Although truly engaging courses employ many different features, for example, great visual design and even better storytelling, an often overlooked consideration for learning designers is that there are, in fact, different types of online learners.  And no, we’re not talking about the much-publicised different learning styles, a theory that has now been debunked due to lack of evidence.


So if you really want to understand your online learner, here is a guide to 3 different types of learners who may be taking your courses, and how to design to engage them specifically:



Despite the fact that online learning has been around for nearly half a century, many organisations in Australia have been quite slow to embrace it.


This means that there is every chance that the first every online course a learner takes might well be yours.  As such, there are a few things you can do to optimise engagement from your technophobic learner:



  • Use screencasts: Although you may feel like a screencast demonstrating how to ‘use’ your course seems redundant if it has been well designed, for technophobes experiencing online learning for the first time, it may be their saving grace.
  • Use written navigation where possible:  Although having a ‘next’ ‘back’ and ‘play’ button that actually specify the same might seem like a designer’s worst nightmare, for the technically challenged, you can’t assume they will identify and understand your symbols.
  • Make things big: Whilst one shouldn’t make assumptions about the average age of technophobes– let’s just say that making your course text readable is always advisable!



The Can-I-Finish-Alreadys

In today’s increasingly busy world, it is of little surprise that a lot of learners fall into the category of ‘Can-I-Finish-Already?’  These learners can be particularly hard to please, as they want to get the course finished before it has even started, however following these simple tips can greatly enhance their learning experience:


  • Controllable navigation: Nothing is more frustrating for the Can-I-Finish-Alreadys (and in fact, most learners) than to have to sit through 20 slides of text before a point is even made.  So, to help this type of learner, ensure that you allow them to control navigation within the course, so that they can skip through the ‘background’ to the key points.  Or even better, ask yourself – is the background information really necessary?
  • Micro learning:  Microlearning is a form of learning that delivers content in short bursts – as short as 5 minutes.  If, as a designer, you can successfully divide your course into ‘micro’ learning bites, then you will definitely capture the attention of the Can-I-Finish-Alreadys – as they literally will be finished already!



With the generation who are currently entering the workforce having spent their entire life playing video or online games, so much so that they are now called screenagers, it is of little wonder that many gamification elements are making their way into online learning, and for good reason.  Research has shown that gamification significantly improves online learning through making it more fun and interactive, increasing absorption and retention, and giving learners the opportunity to see real world applications.  And in even better news, putting gaming elements into your online learners not only engages the younger generation, but is more likely to enhance the learning experience for all age groups.  Therefore, to increase engagement for those you would consider ‘gamers’ and also those you wouldn’t, be sure to include some game-like elements in your learning design.


So when you’re designing your next course, be sure to consider the different types of learners who will be taking it, and incorporate the above mentioned design elements to ensure maximum engagement.   

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