A good online course is set up in a way that encourages participation and interest. Since learners that enroll in your course often need to move through it on their own, a good course must be informational and intuitive. Use both these principles to motivate your users to create unique online experiences.
What tactics can you use? I’ve included four ideas that will spice up your online learning experiences.
Games are a great way to engage learners online. Depending on your subject matter and the demographic of your learner audience, you can decide where you go to create online games. Once you understand what motivates your learners, check out these areas below to get started.
Games in Education is a multi-day symposium that focuses on the intersection of online gaming for pedagogy, and their serves as a good starting point for online educators beginning to experiment with games. The site publishes a list of resources that is definitely worth exploring.
Simulations can also be a form of gaming. I once created a game for a college course on classroom management where learners were presented with a scenario and provided several possible response options. They discussed the situation in a forum, then voted on the response they most supported. The following week, I created a situation that built on the decision made the previous week.
Scavenger hunts and contests are another simple form of gaming. There are game-based sites like Free Rice, Brain Pop, and Sheppard software that you can use to help learners learn without requiring you to create anything too complex.
Stories have become increasingly important as people innovate at alarming rates. Our personal stories are what differentiate us from others and make us novel. Communicating these interesting and unique stories is memorable, and learning experiences need to be memorable.
Incorporating story into your delivery of content can increase engagement. It can be equally meaningful to require learners to share stories that relate to learned concepts. Assigning reflections, asking learners to blog, or posing forum prompts that allow focused sharing of personal stories can be ways of allowing learners to make meaning through their own stories as well as through reading classmate’s stories.
Creating a user friendly online environment can help learners access information in a way that makes it more consumable. The curriculum design of the course should flow from one topic to the next in a way that makes sense and builds on learned ideas.
In addition, the visual design of the course will be more inviting if it not only looks appealing but functions well. Twenty-first century learners are more impacted by design as creativity becomes more important in differentiating ourselves and individuality becomes more valued socially.
As a result, it will more likely impact how learners consume your content. This doesn’t necessarily mean more complicated course design where a more simple approach would do the trick. However, taking into account the visual and functional appeal of the online environment should be a factor as you build your online environment.
Social media is being used by even the less tech savvy on a regular basis, and rightfully so - social networks can function as amazing tools for communication of ideas and new learnings.
For instance, Twitter can be used by learners to participate in chats on various topics, or as a place for educators to post bite-sized lessons and synthesize big ideas. Since Twitter has a 140 character limit, it forces learners to condense their ideas into only the most necessary parts.
Hashtags can be used to track ideas or assignments which also allows learners to organize information. Facebook, Reddit, Google Plus, Google Hangouts, Instagram, Pinterest and Skype (and a host of others) are other examples of technologies and social networks that enhance communication in online environments.
Learners can post to any social network on the go as well as when they are in study mode and near a phone or a computer. So, find ways to encourage and motivate your learners to post what they’re learning about in your course on social media. Making this a regular part of class allows learners to consume your learning material, even when they’re not logged into any of your online courses.
Although I’ve discussed these 4 tactics individually, many of them can be combined to create interesting and unique learning experiences. Combine storytelling with social media, group work with storytelling, or social media and games. The options are literally endless, and it is increasingly important that, as educators, we think more creatively and be ready to react to changes in technological trends in order to effectively engage 21st century learners. My next goal is to combine Twitter with a game like experience. What actionable step will you take to make online learning experiences more interesting, fun and unique for your learners?
Gabrielle Marquette is a teacher with 18 years of experience in private and public school environments, and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses. Her expertise lies in curriculum development, instruction and classroom management. She holds a BA in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz and an M.Ed. from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont.