click-through rates, and the time people spend on individual website pages, making it a great tool for getting a value proposition or message across to the viewer. Additionally, they serve as great content for “humanizing” an otherwise stale brand. But a recent survey also found that 98 percent of respondents recognize the value of using video for more efficiently and effectively training employees – and 75 percent described this content delivery medium as very valuable for this purpose.
In a virtual classroom setting, video is also a powerful means of executing storytelling. Live video or animated video that tells a story can deepen a learner’s connection to the subject matter and keep them more invested. Plus, having an on-demand video library at their disposal enables learners to search for specific topics and how-to’s that meet their “just-in-time” educational needs.
Pro Tip: A video is the perfect hook to use throughout your course catalog. If a visitor has made it to your eLearning course landing page, they likely have a problem that you can help them resolve. So don’t risk losing their attention with a dry abstract. Why not create a brief 15-30 second video (perhaps of the speaker) introducing the topic and why it matters. A personal touch goes a long way – and you might just see your conversions, replays and sales skyrocket.x
These days, providing a seamless and streamlined digital user experience is critical to your success. Your competitors are embracing modern UX trends, and therefore so must you. Achieving this relies, in part, on using an intuitive platform that allows end users to easily navigate your program and consume your content. But, the technology you deploy shouldn’t be the star of the show.
So this begs the question: what constitutes a “great user experience” in an eLearning setting?
High-quality UX is all about captivating and engaging your audience, creating an interactive and immersive experience, and conveying your message to them in a way that sticks, all while making their lives easier throughout the process. With that said, here are a few tips and trends that can help you facilitate a user experience that accomplishes these goals.
It’s no secret that virtual Continuing Education programs appeal to learners because they are so convenient. Piggybacking on this concept, there is one increasingly popular trend that takes time savings to the next level. Enter microlearning.
As its name would suggest, microlearning refers to educational content that you receive in small doses. For example, a CE student might watch a brief series of 5-minute video clips about a particular topic and then complete a related assignment. By serving up bite-sized bursts of highly focused content that concentrate on a single learning objective, educators can create a user experience that not only caters to people with full plates but also requires them to directly apply the information, thereby supporting knowledge comprehension and retention.
We are living in the age of personalization – and your eLearners expect their educational experience to be customized to meet their needs. One way to do this is to provide access to a portal or dashboard through which an end user can retrieve all the information they need to successfully complete a course, in addition to their grades, certificates, memberships and other records.
A personalized CE journey, however, also gives the end user agency when it comes to selecting the content itself. Which topics are they interested in? Which lessons will help them at work? As opposed to push-based learning cultures, in which these questions are answered for them by management or another entity, pull-based learning empowers learners to access the information they need when they need it.
This paradigm shift puts the decision-making process in the hands of the student – and gives them the autonomy and responsibility to actively choose which resources will benefit them most. This method assumes the learner knows what’s best for themselves and what they need to learn in order to improve, and hinges on the belief that when people act on their own will to learn, attention and retention are enhanced.
Spreadsheets are out. Data visualization is in. Information in a spreadsheet doesn’t really make things easier for learners, right? If quantitative data is going to be applied in instruction or to improve training, data visualization is a significantly more effective way to get your point across.
Simply defined as the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format, data visualization enables students to view reports, results and analytics in a visual way – which, in many cases, helps them get a better handle on complex concepts, digest a large amount of information, or identify patterns. Using graphs, charts or other image-based representations of data to accompany text enables educators to more speedily get their message across while also providing a more engaging experience.
Scenario-based learning immerses learners in a life-like simulation or storyline that requires them to solve a problem or case using information they collect and skills they develop during the session. This educational technique also offers an opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned from previous assignments or courses, helping them to commit their findings to long-term memory. This active practical application of knowledge also enables eLearners to quickly see the benefits of the material with respect to their goals, ultimately making the experience more engaging and memorable in comparison to standalone theoretical study.
In a traditional classroom setting, this might look like students participating in group activities or role plays. But in an eLearning environment, creativity is key. When building scenarios into an eLearning course, try to include as many relevant interactive elements as you can. It’s also a good idea to highlight characters to whom your eLearners can relate, and perhaps leverage these characters as avatars in the educational storyline. Just be sure that the scenario is as realistic as possible while also remaining focused on one learning objective.
