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The Changing Shape of Content: Engaging Students in Online Learning

Lisa Elliott
Lisa Elliott

Integrated Marketing Manager

The digital age has given us unprecedented access to information, it’s changed how we interact with it and the expectations we have of it. Children are no exception to this. According to Ofcom, people in the UK spend an average 3 hours and 41 minutes a day online. But for 15- to 17-year-olds, the average is 4 hours and 35 minutes, and for 11- to 12-year-olds it is 4 hours and 10 minutes.

In addition to spending more time online, children are also engaging more directly with the digital environments around them. Over three-quarters (79%) of those aged 13-to-17 are using generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools and services. The majority (89%) of UK children aged 3-to-17 also play video games, often to interact and socialise with their friends.

The reality is that children are growing up with more access to rich, appealing content and a greater ability to decide how, where and when they access it. And they are bringing these expectations into the classroom. This presents a challenge for educators, but it also creates opportunities to explore new ways to engage students with their learning experience.

Educators Under Pressure

Jisc’s Teaching staff digital experience insights survey 2022/23 surveyed over 2,000 teaching staff from UK higher education organisations. It found that while 88% of respondents produce or upload content, only 39% received guidance about the digital skills needed for their course and 28% were offered training on producing accessible digital content.

This creates pressure for teachers and tutors who want to engage students and provide optimal learning experiences that deliver results. They understand students have a different frame of reference for receiving information, and that just uploading material designed for face-to-face will not necessarily cut it. However, most educators are not coders. They do not necessarily have the skills to design interactive, highly engaging online course content.

What Makes Online Content Engaging?

Before jumping into content design, educators must first consider some key elements that make online content engaging and contribute to successful learning outcomes.

Even if they are not game designers, educators can apply game mechanics to learning activities. Badges and scores can appeal to students who want to collect everything, while levels can be enticing to students who want to see all that a game has to offer.

Another tactic is breaking down course content into more manageable, bitesize chunks and giving clear, tangible recognition when students achieve goals. This can help students to maintain concentration.

A change of format keeps things engaging, too. For example, when a learning platform supports multimedia formats, educators can upload video and audio components into their courses, and students can respond by making their own videos.

This is also an example of active learning, which encourages hands-on engagement with the material via discussions, analyses and other mediums. Using personalised learning approaches, educators can further support students’ individual learning journeys. They can make background information available for those who need it, while letting others simply skip the content. They can monitor student progress, releasing content according to student needs and offering accommodations when necessary.

Last but not least, empowering students to take ownership of their learning can have a significant impact. Using a single, cohesive learning environment can help in that it lets students see where they are going, how they are going to get there, and how they are tracking in progress along the way.

How One Institution is Creating Engaging Online Learning Content

Educators need digital tools that help them generate engaging learning content without specialised software skills.

This is something the University of Huddersfield demonstrated with a virtual escape room developed using Creator+.

The resulting fun, interactive module draws on AI-supported videos, hotspot questions and callout text boxes to display information, set challenges and create pathways through the content. In one section, flipcards reveal additional information users need to respond to later questions when they must drag and drop answers to put them in the correct categories. Dr Sue Folley, academic development advisor at the University, says: “We wanted something that was a lot easier and intuitive, that the everyday lecturer can use.”

Ready-made templates give educators support, save them time and provide the perfect foundation for course content. Educators can insert interactive elements into courses without coding and easily create and add multimedia recordings. They can also maintain design consistency, which helps to keep students on track, as inconsistent, confusing content can detract from course engagement.

Ultimately, it is about educators helping students to focus on the content and not waste time figuring out where content is or what is expected of them.

Get Started

A modern learning platform provides a single, feature-rich online learning environment that supports active, student-centred learning through engaging content and intuitive navigation and interaction. Multimedia provides interest and variety and appeals to visual learners, while collaborative tools keep students interacting and engaging with one another and tutors.

An e-learning authoring tool can support you in your quest to create engaging online content without specialist design skills. Find out more, discover Creator+ for D2L Brightspace.

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Written by:

Lisa Elliott
Lisa Elliott

Integrated Marketing Manager

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Table of Contents
  1. Educators Under Pressure
  2. What Makes Online Content Engaging?
  3. How One Institution is Creating Engaging Online Learning Content
  4. Get Started