Sunday, 06 December 2015 23:43

How to Engage Online Learners

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5 Tips for Great Video Training Sessions

BY EMMA KING

For many instructors, presenting educational programs via video is scary. The thought of speaking to a camera can make one’s pulse race and induce cold sweats. It needn’t be so stressful, however. The following set of techniques, used by broadcast professionals as well as many corporate enterprises that communicate with video programming, can help presenters overcome their fears and create highly engaging learning experiences.

Start small and think in series. One way to build confidence and gain momentum is to try presenting smaller blocks of content. This approach works well in the virtual classroom environment, because modules are easier for learners to consume than lengthy content sessions. “Death by PowerPoint” is the tendency to cram a lot of material into a single session. It is usually overwhelming for both learners and presenters, so avoid that approach. Instead, think of the module approach to learning — like a televised series with segments and episodes. Allowing learners to proceed at their own pace is important in online learning, and a serial approach to learning modules is easily presented in video.

Make your presenters comfortable. There are several ways to increase people’s comfort level when they’re presenting on air. On-air talent can come from sources beyond your subject-matter experts. When a confident, engaging presenter is found, your instructor doesn’t carry the full burden of keeping the audience engaged. Mine your talent from within. Not every presenter is comfortable appearing on camera, at least at first. If this is the case in your organization, consider making a “casting call” to find those colleagues who have engaging personalities and some comfort with video, such as past broadcast majors, aspiring stand-up comedians, or even those with experience in theater. Another technique to increase presenters’ comfort level on camera is to use an interviewer or include a segment with a subject-matter expert. A co-host or guest presenter can help keep track of talking points and provide an engaging flow to the learning content.

Story telling makes it easier to understand. A great deal of training content consists of statements and facts that, while important, can be dry and hard to digest. Instead, try to present learning content in the form of stories, which are more relatable and engaging, especially for online learners. Stories also are more natural to present on video than a recitation of facts.

Flipped classrooms enable deeper discussion. Pose questions in advance. Offer pre-work assignments. Don’t pile all of your handouts and presentation materials on your audience during and after the session. Instead, share material in advance that will allow the learner to begin thinking about the topic and be prepared to engage in a discussion rather than just listen.

Know the production basics. Organizations need not invest millions of dollars to create high-tech studios or hire talent with broadcast communication experience to produce video presentations that are easy to watch. Good audio and video can be inexpensively created using a high-definition webcam, such as those already integrated in many laptop computers, and a quality external microphone. Besides this basic equipment, there are some basic techniques that have been proven to increase the quality of the video experience. Some of the basics of video production are: control the lighting and background noise, minimize distractions such as mobile phones and other equipment that might disrupt the presenter, ensure a neat and organized “set,” and make sure to test your equipment and audio level before presenting.

With these tips in mind, presenters can use the power of video to reach and engage online learners, which helps organizations create a more enjoyable and effective learning experience.

—Emma King is vice president of Learning Strategy for INXPO, which markets enterprise video communication solutions. More info: www.inxpo.com

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