When people first hear about gamification, it can sound a bit confusing. Gamification is not simply creating new games for business or educational purposes. The concept is about taking a program or piece of content that already exists and incorporating game mechanics in order to increase participation and engagement.
Educational organizations can gamify their courses or scenario-based learning modules in a number of ways; earning badges and points, setting mission objectives, unlocking levels, enabling the discovery of hidden clues, etc. But gamification can also be competitive (in a friendly way, of course!), particularly in the context of employee training. The same aforementioned techniques can be applied, but a leaderboard with notifications or an online community and/or message board can be set up to track progress and motivate learners to complete tasks and climb in the rankings.
Interestingly, gaming tends to bring out the seriousness in learners who enjoy games, as they fully immerse themselves in the “gaming process”. Talent LMS reports in their Gamification at Work Survey that 79 percent of learners think they would be more productive if their university, institution or work was more game-like.
In light of this, gamification can serve as a valuable tool for sprucing up activities or topics that many would consider to be tedious. A few examples? Traditional compliance courses, procedural training, data security, product training, and the list goes on. The point is to make learning interesting enough for students to fully invest their time and focus in an activity they may not be excited about – and to retain information better as a result of that investment.
Of course, various combinations of the content delivery and UX trends we’ve covered can be created to facilitate an enjoyable and thought-provoking user experience. Video can certainly be used as a microlearning medium. Scenario-based learning can be gamified. Webinars can incorporate plenty of data visuals. It’s best to test out a couple techniques and see how your audience responds!
Artificial Intelligence is somewhat of a controversial topic across the education industry. Are jobs at stake? Will bots be teaching children complex concepts? Will there be policies put in place that will govern how AI can play a role in education? And what are the repercussions—and who is held accountable—when a technical malfunction or error takes place?
Of course, these questions and more are being addressed by a wide variety of researchers, developers and stakeholders – and only time will tell how machine learning will be incorporated on a broader scale. However, in both very obvious and exceptionally subtle ways, AI is already deeply influencing both our professional and personal lives. As for Continuing Education, here’s a look at a few ways Artificial Intelligence is being used to improve the learning experience.
It can’t be stressed enough – a one-size-fits-all approach to education doesn’t really work for today’s adult eLearners. They absolutely expect that their specific learning preferences are accommodated, particularly if they’re footing the bill. Though this concept of learner-centricity is far from its infancy, there are several innovative ways it can be realized in the digital classroom now that Artificial Intelligence has broken onto the CE and corporate training scenes.
Machine learning algorithms are now able to analyze a student’s performance data from previous digitally logged assignments – and use that data to modify their curriculum in order to address topics they need to work on. These adaptive learning systems are responsive to the needs of the individual student, helping students work at their own pace and affording them the opportunity to repeat tasks that have not yet been mastered.
According to the Artificial Intelligence Market in the US Education Sector: 2017-2021 report, analysts have forecasted this segment of the AI market will grow at a CAGR of 47.5% in four years.
Some AI-powered systems even learn in real-time as people progress through their coursework, identifying areas where they’ve demonstrated a lack of proficiency and highlighting that content during the lesson. This same idea rings true in an internal training program businesses might offer to their employees. Rather than making all staff members learn the same content in the same amount of time, AI can present content pertaining to each employee’s job description, as well as an online survey they fill out. In this way, employers are able to offer customized content that makes the training feel as relevant and goal-oriented as possible.
Educators, this one’s specifically for you! Certainly on the bright side, the automation of relatively basic activities, like grading tests, can now—to a certain degree—be carried out by AI. While intelligent systems may not ever be able to truly replace grading by an actual human being (or so we think), it’s now possible for many multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank exam formats to be assessed and corrected by AI-powered software. This is a relatively tedious manual process, so removing grading from the to-do list frees teachers and trainers up to focus on other activities and interactions.
Various types of intelligent “tutoring” systems are also in the works – and these may be particularly useful for online continuing ed students who don’t exactly have a private tutor readily available to help them when they need it. Currently, these resources take the shape of chat bots. Learners can simply consult the bot via a chat interface and receive guidance at any time, from any device. While intelligent tutoring systems are not being created to replace human teachers, their primary purpose would be to provide supplementary feedback and support to eLearning course participants, making it easier for them to understand content and achieve better results.
