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10 Ideas to Create Engaging eLearning Courses

Today's learner has ample avenues to seek out information. As an eLearning designer, you have competition! You have to create online courses that will keep your learners engaged from start to finish; else you will lose them, and worse, they might move away to your competitor (Facebook, email, Skype, etc.)

Here are ten ideas to create captivating online courses that your learners just can’t leave:


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Idea #1: Weave a story. Use the Story-Arc Model

If you are one of those eLearning designers looking to step outside the box and try something unique, you should look into one of our hardwired habits: storytelling. Weaving a story can make your courses interesting.

We all love a good story. And we love nothing more than a story that has drama, crisis, and a happy ending (read: resolution). Use Freytag’s Pyramid model to create a compeelingstory. Make sure that it contains at least these five elements: 1) Introduction (Exposition and Inticing incident) 2) Rising Action 3) Climax 4) Falling Action 5) Catastrophe/Denouement

How to Use A Storytelling Framework? | Digital Uncovered

Idea #2: Include a dynamic, vibrant, and enthusiastic narrator

What would you prefer to hear? A dull, flat, robotic voice that just reads out information and sounds like a drone or an enthusiastic voice that emotes and crackles with life. Of course, the latter.

There is nothing like a dull voiceover to sap the learner’s enthusiasm or worse, lull him to sleep. A narrator not only provides credibility to your teach but also creates an opportunity for you to build a rapport with your audience.

Also read: 6 Ways to Incorporate Examples into Your eLearning Courses

Idea #3: Make your character human, believable and memorable

Like the narrator, the characters in your story too are pivotal to help your audience relate to the content and keep them interested in what you have to say.

Your characters spark interest in dull, dry, and repetitive content while their interactions with one another can help you simplify and explain technical concepts to your learners. Your learners will relate to your characters if they share similar personality traits, face similar problems at the workplace, have similar life situations, and respond and react to events similarly.

Here are some tips on how to create relatable characters for your eLearning course:

  • Create realistic characters who have motivations and aspirations similar to those that your learners have.
  • Make your characters and initiate change. Learners want to feel that they can control a situation; characters who only react to events do not inspire learners.
  • Do not create perfect characters that are evidently too-good-to-be-true. A few flaws in the characters will make them more relatable, especially if the learners can identify some of their imperfections in them.

Must read: Five Rules of Engagement All eLearning Designers Should Live By

Idea #4: Use active voice

Why do you think learners don’t finish courses even with interesting content? Because they find it boring or confusing.

Your writing can turn a boring piece of content into something that learners gobble up greedily or an interesting subject into junk that the learners dump midway into the course.

An effective way to engage learners is to write in the active voice.Using active voice lets you talk to the learner in an informal tone like a friend, so he/she naturally listens. The hint of action in the active voice stirs learners and compels them to pay attention because they are curious to know what the subject is doing. The active voice is more impactful because the directness of the tone hits learners like punches.

When you use passive voice, you sound impersonal, as if you are talking to no one in particular. This is confusing because the learner is not sure if he is supposed to pay attention to what you are saying. The passive voice makes sentences longer; this can again confuse some learners and make them lose interest in your course.

Also read: Power-writing for eLearning Professionals: 6 Secrets to Great Web Content

Idea #5: Go social

According to research Learning Insights 2017 Report, 57% of all respondents indicated that social learning is an essential element to their L&D strategy. After all, human beings are social creatures that like to engage socially and collaboratively with others. Therefore, it is critical that your eLearning courses do not make learners feel isolated.

Create engaging social learning experiences by introducing features like interactive discussion boards or forums where instructors can answer learners’ questions.

You can consider posting snippets of learning on Twitter. This not only gives you the opportunity to break the content into bite-sized, digestible chunks but also liberates learners from the boundaries of a classroom and gives them the freedom to reflect on the learning at his own time.

Recommended read: Successfully Apply Social Learning to Your Existing eLearning Programs

Idea #6: Grab eyeballs with powerful headlines

Your headlines should intrigue learners and compel them to delve into the content. Choose impactful words to transmit emotions to learners via a headline -  using active verbs, for instance.

Powerful headlines contain these three attention-grabbing elements:

  • Curiosity: Make learners curious. You can use popular phrases from movies (Show me the money instead of “The Financial Benefits of Investment”) or play around with cliché phrases to twist their meanings.
  • Benefit: State the what’s-in-it-for-me information in the headline to entice learners. Write “How Can You Become Rich by Investing in Stocks” instead of “The Benefits of Investing in Stock.”
  • Solution: Highlight a problem and state that you have the solution to it. Your learners are always in search of solutions to their problems, so they will be more hooked by a headline that reads “How to Fix a Leaking Pipe” than “Plumbing Troubleshooting Guide.”

Idea #7: Harness the power of visuals

Several studies confirm that visuals improve the instructional soundness of your courses besides keeping learners engaged. Why? Memorable and effective visuals are a powerful instructional tool that drives learner engagement, reduces cognitive load, and fulfills the learning objectives most efficiently. We could say that the visuals we use in a course are as important as the text you write, the interactions you design, and the assessments you include. 

So, make sure that you use them appropriately to grab and keep your audience's attention. Here are ten types of visual content that enhance the appeal and effectiveness of your course and keep learners engaged.

Read more: Making the Most of Visuals in eLearning: 9 Tips and 5 Examples

Idea #8: Invite learners to explore and discover

Adult corporate learners love to learn by discovering things for themselves. So create opportunities within the eLearning course that allow learners to explore around. For instance, make learners click images or buttons to find clues, or introduce quizzes to reinforce the learning. Humans are inquisitive by nature. Your learner will naturally and enthusiastically “pull” information when you subtly guide him towards it instead of shoving content down his throat.

Idea #9: Add humor

Don’t forget that your eLearning courses are talking to a human with feelings! Use humor to start the course off on a more relaxed tone. According to research (Peters, 2014), people are more receptive to new thoughts and ideas, use their analytical powers more, learn better, and retain more when they are in a positive mood.

Find out funny ways—like humorous anecdotes—to explain dry content and use them often in the course. Humor makes content memorable because the endorphins that are released when we laugh help cement memories.

Recommended read: 5 Effective Ways To Use Humor In eLearning

Idea #10: Keep it real 

The adult corporate learner has to be convinced that your course has value for him before you can make him take it or keep him engaged. So ensure that you put the learning into context. Create realistic scenarios that reflect the realities and the challenges of the learner’s workplace.

Also read: The 4 Adult Learning Elements You Should Include in Your eLearning Courses


Here are some ideas:

  • Create role-playing settings and scenarios where the learners can make decisions and see for themselves the outcomes of their choices.
  • Create videos to demonstrate processes and procedures. Use these videos to show what can go wrong in these settings and demonstrate troubleshooting methods.
  • Use case studies to depict real-life scenarios. It is a good idea to use case studies as baits right at the start of the course to draw in the learners.
  • Use real-life examples and anecdotes to drive home your point. Use the psychology of surprise and include unusual, unexpected, or even shocking examples.

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