eLearning: Facilitation, Interaction, and Engagement

Guest Contributor: Amanda Batson, Ph.D, ADB Partners, LLC

Drive Engagement with eLearningAssociation members and career professionals are users of eLearning and they also are terrific resources.   This year iCohere is hosting a free webinar that I present on “Next Generation eLearning.” Participants have raised important related issues including:

  • How to overcome challenges of instruction across multi-platform formats,
  • Engaging young professionals,
  • Ways eLearning can go from “slide presentation style” to latest “hi-tech” enabled style,
  • Critical steps and/or practical tips for adding interactive content to online learning modules

These queries reflect the growing commitment to dynamic eLearning that is truly unified:  across platforms, time, and format.  Several current and recurring themes in eLearning, especially as related to professional development, are crucial for unified, experiential learning:  facilitation, interaction, and engagement.  Let’s explore these interrelated features.

Facilitation

Adult learners bring extremely valuable information, expertise, and experiences to any and all learning settings.  For too long, the world of professional development failed to tap into these resources because we viewed the speaker, presenter, or subject matter expert (SME) as the sage on the stage.   The phrase “guide on the side vs sage on the stage” is at least 20 years old (see Alison King’s original article from College Teaching, From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side for a more in-depth look).    Now we know that the instructor of adults really must be guide and sage plus facilitator.   Today’s successful instructor is a facilitator of learning – one who ensures quality content and taps into adult students’ knowledge and experiences.

Recently iCohere hosted a well-attended two-webinar series on facilitation skills.  Presenter Sue Brundege of Integrated Work highlighted tips and techniques for successful facilitation of adult learning.

What does facilitation look like in eLearning?

This is an interesting question because eLearning, if we’re not careful, can become extremely one-dimensional and easily fall back into the sage on the stage with electronic worksheets.  If implemented successfully, facilitation leads to interaction and engagement.

Interaction

The good news about interaction is that it works – if there is appropriate planning – across the hybrid learning arena.  Whether in-person or virtual, planning for interaction promotes peer-to-peer experiences, networking, and, most importantly, learning.  However, interaction also takes time.   I refine webinars for more interaction by reducing the number of slides, inserting more polls and creating time for more chat.  

In eLearning design, there are multiple ways to foster interaction.  The eLearning course might require participants to select appropriate responses and explain the rationale.  Another interactive feature could be the requirement to comment on at least one community blog post.  

Within eLearning course design, Nick Elkins outlines two forms of interaction:  screen and knowledge.   In screen interaction, the student might click or hover over an icon to drill in for more information.  In knowledge interaction, the student could be presented with an in-box scenario followed by possible responses.  The student selects the most appropriate response.  If successful, she may proceed; if unsuccessful, she goes back for further explanation and a re-try.   Elkins also points out that there is no magic formula for the number of interactions in an eLearning course.  It is important, however, to view and review the course in light of interactive options or lack thereof.  

Whether it’s an in-person workshop, live webinar, online course, or competency module, adult learners benefit from interactive experiences.    Interaction and facilitation are integral to engagement.  For dynamic eLearning, engagement is another key feature.

Engagement

An engaged learner is much more likely to construct meaning and create workplace applications.  Thus, eLearning should foster engagement.  Planned facilitation and designed interactions set engagement options in motion.  

Associations and other learning organizations also encourage engagement with dynamic communities of practice and learning.  In such communities, members will find pertinent questions, career related discussions, and ideas worth exploring.  A threaded discussion allows the user to track interactions by topic (see iCohere 11.5).  

Engagement occurs when members are active learners.  For meaningful engagement, the learning organization focuses first on its members and their learning needs.  When we keep the learner at top of mind, techniques for engagement become clear.  The eLearning Guild has published an eBook entitled 68 Tips for eLearning Engagement and Interactivity.  The authors provide tips in six areas:  content, interface, driving engagement, media and visual design, games, and measurement of engagement and learning.   

When your organization designs eLearning that is e(xperience)Learning, facilitation, interaction, and engagement will be integral components.  Such a design sets the stage for next generation eLearning (NGE).   Join Lance Simon and me for our upcoming (free) NGE webinar!

Amanda Batson, Ph.D About the Author:

Dr. Amanda Batson, education architect and consultant, founded ADB Partners in 2004 specializing in Education on Demand.  A major focus is quality hybrid learning and helping organizations achieve dynamic balance between face-to-face (f2f) and online experiences.  Her consultant services include organizational planning, education design, speaking, research, writing, and facilitation of both in-person and virtual events, communities and courses.

Image Credit:  elearningindustry.com

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