In an eLearning environment, it may not always be easy to pinpoint gaps in educational content or training courses that consistently leave students confused or frustrated. Artificial intelligence offers a way to identify these trends. Today, there are programs that alert online CE and training program providers when a large number of students are submitting the wrong answer on an assignment, which is typically a red flag with respect to how the question is asked or the task is structured.
Some systems even go as far as to offer hints to the correct answer. Rather than having to wait to receive feedback, students get an immediate explanation that helps them comprehend the concept and remember what to do if the topic resurfaces. Moreover, AI-powered programs can integrate with an organization’s resource center or online library to point learners and trainees in the right direction should they need assistance during an “open-book” evaluation.
Have you ever experienced a technical problem with your virtual event platform? Does your Learning Management System give you trouble with the accreditation process? Are you still using separate vendors to handle certificate delivery and on-demand content production – or manual processes for grading exams and sending out surveys?
These negative experiences and time-consuming activities are all too common in the continuing education field. The good news is that you can be relieved of them if your CE, professional development or training program leverages top-of-the-line technology. And you don’t have to break the bank to find the right solution.
First, it’s important that you can turn to an experienced partner that handles all the minute technical details for you. But it’s just as vital to your success to invest in a platform that encompasses both the functionality of a modern LMS and the sleek interface and intuitive mechanics of a proper content delivery and management system. It’s these kinds of details that are going to set you apart from your competitors and compel your eLearners to return for another session (and refer their colleagues, too!)
That being said, assessing various vendors can be a tough task to tackle. But there are a number of important attributes your Continuing Education platform should have that can be used as criteria when comparing your options. To help you out, here is an outline of the CE and event delivery features and tools that separate the cream from the crop.
On the hunt for a contemporary Learning Management System? The best platforms are built with Continuing Education in mind, and should be designed to meet your organization’s specific needs – from start to finish! When it comes to functionality, look for these 10 important factors…
The optimal way to ensure you meet all possible CE requirements—down to the individual state level—is to use a platform that enables the creation of highly configurable certification templates. You can then design a template (or have the platform provider do this for you) that aligns with every available credit type you offer. Each template will have properties set up for the specific type of educational event you’re running, and of course, these could all be prepared either well in advance or as needed.
Without question, an effective CE solution should help your organization save hours that are typically spent on arduous administrative tasks. For starters, participation tracking and verification processes should be automated (for example, event attendees could be required to submit a code via a pop-up notification box that appears randomly throughout the presentation). Plus, your CE solution should boast automated test grading capabilities, where the software itself administers the exam and transfers the results to your eLearners afterwards.
For your eLearning audience, registration should be a breeze – so don’t require them to download a separate app or plug-in to do so! External application failures are often the cause of eLearners having problems signing into their programs. So it’s best to avoid these unforeseen technical difficulties by keeping the registration and event participation processes under one roof.
However, not all CE-related activities take place online. Your solution should allow you to manage registration, certification and other procedures for live, in-person events, as well. What’s more, a great CE platform will automatically take care of delivering your email confirmations and reminders and distributing handouts and other resources.
4. Mobile-Friendly Interface
Be ready for over a third of your audience to attend your eLearning presentations via a mobile device. We’ve made the case for going mobile time and time again, and we’ll repeat ourselves now. If your content or LMS isn’t designed with mobile viewers top of mind, you’re setting your eLearners up for a poor user experience, and you might find them giving up on you before even beginning a new course or learning module.
Plain and simple, superior Continuing Education platforms are specifically built to be able to support accrediting bodies of many types. If you aren’t partnering with a provider who can help you in this endeavor, it’s time to move on and find a better solution.
Once educational content has been consumed by your customer or end user, the logical next step in most CE workflows would be to give them a test. This can be optional, of course, and including a quiz or exam may depend on the requirements set by national accrediting bodies to which your organization must adhere. However, the event workflow might also include data collection, surveys, knowledge checks, etc. – and the ability to customize the format is just as important as being able to offer these elements. Ask about this flexibility when talking to a new vendor.
