Maintaining Your Audience

So, you spent hours upon hours creating content and setting up your course. Plus a good chunk of money, since quality content does not come cheap.

Now what?

Of course students will flock and stick around since your content is amazing, right?

Not necessarily. Especially when it’s competing with so many other forms of entertainment and education online. Plus life outside the bounds of the internet.

So how do you make sure your content goes to good use?

Yesterday, I attended “5 Effective Strategies for Facilitating Engagement in Your Online Course,” one of several 30-minute free webinars by San Francisco-based ed tech firm NovoEd to learn more about this issue.

One tip surprised me–it’s so obvious, yet not, at the same time. The simple email prompt can help either entice students to sign up and get started or get them to return if they’ve drifted. Easy, right?

Yes. But also easy to overlook. Especially when you’re knee deep in content creation.

The key is to have an engagement strategy plan in place before you launch your course or content. Have a few brief, targeted, and carefully written emails ready to send, in the event students don’t show up or they disappear.

According to the instructors, in their experience, if students disengage they often have not completely written off your course. They’ve become distracted. A short email can effectively get them back on track if distraction is the issue.

And if you don’t get a student back after two emails, then it’s possible they’re just not interested and leave it at that.

How do you keep students engaged?  Do you have a strategy? And if so, do you put it into place in advance of your course going live?


Experiments in Engagement

This morning I attended a webinar run by IDEO U called “Experiments in Engagement,” part of a series hosted by San Francisco-based ed tech firm NovoEd.

The timing was right, since I’ve recently been mulling over the question: “How can online learning be made more engaging and personal?”

IDEO U’s creativity-inspiring courses, run by just a few instructors, include as many as 600-800 students scattered around the country, if not the globe. So how do they ensure each student gets a rich, deep, and personal experience that allows them to tap into their creativity and share their discoveries with other students?

The conversation was concentrated and brief with a lot packed into the 30-minute session, but I came away with a few key ideas:

  • Each IDEO U course has a team of Alumni Coaches–superstar performers from previous courses–who serve as mentors to students and give them one-on-one attention. Students answer a short questionnaire then they’re matched with a coach that suits their profile.
  • At the start of the course–and perhaps throughout?–students are asked to introduce themselves and discuss the course topic of the moment with the person below them in the chat box. This promotes interaction in the classroom.
  • Courses take a blended learning approach, with “real world” experiences added to the mix. Students are assigned activities outside the confines of the computer–ie, go out and do X and create Y–and in-person meet ups are encouraged, where and when possible.

Have you incorporated any of the above approaches into your course? Would you?


The Human Factor

I’ve taken several online courses and although I learned from them, I found the experience somewhat isolative and passive.

As we incorporate technology into our education system we need to include a human, social, and interactive element. Technology can’t do all the work. And students need to share what they’re learning and ask questions while they’re immersed in the learning process.

How can this be accomplished? One reason some schools are turning to online education is to save money: more students, fewer (human) resources needed. But are students getting the best experience possible?

One solution: create spaces for students to interact to discuss issues and work problems together, either through chat rooms or group video conferences.

 How do you think technology can be used to create a deeper, more personal learning experience than it is now?


Educational Publishing: A Solid Foundation for Instructional Design

I’m new to instructional design. Or, I am trying to break into the field, to be more accurate.

My background is in publishing. For the past 12 years, I managed the publication of print and digital instructional packages for college-level science students and instructors.

But traditional educational publishing is in a state of retraction and struggling to go digital, so I decided it was time to explore new horizons.

Instructional design seems like the right place for me to go: I want to continue to work on educational content; project management is a key skill (and I have that experience); and the issues instructional designers consider and address–level, student needs, instructor needs, method of delivery of content, cognitive load, etc–are the same issues we wrestled with in publishing.

This PowerPoint slide set outlines specifically how the two roles–publishing content manager and instructional designer–align in many ways. Please take a look.

Katie Conley portfolio

What do you think? How did you get into Instructional Design? And what do you think are the key skills required?