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Are Your Online Learners Disengaged? Step Up Your Program With These Tips


Key takeaways

1. Making your program interactive and sharing the 'why' are just two ways to keep learners engaged.

2. Always make sure your online program ensures full accessibility.


Did you know that over 220 million students attended massive open online courses (MOOCs) in 2021 (UNESCO, 2023)? But despite how common online learning is, there are still many online courses that are unengaging, uninteresting, and don’t offer learners the best experiences possible.

But, as all educators know, engagement is critical for success. When people are engaged in their learning, they switch from absorbing ideas passively to taking in new knowledge and ideas actively - with active engagement they ultimately get more socially and academically from the experience. And this engagement mustn’t only happen at the start - it’s important to keep the learner engaged throughout their learning journey and not let interest wane away. Here are some tips and tricks you can use to spark and maintain engagement from your learners.


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Program content


Make it interactive

Embedding interactive content and activities into your online programs is one of the most effective ways to get learners engaged with their learning. Activities such as quizzes and polls can be a great way to encourage interest, curiosity, and excitement about learning online. Using a good online learning platform will make this easier during the design process as they should provide an easy-to-use activity suite that you can simply author directly into your courses. Using native tools also brings the benefits of enhanced learner data. And more data means that courses can be improved and enhanced over time.

In addition to quizzes and polls, don’t forget to incorporate multimedia content such as videos, animations, and graphics to break up text and make the program more visually appealing.

Another way to make your program more interactive is to add group work opportunities where it makes sense to do so. By encouraging learners to interact with each other, you help foster a strong learning community. Educators play an important role in engaging learners in a collaborative, communicative way which increases accountability and opportunities for socialising (Maboe, 2017).


Personalise and tell a story

Personalise your program in appropriate areas to help with engaging online learners even more and make it easier for them to recall new information learnt from the course. Storytelling works in a similar way - by incorporating storytelling elements in your program, you can make your content more relatable and memorable.


Show the ‘why’

Showing how the knowledge or skills acquired from the program can be applied in real-life scenarios will increase motivation. Real-world application helps demonstrate the ‘why’ behind the program, which is crucial for learner engagement, and can also be shown with real-life examples and case studies to illustrate any key concepts.


Are Your Online Learners Disengaged Step Up Your Program With These Tips - man browsing insendis activity suite

Program structure


Make objectives clear

At the start of the program, make sure you set clear learning objectives and outcomes to give learners a sense of purpose and direction. This will help motivate them in the long run and the objectives will help keep them accountable. You could also encourage learners to set and share their own objectives, which is another great way to both foster a stronger learning community and get to know your learners’ ‘why’ as well.


Ensure full accessibility

Ensure that your program is accessible on various devices, including smartphones and tablets, for flexibility. In fact, 56% of students and recent graduates on a management course believe a mobile phone is essential for completing it, which offers insight into the importance of smartphone accessibility for a modern-day course (AMBA et al., 2022). This is also important if your program’s learners have other commitments, such as work, which may mean they require flexibility in the way they study.

Additionally, try to make your program as accessible and inclusive as possible in other areas, too, and make sure that aspects such as its interface and online learning platform are not causing problems for any of its learners. Following accessibility standards is essential for helping learners with disabilities get the most out of the program.


Show their progress

Make sure the program’s structure is clearly outlined in its interface so that learners know what to expect next in the module and how far they’ve yet to go until course completion. Progress indicator graphics can help show this in a clear, visual way and keep learners on track for success.


Are Your Online Learners Disengaged Step Up Your Program With These Tips - man sits at desk looking at laptop


Instructor presence

Maintain a visible and active online presence as an instructor to provide guidance and answer questions. You should also aim to give regular, timely feedback to learners on assessments and assignments to help them track their progress and improve. Learners will be more motivated to continue with the program if they can see how far they’ve progressed since they started, and regular meetings (even if held virtually) help build rapport and accountability. Research shows that regular interaction among instructors and learners is a critical factor in achieving learning objectives (Wei et al. 2014).

Instructor presence by keeping in touch with learners also provides opportunities for them to contact you with any comments or concerns about the program, meaning you can improve the course as per their feedback and make it more engaging in the ways they require. It can also help re-engage learners by offering words of encouragement at regular intervals, which will be especially helpful for learners struggling with motivation.


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  • AMBA, BGA, Ex Libris. (2022). How Smartphone Apps And Digital Services Are Used At Business School. Read it here:
  • Maboe, K. A. (2017). Full Length Article: Use of online interactive tools in an open distance learning context: Health studies students' perspective. Health SA Gesondheid, 22221-227. doi:10.1016/j.hsag.2017.02.001
  • UNESCO. (2023). Technology in education report. Access it here: 
  • Wei, H., Peng, H., & Chou, C. (2015). Can more interactivity improve learning achievement in an online course? Effects of college students' perception and actual use of a course-management system on their learning achievement. Computers & Education, 8310-21. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2014.12.013