7. Post-Event Evaluations and Certificate Delivery
There’s no question it should be easy for your LMS to deliver a post-event evaluation that gives your learners the opportunity to answer survey questions and submit feedback you can use in order to improve your course content and delivery. Like other administrative features, this process should be set up to automatically happen after your event ends. Similarly, your platform should be able to generate and deliver an official certificate of completion to end users, as well as allow them to store that information in a personal profile or account. Again, the primary point here is that all of these automated processes take place in your all-in-one solution. No disparate applications necessary!
Monetizing your eLearning courses and other virtual events? Then you must invest in a CE platform with built-in e-commerce capabilities. Not only should you be able to collect funds, but there should also be functionality included that supports sponsorship and advertising models.
Along these lines, you also need a secure (and SSL-certified!) platform that enables customers to safely make purchases and other transactions where personal information is exchanged. Moreover, the technology you use must be in compliance with laws and regulations that require a solid legal basis for storing customer financial data (think about your international customers and how GDPR has impacted the data privacy landscape).
While you may partner with another company that offers a learning management product, that doesn’t mean it can’t be customized to align with your organization’s logo, color scheme, and other branding guidelines. The views and dashboards you create for both the back end and the user-facing profiles should be highly configurable, as well. The right solution will allow you to customize to your heart’s content!
Having the capability to pass information back and forth with your customer relationship management and marketing automation systems is also important should you need to link these databases. When searching for a CE platform vendor, make sure they have the technical expertise to ensure a successful series of integrations takes place.
Learning Management System essentials are absolutely necessary to seamlessly execute a professional eLearning experience. However, streamlined event delivery matters, too. Whether you’re looking for a full-service solution that leverages an experienced team of CE service professionals to operate the platform on your behalf, or you’re ready to use an intuitive cloud-based solution yourself, the following elements are what you need to look for in a CE platform in order to flawlessly deliver virtual events:
If you’re serious about creating sleek and professional webinars for your target audience—and you’re looking for a reliable, hassle-free solution—we recommend working with a vendor that has specific experience in the complex CE and professional development industries. The best providers offer their customers a wide range of virtual event capabilities – and webinars that are designed for Continuing Education courses, lead generation campaigns, paid-to-attend events, and more.
Have plans to broadcast a live CE class or seminar? Would you like it to be transformed into an online experience for a larger audience? You may want to consider working with a partner that offers videography and on-site technical services. Be sure that the platform you choose empowers you to easily stream your event using browser-based webcasting tools. Particularly for large companies hosting virtual town halls and corporate meetings, this functionality can come in handy!
Interactive tools essentially prompt your viewers to physically involve themselves in the presentation of content, thereby keeping them alert and interested. The list of ways to make your virtual events more engaging and powerful is a lengthy one – streaming audio and video playback; conducting surveys and polls; leveraging chat and Q&A tools; integrating with social media. There are so many tactics you can use to facilitate a more interactive experience for your CE program participants, so it’s best to equip yourself with the tools you need to bring your audience engagement ideas to fruition.
On-demand content is the gift that keeps on giving! Be sure you can repurpose each of your virtual events by recycling them into a custom media library for future orders and replays. Like we’ve stated before, on-demand is a growing trend that gives your audience more flexibility, providing them with the opportunity to access all of your incredible video content in any order they like.
Many virtual event delivery platforms fail to accommodate an audience of more than 50 to 100 people. That’s because they really aren’t virtual event delivery platforms (in reality, they’re web conferencing solutions trying to pass themselves off as something else). If you host large events where eLearners are logging in from remote locations on multiple types of devices, it’s important that your platform can scale to successfully reach hundreds—or even thousands—of people without crashing.
When you’re lining up your CE platform options side by side and trying to figure out what matters most, you can safely refer to the criteria outlined in previous sections of this guide. But don’t forget – there are a few technological terrors you’ll want to avoid, as well. Read on for a couple prominent digital no-no’s…
Requiring eLearners to download a plug-in creates an extra step that can be very frustrating from a UX perspective – not to mention risky. Because you don’t have control over how some plug-ins interact with your individual eLearners’ devices and browsers, it’s impossible to know how reliable that integration is going to be. Consider it a red flag if your eLearning platform doesn’t work without downloading extra software.
