Your learners are social by nature. Utilize it to make your courses more engaging.

Providing social features is a key ingredient for engagement in any online service – let alone in a learning service. Everyone using the internet has some experience with social media and has connected with other people or content when using it. Although the web around us is highly social, it is hardly leveraged in online learning. I will give you examples of how to make your courses more social and engaging, for optimal learning results.

Let’s enable social learning

Normally, in online learning environments, you will find deserted or heated discussion forums. Even if there is engagement, not all discussions are alike.

There is a difference between trivial comments and rigorous argumentation. Just having a discussion for the sake of having it is not a good goal. Discussions should be used to leverage learning. You can do a lot with well-designed assignments, but a learner-centric platform has impact as well and delivers real results.

Let’s create engagement

When creating engaging online courses the beginning of it is always important. Because the course introduction is the first impression your learners will get. To make the participants feel welcome and more comfortable in collaborating with each other, you should put effort into the introductions. At the beginning of the course, ask your participants to introduce themselves. An easy way to get all participants to introduce themselves is to ask learners to do it while watching an introduction video or reading an introduction document.

If you want your participants to put more effort into their introductions, you can design it to be an assignment. Make them describe their background and prior experience with the topic. Or if you want, you can ask them to do short videos about themselves. Once the participants have all uploaded their introductions, encourage them to comment on their peers’ intro videos.

Let’s initiate collaboration

One way to make your current materials more engaging is to design collaborative tasks participants could do while studying. Instead of just reading or watching a video, you can ask them to actively work and explicate their prior conceptions, experiences, and views. Contextual discussion within a document has clear benefits: The discussions are more active and spontaneous.

Let’s encourage participation

It is not enough to design collaborative content to spark engagement. You also need to be there for your learners. As an instructor, you can provide opportunities for learners to show their knowledge to others and highlight active contributors. Remember to encourage participation and constructive criticism and discussions, not only continuous fact-checking. Lead with an example, share, and participate and give positive feedback to all those who share.

When designing for collaboration, try not to create rigidly scheduled processes of collaborative learning. Learners will end up feeling rushed into having an opinion or coming up with too many comments. Avoid negative highlighting and punishment for inactivity as these methods rarely create an engaging and safe environment for collaboration.

Let’s enhance your courses

If all this seems new to you, keep calm and consider seeking assistance from people who have more experience in social online learning. This way you can avoid the most common pitfalls and benefit from the lessons learned by others. The fact that you want to create more user-friendly and socially engaging courses means that you are already on the right track.

P.S. We have created workshops especially to help our customers to tackle the challenges in social learning. You can contact support@claned.com and we will help you make your courses more social.

topi litmanen

About the Author

Dr. Topi Litmanen worked as a Chief Educational Scientist in Claned. He was responsible for ensuring, that the pedagogical aspects of Claned are based on evidence-based learning research.