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5 Tips to Design a Surprising and Engaging Online Course

A student engaged with an online course

Are you interested in keeping your students engaged while taking your online course?

The answer should be a resounding “yes” if you’re an online course creator in a hyper-competitive market.

What I’ve discovered is that if you put in a few surprises in your course, you’ll be sure to keep your students on their toes. And, you’ll enhance their learning experience, too.

If you’re interested in learning how to make online learning more engaging then stick around. Below, you will find 5 course creation & online teaching tips and tricks on how to design a digital course that offers more surprises and engagement.

1. Change Up the Online Learning Format and Delivery

It might be easier to use the same lessons and methods for your online course. But, ask yourself this: does it feel fun to you? If it doesn’t, then it might not be enjoyable for your students either.

Your audience will expect slides filled with information. A monotonous delivery. One, maybe two exercises.

Surprise students by flipping the script when they least expect it. Instead of a predictable exercise, throw in a game at the end of a module. Where possible, provide an incentive such as a bonus lesson or extra credit.

two women, laughing and having fun with a computer

Kahoot! is a wonderful platform that offers game-based learning. Instructors can create questionnaires and discussions to augment their content.

Don’t be afraid to use digital education tools to enhance your efforts and build a captivating online course. For instance, Glogster produces interactive posters with animated graphics and sounds. Animoto helps create impactful videos to present your key lessons.

All these eLearning tools are great ways to present content to your students with a twist, and are a surefire way to create engaging online courses!

2. Use Stories to Engage and Create Excitement

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.”

Robert McKee

Storytelling is the most basic form of teaching. 

For centuries, people have used stories to pass down knowledge. Stories provide meaning to information and connect students with the content. It’s always a pleasant surprise when a teacher shares a story that ties concepts together.

So, tell personal stories or incorporate relevant stories about well-known people your audience would know and respect. Use stories to trigger emotions so that the lessons are more memorable.

A wall with neon lights stating, "we are all made of stories"

Remember, stories transport students into another world. They give them a small break from their reality, open up their minds and keep them motivated.

Consider incorporating some mysterious stories into your modules. Give your students clues to the next lesson. Let them work towards solving a problem which will be another challenge.

And if you are successful at keeping your students engaged until the end, that’s a great surprise for you, too!

3. Add Social and Interactive Elements

Students will expect that they will have to listen to lectures and take notes. So, change it up and make their learning fun and interactive!

The traditional ways to interact include asking for feedback or having Q&A sessions.

You can use these…. but take things up a notch.

Host live webinars during the eLearning course so that students can ask questions in real-time. While you might not be in a classroom setting, this is an ideal way to interact because students get to know you and one another while learning the material.

Consider inviting a speaker. Your audience will love to get the perspective of other experts, hear their stories, and ask them questions.

Make the interaction social. Create discussion forums on Facebook and other platforms. Remember, interaction builds community.  And, these communities will thrive well after students have completed the course.

If your topic doesn’t have prerequisites, then give your students choices. Guide them with recommendations, but let them choose the order of the lessons and the modules. This will help them feel inspired and empowered.

Taking the interaction to the next level keeps your students on their toes. 

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4. Create Space for Humor and Playfulness

Students learn better when they feel comfortable. And, humor makes an online classroom more inviting. So, show your students that you’re both human and humorous.

Now, I’m not suggesting that your whole course should be a stand-up comedy routine, but make sure you let loose from time to time. Laughter is not only the best medicine; it is the best motivation.

Throw in a joke or two into your lesson or a funny story.

Laugh if a student makes a joke.

Your students will remember the material better if it’s linked to something that made them laugh and moved them inside. It’s a key component to crafting a highly engaging online course!

5. Show Up When Needed

Your students know that instructors get very busy. But, that doesn’t stop them from wanting their questions answered and receiving your feedback on their challenges.

Throughout the course, make sure that you respond to emails in the shortest time possible, even if it is within a 24-hour time frame. Give them specific times when they can reach you and also the best way that they can get in touch with you. Then, show up for them with 100% enthusiasm.

A group of students attending an online course via Zoom

Even if you don’t have an office that students can walk into, they expect the same experience they would have in a traditional school. The last thing you want is for your students to be frustrated because they can’t get their questions answered fast enough. You don’t want them to feel stuck.

Not all your students will need your added help, but even those students want to feel supported. Make them a priority, and their engagement in the course will increase tenfold.

Create Better, Engaging Online Courses By Going Above and Beyond

These 5 simple tips to keep your students engaged throughout your course. You might be surprising your students with your innovative online teaching methods, but the success of the course will come as no surprise. 

But, there’s a lot more to it than this roundup of course creation tips and tricks. Discover more of our insights and guides here on TeachToScale, connect with our Facebook community where you can discuss online teaching, and be sure to drop into our weekly Office Hours for the latest business strategies!

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