Adobe Flash was once considered one of the best solutions for designing and displaying visual media, interactive content and even whole websites. But that’s all changed. Responsible technology professionals—and those who work with them—have transitioned to using HTML5, which provides built-in browser support and eliminates any need for external plug-ins or downloads.
What’s more, Adobe actually announced it will discontinue updates to and distribution of Flash by 2020 and has encouraged content creators to migrate their Flash content to new open formats. This recommendation shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not only does Flash quickly drain battery life, it’s more easily susceptible to malware, and perhaps most importantly – it’s not compatible with mobile. Case closed.
On both the back end and user-facing sides, the days of manual functions are coming to an end. Learners using multiple platforms to complete one activity, phone calls placed to order certificates, filling out paper-based evals... who wants to deal with all of that? No one! As you automate more learner actions, fewer mistakes are made and the user experience is much more seamless.
Having worked with numerous Continuing Education providers, bar associations, higher education institutions and membership organizations over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two about eLearning. With the wide selection of authoring tools and other curriculum building technologies that are available today, creating an eLearning course is significantly easier than it used to be. But, creating a meaningful, stimulating, engaging eLearning course? That involves a lot more strategy and expertise.
To give you a leg up on your competitors, we’ve compiled a solid list of eLearning course creation best practices. The success tips below will help you generate fresh ideas for inspiring your learners that you can use throughout your program. Let’s dig in!
First, we have the eLearning do’s. If you’re looking for a new spin on an old lesson, try implementing one of these techniques. Each idea will help you improve engagement and retention – two things educators and trainers always like to see!
Storytelling is one of the biggest current communication trends in not only education but across all industries. Marketing and sales professionals that work in every field—from manufacturing to retail to hospitality to software—leverage storytelling throughout their company websites and in their content to appeal to their prospects and customers.
Why? The answer is simple: storytelling has been scientifically proven to increase comprehension and retention.
When we experience an event that brings out an emotion (like hearing a story that taps into our sense of empathy), a chemical called dopamine is released into our systems. Marketers and salespeople make use of storytelling to connect with buyers and make their products and services more memorable. With respect to education, dopamine is what activates the reward center in our brains when we learn something new and exciting or we make some kind of mental break-through. In this sense, the chemical acts like a “save button” – helping us to recall details and remember information we learn during these moments with better accuracy.
The takeaway here? Use relatable stories, as well as real-life examples, to explain concepts and provide a context for your learning objectives. Your eLearners will be more invested in the content, and their performance will be the proof in the pudding.
One surefire way to increase novelty in a virtual classroom setting is to incorporate interactive content into your curriculum. According to a recent report from SnapApp, 45% of people (with Millennials leading the charge) rank interactive content among their top three preferred types of content. But what exactly does that mean?
The interactive nature of the content requires an eLearner to perform basic physical actions while learning the material. This might look like selecting preferences from a menu, hovering over an image to reveal hidden content, clicking to answer a question, using drag-and-drop functionality, speaking into a microphone, etc. The whole point is to keep your eLearners involved in a tangible or tactile manner, instead of having them passively watch, listen to or read what’s in front of them. Not only are the interactions they’re having with the content commanding their attention, it makes the learning experience more engaging.
Ah, the good, old-fashioned Rule of Three… its benefits have been reaped by writers, politicians, stage performers and, of course, educators for decades upon decades. The general idea of the Rule of Three is that information should be presented in small segments—including no more than three key points at a time—so that students are better able to commit what they learn to working memory.
This eLearning “Do” aligns well with the previously mentioned concept of microlearning. To effectively integrate these principles into your learning session, break up content into bite-sized chunks, in which your students learn three key points that apply to one particular objective. It’s a wise idea to incorporate some repetition of the three points into the lesson to really drive home the message. That being said, people naturally appreciate when things come in threes – and your eLearners will too when their next test comes around!
The importance of utilizing a reliable, user-friendly content delivery and management platform can’t be emphasized enough. While your content should capture the attention of your learners, the tools and technology are what’s going to allow them to access and navigate it in a streamlined manner. Therefore, Continuing Education providers and businesses offering employee training should work with a state-of-the-art solution that suits not only their organization’s needs, but the needs of their end users, as well.
