“Wah wah wah wah wah wah…”
I remember a teacher; we can call her Mrs. O., that used to sound just like this.
Every day, the struggle was real. I came into school happy and ready to learn. Most of my classes were a blast. I had fun with my friends. I truly enjoyed learning and wanted to be there!
But then when Mrs. O.’s class came, the energy was sucked right out of me. I’d try to sit real tall and open my eyes wide so I’d be attentive. Trying not to blink too much.
But my eyes would get heavy.
And I’d adjust, sit tall, open my eyes wide.
And they would get even heavier…
(I needed to borrow some tape from Tom to keep them open).
What I find most interesting about Mrs. O.’s class today, is that I can’t remember what subject she taught or what grade it was. I can only remember the way I felt while in her class. Bored. Exhausted. Completely disengaged. Mrs. O. is memorable for being BORING! (And this is saying something because I am passionate about learning!)
An Online Course is NOT an Excuse To Be Boring!
Fast forward to my professional days. I was recently working on an online certification that required me to take multiple courses. As a Learning & Performance professional for the past 12 years, this was exciting for me. I love creating as well as taking digital courses. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas myself. However, almost immediately, the feelings from Mrs. O.’s class from grade school reemerged. The class that I was excited to take and ready to learn, quickly became dreadful. We were forced to complete long readings and write papers. I spent weeks throughout the semester forcing online discussions with other classmates. Everyone’s goals quickly emerged to get the coursework done and out of the way rather than enjoy the experience and learning together. As a result, I don’t remember anything from this course, except that I feel like I wasted my money. The information was like sand passing through a colander. It went in one ear and out another. As a professional in the field, I felt it was my duty to provide feedback on the instruction and strategy used to create the course. So when I contacted the administrator regarding the lack of a learning experience and engagement, I was told, “it’s just an online course. What did you expect?”
O.M.G. I was shocked!
Expect Greatness, Not Mediocrity
As a consumer of the course, I expected a lot more. The course cost me about $1,400 + supplies. This course wasn’t cheap! I expected to engage in a learning experience! To obtain realistic ways to apply the content in my life. This course was the first in a series of multiple classes I needed to complete for the certification… I expected to learn! The materials for the course were dull and boring. Because of this, the students, including myself, were not engaged. The course didn’t inspire us to develop new ideas or take action using what we learned. The attitude of the participants was a direct response to the energy of the course leader and how it was delivered. I’m not sure that my teacher even knew who I was or what I looked like because over the semester, we only interacted twice. I don’t know any of my peer’s names because nobody talked. And in fact, I hardly remember any of the content from this course. I certainly haven’t applied it to any areas of my life, and it’s been less than two years since I took it. I will never recommend it to anyone. Have you ever taken a course like this? Have you ever worried that one of your courses or products would have this same type of outcome? What is someone purchased your course and was completely unhappy like I was? They didn’t enjoy the content, felt disengaged, and even worse didn’t complete the course and then promoted negative reviews? Now, I want to make a shift to one of the BEST learning experiences that I have ever had! About a year ago, I shelled out another $1,000 for a digital business course. The basis of the course was entirely online. It included a ton of self-paced content (content that you watch/listen to on your own time) that had coordinating workbooks. There were live weekly calls with Q&A as well as a private Facebook group. The course had lots of opportunities for participant and instructor interaction, both live and online. With this course, I jumped right into the content, completing 1 module/week. Honestly, A LOT of the information went in one ear and out another. Fact: learners only retain about 5% of the information in a lecture environment (The Peak Performance Center). But, at least I was able to get familiar with the topics and insights so I could go back to it later if I wanted. The REAL value of this course came into play with the interactions.
Create an Active Learning Experience
Each week during the live calls you could ask any question and get direct answers and feedback from the instructors. This was followed up by a very active Facebook group with discussion threads running daily, engaging the entire group, and helping everyone learn and apply the course to their businesses. Instructors worked with each other. Instructors worked with students. Students worked with students. There was no hierarchy of roles, and the group was to serve each other. Furthermore, as a result of taking this course, I ended up making friends and colleagues who have helped me with all the different aspects of my business. We still talk in the group, and a year later and we private message each other, and even talk on Skype about how things are going and how we can help each other. This course empowered us to create a tribe and community that is ever supportive and engaging of one another. Plus, I can honestly say that I learned more with this course than I have from the last several courses combined. Why? Because the level of engagement that was provided made the learning content interesting and transferable, to real life.
Inspire Action in Others Through Your Course
Now tell me, what type of product do you want to create? Do you want to create a painfully boring product that people don’t complete, end up dreading and even ask for a refund, or give you bad reviews after they are done? Or, do you want to create a product that transforms and inspires a community? I’m not into buying things just to buy them and say I did. I want real VALUE and real RESULTS that IMPACT my life. If you are reading this, I guess you do too. Furthermore, it upsets me that people are continuing to propagate this issue. That businesses and entrepreneurs are creating talking head videos, packing it up and calling it a product, and selling it for large amounts of money. I’m sorry, I know you are smart, but I don’t just want to hear you speak to yourself any longer. I want to see the transfer to my business. I want to see the long-term value of my investment. You talking to yourself is not memorable or exciting. It doesn’t engage people. Which is the crux of the problem. Engagement is key. The not-so-secret secret to learner engagement is to create engaging content! And you don’t have to be a technology wizard to do this. Engaging content is something that appeals to your customers. They find it relevant, applicable, and they see how it will impact their bottom line.
