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Smart ways to increase learner engagement in e-learning

We all want our e-learning to be successful and deliver results, and in order for that to happen you must capture the hearts and minds of your employees too. This article explores some of the key components of e-learning design that will grasp your learners’ full attention by helping them find their flow.

We all want our e-learning to be successful and deliver results, and in order for that to happen you must capture the hearts and minds of your employees too. Today we’re going to explore some of the key components of e-learning design that will grasp your learners’ full attention by helping them find their flow.

A state of flow will foster an optimum emotional state where they are able to truly connect with your training, generating full focus and immersive learner engagement.

What is flow?

Psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, describes flow as:

“The mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”

It is the holistic experience people feel when they are utterly absorbed in an activity or process; it creates an optimal emotional state that provokes a sense of timelessness. The state of flow is so immersive that the completion of the activity itself becomes an intrinsic motivation and reward.

People experience flow in a variety of ways with different activities triggering the desired emotional state. However, Csíkszentmihályi believes flow is most likely to occur when someone is faced with a task that’s challenging but attainable and fully utilises their skillset to overcome.

So, how does this apply to the world of L&D?

Imagine a world where your employees are so engaged with your learning content, they forget that it’s learning at all, and direct complete focus on improving their skillset and knowledge. Isn’t that we’re all working towards with new applications of technology and pedagogical approaches?

To help achieve flow in your organisational training, we’ve outlined the key components of flow and highlighted different ways you can apply them to your e-learning. This will assist in increasing engagement and stimulation in learners and encourage them to find their flow to drive better results in your business.

How to accomplish the state of flow in e-learning:

Challenge vs Skill

You must find the perfect balance between difficulty and skill in any training programme. If the learning curve is wrong, you will disengage learners quickly. As shown in the diagram above you can create a steady level of flow if you find the equilibrium that balances the challenge with the abilities of your learners.

You know your employees the best, so when designing training be sure it’s not too difficult to complete, otherwise your learners will become frustrated, unmotivated and may even prematurely give up. Equally, if your e-learning is too simple employees quickly become disengaged or uninterested with training content, meaning it won’t earn their full focus.

Think about the competencies of your audience and always make the task more challenging than their skillset but ensure it’s still achievable, as your learners must know they have adequate skills required to complete the task. But don’t be afraid to stretch their capabilities. A critical aspect of flow involves extending your learner beyond their current ability level. You can always supply supporting learning materials for those who need it, so don’t compromise on pushing learners out of their comfort zone… At least a little.

In control and in action

Flow tends to occur when learners feel as if they are in control of their activity or task. You can achieve this by providing users with an LMS that allows them to explore content freely and choose what relevant courses they want to take and in what order they want to take it.

Your learners must also be able to apply the knowledge being taught to real life practices. Consider leveraging scenario based e-learning more, which taps into potential real-life experiences, allowing knowledge acquired to be applied in a practical situation. Users are more inclined to immerse and lose themselves in training they can relate to and essentially implement to their workplace lives.

This is also why so many people are gripped with the concept of VR and augmented reality for training; although at this stage it’s very unclear how it can be smartly harnessed and utilised effectively in an organisational training context.

Clear goals and rewards

There’s always something we want to achieve with our training, whether it’s distributing product knowledge, onboarding new staff or upskilling an employee; we always have an end goal. Goals are another condition to generate the state of flow, so be sure to make them apparent to your learners. They must have clearly defined objectives and something specific to work towards, so make it obvious what you want the learner to accomplish. Try setting deadlines too, this way they know exactly how long they have to complete the task in hand.

Yes, open badges, leader boards or certificates can be an effective motivator in e-learning. However, training that triggers user flow will focus more on intrinsic motivators. Simply finishing the task itself becomes a reward and your learners will gain a lot of satisfaction from obtaining and completing the state of flow.

Instant feedback

To accomplish flow and foster flow in future training, trainers and managers should provide employees with immediate performance feedback. This means the learner understands how well the training programme is going and what needs improving. Feedback must be constructive and detailed to keep the learner stimulated and on the right track to success.

Sound familiar?

The components of flow outlined above are all elements that are commonly seen in gamification and game-based learning. The success of gamification lies in harnessing key gaming mechanics such as goals, levels, challenges and instant feedback to make learning content immersive, stimulating and interactive. The conditions of flow mentioned above are leveraged to generate a similar effect: improve learner engagement..

The key to triggering flow is achieving the right balance between boredom and anxiety, intriguing the learner to lose themselves in an immersive e-learning experience. It’s all about the substantial mastery of a particular skill, so don’t be afraid to challenge your learners!

Achieving flow has the power to increase the effectiveness of your e-learning by ensuring it lands successfully with your audience, maintaining their focus solely on achieving the training’s objectives, ultimately improving their skillset without clockwatching. Generating flow can make learning more enjoyable and will lead to improved performance and the enhancement of skills in your workforce. So, be sure to reference these top tips when delivering your next training offering and watch your learners find their flow.

Want to find out more about how to generate flow using gamification? This beginners guide to gamification explores the key components of a learning game and showcases how gamification can help learners find and maintain their flow.



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