The delivery of your virtual events should also appear as polished as possible, and of course, your eLearning courses should be consistently executed without a hitch. Don’t use a product that requires your participants to download an external plug-in or use some other application to log into a class. Instead, find a highly customizable platform that covers all your bases—content delivery, content management, registration, test grading, certificate delivery—and do some research to find the right fit… (though we may be partial to one in particular; our flagship product Beacon360 is a standout!)
Next, we have the eLearning don’ts, a shortlist comprised of things NOT to do when developing and delivering an online seminar or training program. Avoid these missteps to keep your organization from appearing to be out of touch!
You know what they say… a picture is worth a thousand words. Albeit an idiom, there have been myriad studies supporting that visual content helps us understand and retain information better than text does by itself. We’re hardwired to learn and make connections with our sense of sight – in fact, 90 percent of the information we send to our brains is visual! And did you know that the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it processes text?
In education, compelling visual content—like diagrams, graphs and maps or instructional videos, animations, and narrated slideshows—have become a major and necessary component to successful online learning. While peer-reviewed articles and scholarly journals are still very important for many industry-specific Continuing Ed programs, there’s no reason why course creators, presenters and educators can’t support that content with engaging visual stimuli.
Throughout the modern era of education, there has been much debate about how frequently students should be tested on the material they’re learning. While offering one final exam as the pinnacle of an eLearning course may sound convenient—and even motivational—there are reports that contradict the efficacy of this approach.
Renowned cognitive psychologist Henry L. Roediger III has studied how the brain stores and retrieves memories. He argues that educators should conduct testing early on (and often) to augment learning during the course or learning module rather than delivering a single formal exam at the end of it. In fact, his research suggests that being quizzed on material multiple times can have a greater positive effect on future retention than spending an equal amount of time restudying over and over.
Why does this work so well? Instead of reabsorbing information from a source in front of them (their notes, for example), students must actively retrieve it from their own memories. Even if they don’t produce high marks on the first test, that outcome is much more likely to change in the long run. Interestingly, testing more frequently also tends to keep students from procrastinating and “cramming” before the final assessment.
No doubt, you’ve heard it before – but everybody learns differently. If you were to categorize the most common “styles” of learning, you’d have your visual, audio, verbal and kinesthetic learners. And while catering to these various styles within an eLearning environment may seem more challenging, it’s absolutely doable if you think outside the box.
Even if it produces a heavier workload during course creation time, an ideal approach to eLearning would be to mix and match mediums and accompany text with other pieces of supporting content. Not only does presenting a topic in a variety of ways make for a more compelling experience, it helps students digest the material in a way that makes sense for them.
While visual learners might appreciate infographics, charts and illustrations, audio learners could prefer narrated explainer videos and podcast clips. Verbal learners learn best when they have the opportunity to talk things out, so creating discussion boards, offering virtual “office hours” or incorporating Q&A into live webinar sessions will really provide the support they’re looking for. And finally, kinesthetic learners do best when each of their senses is fully engaged. This is where interactive content and “in-the-field” projects come in handy!
Last but not least (and this may seem like common sense), don’t drop the ball by refusing to modify your eLearning course after receiving suggestions from your participants. Sure, it might only be one thing – but delivery is in the details! While your post-presentation evaluations or end-of-class surveys may rake in a ton of praise, there’s always room for improvement, particularly as learning trends change and technology evolves.
It is best practice to ask your participants to complete a brief 5-minute survey at the end of your eLearning course. What stood out? What was particularly effective or engaging? What information could be reorganized or displayed in a better way? In the world of adult learning, your attendees are well equipped to provide you with high-quality feedback. If you’re given a sensible or innovative idea from someone in the class, why not put it to good use?
While eLearning is an exciting practice that offers Continuing Education students of all ages great opportunities to grow and build their careers, the technology and techniques your organization brings to the table can make or break their experience. We hope you’ve found the tips and insights in this guide valuable as you evaluate your course design and eLearning or training platform. And if you have any questions about our content or services, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Interested in learning more about our robust, mobile-friendly solutions? Simply contact us today to request a guided tour of Beacon360 with one of our technology specialists!