3. Build

3.2 How to escape the boredom?

Why learning is so hard?

Why do most people perceive learning as the most boring activity? Or, worst yet, a difficult and a challenging task that is procrastinated? Despite utilizing best practices in design and development of an online course, elearners still experience a degree of disastisfaction. The most critical period of engaging and “winning over” learners is the initial few days of attendance. How will you capture your new learners' attention? How will you sell future courses to them? Stein & Calvin (2009) present three concerns of the novice online learner: technical limitations, grammatical errors in typing and separation/isolation feelings. The inexperienced online learners need multiple support channels to encourage their participation and retention in the course. Unlike a traditional classroom, where college freshmen undergo the “sink or swim” experience that makes them scramble for balance and competence, online learners do not have the same tactic. They need ample guidance to overcome the fear of the unknown, the lack of trust and their self-esteem being in question. The first few days in an online course are critical to adapting to the online space of the new learner. Instructors and moderators can engage peers to support them in many ways.

Consequences of being bored

Boredom is a major hurdle in learning. It leads to disengagement, loss of rapport and miscommunication. Watkins (2005) in his book “75 eLearning activities: making online learning interactive” mentions productive ideas that lead to stronger online ties and the building of a community of practice. For starters, in order to connect learners from varying backgrounds, the mentor needs to analyze the introductions they receive from each learner. Group similar learners under appropriate descriptions. For example, some learners may be working in schools, while others may be in a corporate training environment. The mentor can create “discussion groups” that learners can identify with and join regularly. Talking about concerns at work and gaps in knowledge can connect learners intimately. Mentors can take advantage of this connection by assigning them to work on group projects together. This alleviates mistrust and self-consciousness. To overcome technical barriers, mentors can create yet another technical expert group. Here, avid technology users can volunteer to guide other learners for a few points in the course. Mentors can encourage all learners to produce an “icebreaker” video in which learners talk about themselves, their aims for the course and how they expect to apply their new knowledge at work. An online learning environment does not have to be as scary as novice learners perceive it to be!

There are several ways of escaping boredom:

Learning theories

Two theories are our favorite when teaching online. Constructivist and behaviorist learning theories. Think of your teaching materials complimenting the knowledge schema (the pre-existing knowledge) in your learners. In order to accomplish higher level thinking, try to build new lessons on the previous ones. Prior to offering the new lesson, create a “pop quiz” in a game like manner that literally pops on the screen: “TRIVIA: This sentence can be completed with which one of the following phrases...”. This trigger question, as we like to call it, stimulates cognitive resonance, construction of new meaning and retrieval of older perceptions of the same concept. It primes the learner to receive the upcoming information. By answering trigger questions, learners feel confident and curious about what’s next. Another consideration for constructive thinking is knowing the lifestyle or favorite activities of the learner. Work context and future aspirations also provide ideas for the medium/scenario through which you can present new material. This notion actually flows into the behaviorist learning theory. Learners are motivated to stay on the activities that they prefer. Games for recreation and that lead to immediate transfer to work context are top desired learning environments. Presenting lessons in a game-like manner motivates learners to complete the task. Interactivity features (especially in a storyline) that explain the concept and encourage immediate recall through casual questions, are also a favorite in online learning environments. Use a combination of these strategies to spice up your training courses and keep boredom at bay!

What an eLearning course should be comprised of?