This article by our CEO and Founder, Alan Schwartz originally appeared on Xconomy. Read the original here.
Good teachers often say that “95 percent of good teaching is just getting students motivated.” Online learning presents a new opportunity to both measure engagement and create learning methods that increase it. Facebook sets the high bar for online engagement—65 percent of its billion-plus users are on the platform for an average of 40 minutes per day.
For online learning, the current stats are much less impressive. For example, the initial enthusiasm for massive open online courses (MOOCs) dampened when data showed that on average, completion rates were below 10 percent. The challenge for online platforms is to infuse themselves with some of the Facebook mojo to drive up engagement rates.
Here are 5 strategies that showcase what best-in-class online learning platforms are using to do just that.
1. Let the students drive. Giving students the choice of a content path is key to increasing engagement. It’s the YouTube effect: let learners discover one video that piques their curiosity and then present them with a learning path going forward from there. Khan Academy has done a fantastic job of this with their learning map.
2. Adapt to the students’ level. Learners need to feel challenged, but not frustrated, and the key to this is real-time adaptive learning. Getting learners content at the right level at the right time, and adapting levels over time is key for keeping up motivation levels.
3. Use game dynamics. Online learners, like online gamers, react to incentives. Brain training is a great example of giving students “bite size” nuggets of learning that they feel compelled to consume every day. These incentives can be modeled more towards the experience points of online gaming platforms like the Xbox, or towards badges or certifications like those offered by Duolingo. The best game dynamics also involve collaboration and/or competition among learners. Knowing where you stand among your age group or even better among your friends can be a huge source of motivation to impress and therefore improve.
4. Go mobile. A slick mobile app is a sine qua non to boost engagement. It’s a simple fact that learners spend more time with their mobile devices than with their computers, and mobile access allows them to make progress and engage anywhere and anytime during their day. Duolingo has achieved over 100 million downloads of its language-learning app and claims great user engagement by making a mobile-focused product that allows for snacking on language learning in 10-minute chunks.
5. Amplify the teacher’s voice. The best online platforms don’t eliminate the teacher’s presence in the learning formula, they amplify it. The best platforms maintain a strong instructor presence through frequent teacher messaging (which can be automated) such as “I noticed you didn’t practice in the last 3 days,” or through tools that allow teachers to listen in on student progress and provide asynchronous and personalized feedback. Hybrid platforms go one step further and enhance the self-study learning path by, for instance, providing a “Talk to a Teacher” button along the way to enable access to live tutoring in real time