Engaging content helps the participant cognitively dive deep into what they are doing, gives them a practical application, and gets real results along the way. If learners are not engaged, within an hour, they forget 50% of what they learned. After a day passes, they’ve lost 70% and within a month, 90% (PLOS). If your customers can’t remember your content, how are they going to have a long-term engagement in your offers? Repeat customers spend approximately 67% more than new customers (Bain). In fact, a mere 5% increase in loyal customers would mean a 25% to 100% increased profit per loyal customer (The Loyalty Effect).
Engaged participants take more away from the content that is being provided to them, and they are better able to apply it in their real lives and make an impact. Thus, when you increase user engagement with your content, you can ensure a much higher return on investment from your initiatives (eLearning Industry).
Stand Out In an Overloaded Market
Humans are infovores. We are built to absorb information. What do you do in a world where courses are becoming the norm? Do you create a better product, give people bliss and feed them correctly? If the market is continually expanding and there is more and more competition, the way to stand out is through engagement. I have personally noticed a huge influx of courses on the market; ranging from life coaching to digital marketing and health and wellness. The problem that I see is that industry experts are taking their voice to a camera or microphone and recording and distributing their content for a fee and calling it a course. Even though 60% of us prefer watching a video to other methods (17Production.com), a single method of learner engagement is just not enough. In fact, as a learning systems expert, l wouldn’t even call this engagement. Engagement means your viewers get involved. There’s interaction. You just can’t get that from a talking head on the screen, alone. I know it’s quick and easy to just make a video and pop it up on YouTube, but it doesn’t mean it’s effective. And your goal is to get people to come back, right? Well, you need to do more than being a talking head. As a Behavior Analyst and Learning & Performance Consultant, I’ve created thousands of courses, and digital assets in the last 12 years of my career. I understand the challenges of planning, developing, and launching products. It’s not easy.
Create a Unique Experience
It’s imperative to develop a unique blend of content, and there is no way around that if you want a high-engagement course. You need that blend of content to leverage the different behavior and learning styles of your audience. If you are looking to provide your audience with captivating, engaging content that drives them to come back for more, a talking-head video is just not enough! This article is a call to action! A call to stop mass-producing content that is not engaging and not productive to your audience!A call to create content that matters.A call to create content that drives results and continues to drive impact over time. How do you do this? So where do you start to create more engaging content? What do you use to create? How can you create an engaging product that drives your customers back for more? Let’s talk about the six levels of learning engagement, otherwise known as Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom’s Taxonomy was developed in 1956 by psychologist Benjamin Bloom. It helps us understand the different levels of learning from just being able to remember and state facts, to being able to apply it to one’s own life.
Levels 1 & 2: Remember and Understand
Levels 1 & 2 of Bloom’s Taxonomy focus on a learner being able to recall facts and concepts as well as explain them/discuss them at a basic level. This is what helps someone pass a basic test (think about your 6th-grade math or spelling test). When you create a talking head video, and maybe some simple worksheets, you are hitting these two levels with your products. You are providing information, they are repeating it back. There is very little, if any, practical application of the content to life. The memory level is perfectly respectable and even essential in many learning situations. There are, however, disadvantages of using pure memory that an instructor should keep in mind. A memory level is a tool that promotes the use of short-term memory, and the information may be forgotten if it is not used. Another problem with the memory level is that it does not guarantee to understand. (JHU.edu, 2015)
Levels 3 & 4: Apply and Analyze
With Levels 3 & 4 of Bloom’s Taxonomy learners are being able to take the information you provided them and use it in their own life. They also can examine and experiment with your ideas in the true application. This is what helps a learner pass a test like a GRE.
An example of this would be a student that is completing a marketing funnel course. They learned all the key concepts to create a funnel and are now applying those concepts to create a specific funnel for their own business. This is where a learner makes an impact on their OWN life. How does your current course support your participants taking the information and applying it back to their own life?
Levels 5 & 6: Evaluate and Create
Levels 5 & 6 of Bloom’s Taxonomy allows users to take your teachings, evaluate them and then mold them into their theories and new work. This is what helps learners in their real-world. An example of this would be the article you are reading right now! I have taken learning and theory from my studies, created my methods and am now delivering this back to you as my reader. A learner who can do this has reached the ultimate level of cognitive ability. They have moved beyond learning recall, and transformation, to create new structures. This is where the learner makes an impact on their own life, but the lives all around them. Why do you care about this? This type of learning is what fuels idea creation. According to MindTools, “Faced with complex, open-ended, ever-changing challenges, organizations realize that constant, ongoing innovation is critical to stay ahead of the competition. This is why we need to be on the lookout for new ideas that can drive innovation, and it’s why the ability to think differently, generate new ideas, and spark creativity within a team becomes an important skill.”Providing your participants with the fuel to drive their innovation, is the spark that will ignite the greater change. And it’s the change, the provides the end reward and satisfaction of your product, and ultimately, your business.
Consider a combination of each of these concepts to increase your learner engagement strategy and make your first course or your next course your best course yet! Empower your customers to take ownership and create change in their lives, based on your thought leadership.
Now tell me… what were your favorite and least favorite learning experiences and why? Let me know in the comments below!