The Importance and Benefits of Learner Engagement
Online learning is a bit like dinner parties. When they are boring, people tend to interact less and leave early. When they are lively, people are more likely to participate with excitement and stay until the night is over.
Courses that engage audiences are more likely to attract learners who are eager to learn and enjoy the learning experience. Similarly, engaged learners are more likely to perform well in the course itself and become very good “course ambassadors”.
The relationship between learner engagement and performance
Assessment scores are a useful way to measure whether or not learners are learning. High performance on activities, like tests, is usually evidence that employees have gained new knowledge and skills from a course. But how do you predict learner performance?
The obvious answer would be by taking into account the amount of time that learners spend on studying training content. Others might suggest that previous assessment scores can help you predict learner performance. Nevertheless, research has found that learner engagement is a stronger indicator than either of those for predicting someone’s learning performance.
This correlation points to more than just high test scores. When highly engaged learners have the opportunity to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills in the workplace, they are more likely to perform better on their job. Improved course and job performance combine for a positive return on that training investment.
Engaging learners boosts training (and business) ROI
Engaging learners on all four levels, as discussed in the previous Chapter, takes some careful planning. Fortunately, the many benefits of full-scale learner engagement make this effort well worth it.
Engaged learners are more likely to enjoy learning, thus stay committed to completing their courses. They are also more likely to engage with other learners and spread their newly acquired knowledge through peer-to-peer interaction.
The importance of learner engagement and its positive impact are not limited to the training experience. Highly engaged learners usually become deeply engaged employees. They also feel appreciated, positively challenged, and better equipped to follow their personal development path successfully.
So, what happens when employees are happy, motivated, and driven toward self-development? They become more efficient, more productive, and less likely to take all of their sick leave days. By exercising direct and positive influence on the organization’s bottom line, you can obviously maximize your training’s ROI.
However, the benefits of learner engagement are not exclusive to the organization. Being highly engaged in training also benefits learners significantly.
The importance of learner engagement for learners
It is hard to ignore that, without learners, there would be no reason to deliver any training. That makes the learner a top priority in course design and development.
A learner’s level of engagement determines their commitment to completing their courses and gaining new knowledge and skills. Here’s what happens when learner engagement increases:
Lower dropout rates
Many organizations make their training compulsory for employees. But despite the compulsory nature of some courses – like compliance training – when learners decide they don’t want to learn, there’s very little to be done about it. Courses that pack engaging content keep learners interested, involved, and eager to complete their training successfully.
Higher retention of knowledge
As the saying goes, “Tell me, and I forget, teach me, and I remember, involve me, and I learn”. Learners who are not engaged might tick all the boxes, like watching videos, reading notes, and even participating in discussion forums. But no matter how good their intentions, as long as they’re disengaged, they won’t remember a thing. Engaged learners are mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally involved in their courses, they absorb new knowledge better and are more likely to retain it.
Improved learner performance
Organizations provide their employees with opportunities to learn and develop, so that they become better at their job. But disengaged learners are not very likely to gain knowledge that is deep and substantial. Therefore, they aren’t able to successfully apply it to their work.
Learners that commit to investing themselves in their training program not only perform better at their job but increase their chances at personal growth and moving up the organizational ladder. While these benefits apply to all learners, there are many work-specific benefits that come with employees being highly engaged in their online training.
How engagement positively affects the workplace
Reaping the benefits of being engaged and leveraging learner engagement’s positive influence on employees leads to a more constructive workplace. This is achieved by:
● Building a culture of learning: Engaged employees are more likely to encourage their colleagues to participate in learning, too. These “learning ambassadors” are also willing to assist any colleague that asks for their help. That way, they help instill a culture of learning among employees and across the workplace.
● Promoting communication and collaboration: Learners that are engaged in a course often participate in social learning activities, like discussions or webinars. Such online engagement fosters communication and collaboration among employees, even those who might not have been engaged otherwise.
● Triggering workplace creativity: The first level of engagement involves proactively thinking of effective learning strategies. Simply put, cognitive engagement means that employees become creative with the way they learn. These sharpened creative skills could then be applied to other aspects of work, like contributing ideas for new products or improved ways to streamline processes.
● Boosting employee efficiency: Engaged learners are motivated to complete their courses and perform well along the way. That often requires problem-solving skills used to comprehend challenging content and improve performance. They are also eager to use their new skills in the workplace. By solving problems to learn, they sharpen their problem-solving skills and become better at their day-to-day job.
● Fostering personal development: Today, millennials are on their way to dominating the workforce. By engaging in learning, both socially and emotionally, these young employees benefit from self-development and personal growth. That results in more highly-skilled and happy employees.
● Providing rewarding experiences: Engaging training content is a way of empowering learning. When employees are engaged on all levels, they begin to hold themselves accountable for meeting milestones and achieving performance goals. And reaching their goals provides them with a sense of personal achievement. To put it simply, it makes them happier, and studies have shown that happy employees are 12% more productive than their unhappy colleagues.
What is the impact of disengagement?
It is difficult to argue against learner engagement when there are so many obvious benefits. Still, improving learner engagement is not always a priority for organizations and training providers. That can lead to negative implications because disengaged learners usually are:
● psychologically detached,
● passive learners, and
● unwilling to expend effort on training activities.
None of these characteristics are good for morale or performance during training. And since they are not learning as much as they should, disengaged learners are also poorly equipped to apply new skills in the workplace.
Avoiding learner disengagement
Learner engagement is as good for learners as it is for employees, and the business itself. However, the world today bombards us with changing expectations, distracting technology and multiple channels of digital communication. That makes it harder to keep learners engaged and reap all the benefits that come with learner engagement.
In the following chapter, we will discuss creative ways to avoid disengagement and overcome the challenges of keeping learners engaged at work.