Virtual training

7 Effective Methods for Increasing Engagement in Online Learning

The CloudShare Team

May 22, 2024 - 4 min read

What’s the most important characteristic of a successful virtual training program?

It’s not the training platform or instructors. It’s not even the training content. It’s the experience.

To put it another way, it doesn’t matter if you have the best training materials and the most knowledgeable instructors in the world. If your training fails to engage learners, most of them will simply abandon it. Obviously, you want to make sure that doesn’t happen.

That’s why today, we’re going to explore seven of the most effective methods for increasing engagement in online learning.

Embrace a Data-Driven Training Strategy

Data is the lifeblood of your virtual training program and should also be the foundation of any engagement strategies you employ. In addition to helping track your overall training program’s success, training analytics provide you with insights into learner behavior that can help you identify bottlenecks and opportunities to improve the training experience. These insights are essential if you are to continuously improve and scale your training.

Potential KPIs and metrics to track include, but are not limited to:

  • Usage details and trends related to your training platform
  • Retention
  • Churn
  • Completion rate
  • Average time to completion
  • User behavior
  • User satisfaction

Encourage Collaborative Learning

Roughly 20% of learning occurs through social interaction. Additionally, per Cambridge University, people who engage in social learning tend to display improved comprehension and retention. This isn’t terribly surprising — humans have always been social animals, after all.

But this inherent drive for social interaction can also make virtual engagement uniquely challenging. In addition to developing training materials that directly incorporate collaborative activities, you might also consider running virtual training sessions over video. Other potential options for engagement include discussion boards and messaging software such as Discord or Slack.

Personalize the Experience

Everyone has slightly different knowledge, needs, and preferences. Ideally, you’ll want to account for those differences with your virtual training. Offer multiple training options to account for different learning styles and consider incorporating generative AI to support personalized learning paths.

You may also want to consider integrating your training platform with a learning management system if you’ve not done so already. Doing so will make personalization and several other virtual engagement strategies considerably easier.

Gamify

As online engagement strategies go, gamification is one of the most effective options in your toolkit. By integrating video game design elements such as challenges and leaderboards into your training, you give participants something entertaining to focus on. Instead of being concerned entirely with memorization and learning, participants have a fun objective they can pursue, reframing their training as the means by which they pursue said goal.

Provide Hands-On Training

When given the option, you should always choose hands-on training over passive learning. Not only does interactivity provide a more compelling learning experience, but it also allows participants to explore the practical applications of what they’re trying to learn. Hands-on training also gives learners more of a sense of control, especially if it takes the form of software training within a sandboxed environment.

Make Your Training Accessible

Learners should be able to access your training from anywhere and on any device so long as they have an Internet connection. With that in mind, your choice of engagement tools for virtual learning should be device- and operating system-neutral. Learners should have as similar training experience on their desktop PC as they would have on iOS or Android.

Understand the Engagement Spiral

The biggest challenge you’ll face with virtual training is not vendor selection, nor is it designing compelling content. Distraction is the most significant roadblock you’ll have to overcome. People have a tendency to multitask when attending virtual meetings, and the same is true of virtual training.

Engagement leader Jan Keck advocates for the following strategy to help participants stay focused, which he’s coined the engagement spiral:

  • For instructor-led training, don’t wait for stragglers to show up. Begin interacting with participants immediately.
  • Introduce a simple prompt that attendees can answer on their own, a tactic Keck categorizes as reflect.
  • Next, have attendees partner with one another or form small groups to share ideas and discuss your training. This stage is known as connect.
  • Finally, there’s collect — the sharing of ideas and contributions between everyone in the room outside the small working groups.

Keck recommends having some way to gauge each participant’s mood, ideally through video chat.

Successful Training Experiences Start with Virtual Engagement

Virtual training can be immensely beneficial, provided you can keep participants engaged. As you’ve likely experienced firsthand, that’s far easier said than done. The good news is that you’re now armed with a set of strategies that will help you create more compelling, entertaining, and, most importantly, successful training experiences.

We talked a lot about why you should make your virtual training more engaging — but we didn’t really cover why. Check out The Benefits of Employee Engagement Training if you want to learn. And if you’re interested in learning more about gamification, we’ve written an article about a few of the top gamification techniques.