Making eLearning more engaging for your learners

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Written by Duncan Brown on 4 July 2014 in Features

With interactive video you can contain all the learning with supporting information in one viewing experience, Duncan Brown says

Digital video games are now firmly established as the most popular form of entertainment generating an astonishing £1bn revenue in the UK last year (Guardian January 2014).
They are made absorbing, challenging and compulsive, not by chance but by the application of huge amounts of skill and artistry by skilled professionals who understand how to capture players’ imaginations through strong narrative and character progression and keep them coming back for more.
Surely some of these elements could be brought to bear in eLearning? According to Laura Overton of Towards Maturity in her talk 'Engaging the disengaged', learner engagement is the key to successful eLearning.
She states: “44 per cent of L&D leaders say their staff are reluctant to engage with online learning” and yet “75 per cent of learners are happy to engage with online learning without prompting”. This suggests that it isn’t the delivery method that’s the problem but the content that companies are trying to deliver.
Overton says that there is an interest and hunger in learning and technology which isn't being served effectively and research carried out by Towards Maturity suggest that one major impediment stopping staff from learning online is uninspiring content. This is perhaps not surprising when 45 per cent of L&D content follows the text with a 'click next' model. 
If computer games are the most popular form of entertainment and the 'click next' eLearning model is ineffective how do we identify the most popular way to learn? Paul Clothier, chief learning guru at TapLearn, says we just need to look at online habits.
Youtube is the second most popular search engine because people, after Google, like to get their information in short video format. Clothier is convinced that video is a highly preferred media for learning. The stats bear him out. YouTube receives 250,000 visits per second with 4 billion hours of content viewed per month. With more than a trillion views of video in 2012 (140 views each for everyone on the planet) YouTube is doing something right. People like to learn through video and on YouTube you can find learning on virtually any subject you can imagine.
So how effective is video as a learning medium? US research group, Brandon Hall, polled more than 300 training professionals in 2011 and found that video is used in training specifically because it achieves high levels of engagement and is a highly effective means of learning.
Videos are great for learning but watching video is a passive experience, they are interesting and engaging, but the viewer does not participate or interact. This is still the lecture model of learning albeit with pictures. But it doesn’t have to be.
Dr Itiel Dror, well known for his work in human performance & cognition, said: “Making training and technology interactive is important for a variety of cognitive reasons. When the users are properly-cognitively involved, engaged, and challenged the outcomes make technology interactive and brain friendly
“Rather than passively watching a video, have the learners actively take part throughout the entire video; for example, recognizing and determining errors and hazards, answering questions (short, multiple choice, etc.), and so forth.”
Interacting with video increases attention, engagement, recall, and satisfaction. Most available interactive video content has been developed for marketing purposes but now, because it can be scored, it can be used in eLearning
One of the many advantages of having interactivity within the video itself is that it combines high-level, attention-getting information with more detailed background information. You can use narrative video to pique interest and cover broad ideas—and use the embedded links to provide more information. The video forms the “hub” or learning portal for a module. It can get the viewer’s attention and keep them engaged for longer. As the video progresses the viewer can interact with it through hidden or visible hotspots to explore other videos, text, audio, graphics anything you care to provide. Each interaction with a hotspot can be scored through an LMS ending the separation between learning & testing.
The traditional 'Click next' eLearning model with the occasional video added to add interest and variety becomes redundant. With interactive video you can contain all the learning with supporting information in one viewing experience. A much more immersive & engaging experience similar to a computer game.
Using point of view filming and real footage from real working environments reflects viewers’ actual experiences. This ‘game like’ experience is very different from the smorgasbord that traditional eLearning offers. Add navigation controls like arrows and the viewer can move around the scene. 
Online interactive video costs are similar to those of linear (ie: non interactive) video which has halved in the last decade. This of course means this is not only an engaging but also a cost effective option.
About the author

Duncan Brown is director of Outtakes. He can be contacted via


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