Learning & Development

Boosting Participation in Online Learning

Online courses can be a great tool for employers. Not only can they accommodate far more employees than traditional, in-person courses that are limited by the size of the room; they also facilitate the ability to include employees from around the country or around the world.

Set Expectations for Participation

Sometimes, the biggest hurdle to active participation in online courses is simply that students aren’t sure what is appropriate or expected. Is it OK to ask questions throughout a lecture or just at the end? Is it OK to ask questions at all? How much active discussion does the instructor expect? These are all questions that the instructor can proactively answer at the outset and eliminate uncertainty.

Provide Tools to Facilitate Participation

Depending on the format of the course, there are tools that can be used to facilitate greater participation. For example, some webinar platforms have a virtual “hand raise” feature that allows students to get the instructor’s attention without necessarily shouting out over the audio connection. Similarly, instructors can ask students to e-mail specific questions or topics of discussion before the class. The instructor can then encourage the submitter of the e-mail to speak up during the live lecture.

Ask Good Questions

Online course platform Thinkific notes that simply asking better questions can help facilitate greater discussion: “Constructing useful and effective questions is part science, part craft. Don’t worry if you struggle with this; everyone does.” Thinkific suggests that characteristics of “good” questions include being open-ended, eliciting higher order thinking, and reflecting and using course content to formulate responses.

Reward Participation

A little positive reinforcement can go a long way in encouraging improved participation. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a tangible reward like money or a prize needs to be utilized. Simply recognizing participation publicly or privately thanking those students that actively participate can have a big impact.
Online learning is a great asset to spread knowledge in any company. The challenge is often that the format doesn’t always lend itself to active participation. Fortunately, there are some strategies that can be employed to get around this hurdle and facilitate a truly engaging experience for everyone involved.