• Irina Ketkin

How to Increase Learner Engagement


As Learning & Development professionals, we all dream of more engaged learners, who are excited to take up any course or piece of learning we offer and get completely immersed in it.

Let’s be real though: it’s very rare that a learner typically even finishes a course, let alone soak up every last drop of knowledge and is fully engaged throughout the whole thing. One can dream though, right?

While it’s true that engagement levels can never be as high as we L&D folks would like to, there are tips you can apply, which will help you raise them a bit. (And keep them high!)


What is learner engagement?


Learner engagement implies that the learner is actively participating in the learning process instead of just skimming through for the sake of program completion and getting it over with.


To ensure learning takes place, we need engagement. An engaged learner:

  • Makes effort in problem-solving

  • Assures active participation

  • Is enthusiastic and positive

  • Enjoys learning and reflecting on the skills learned


Benefits of learner engagement


Hugely engaged learners complete learning programs successfully and are also better at retaining that knowledge and as a result, are also better performers.


Higher learner engagement has also a positive impact on the workplace. The changes can be seen in terms of the following:


Creativity: As the employees learn new skills effectively, they try to apply them in different aspects of their work. For instance, they may take initiatives in suggesting improvements for various existing processes and strategies of the company and may even try to provide ideas for new projects.


Learning culture: When learners are excited about what they are learning, they become ‘torch bearers’ of the learning program. They motivate their peers to learn too. Seeing them performing more efficiently and their enhanced productivity, others are also inspired to get involved in the learning.


Improved communication and cooperation: When you learn something enthusiastically, you tend to discuss it with peers. The discussion could happen verbally, over forums or action learning activities which lead to collaboration among people.


How to increase learner engagement


So what can you do to effectively increase learner engagement and keep it high to reap the positive benefits for the organization?


tip #1: Set specific goals


The goals of the program should be relatable to learners’ short- and long-term career goals. If there is some relation between program goals and learners’ personal goals, they will be emotionally invested in the learning as it helps them in personal growth too.

You should introduce the program goals in the beginning so that learners can relate to them and know in advance what is expected from them.


tip #2: Apply good pedagogy


We should try to adapt the program style depending on learner needs and goals. For example, if interpersonal skills are to be learned, then a webinar would be a preferable program style. And let’s say if HTML is to be learned, then a website or LMS with tutorials and video content would be more appropriate.


tip #3: Keep it creative and interesting


For example, if slides are involved and the program is about sales then keep the slides graphical and relevant. That would help you represent multidimensional data (various time zones, multiple variables, etc.) in a single graph without writing multiple lines to do the same. As graphs are self-explanatory with minimal text, you can move through swiftly and promote engagement as understanding comparisons in graphical form is easier than reading a lot of text.


tip #4: Keep content accessible


The learning content should be easily available to the learner. The learning should be made flexible in terms of anytime, anyplace, anywhere learning.

If activities like projects, case studies, etc. are involved, then learners should have control over when, where, and how they are going to implement the skills.

They should also have the opportunity to explore learning content on their own. For instance, if the program is about improving communication skills, learners may be told about “Toastmasters” clubs that they can then explore on their own and improve their presentation skills.


tip #5: Provide constructive feedback


We should aim to provide developmental feedback in a constructive and delicate way. It ensures they are more receptive to the inputs given. And they can apply them immediately to improve their performance.


tip #6: Use experiential learning


We should try to introduce experiential learning wherever possible because that highlights default behaviors and improves self-awareness.

For example, W3schools uses “Tryit Editor” for HTML tutorials. The way it works is they give you the tags and an explanation of what they do. And in the editor, you can simultaneously try it out and see how the code works in real-time. This makes learning more interesting and easier to follow.


tip #7: Make it social


Focus on providing multiple diverse platforms and mechanisms for learners to have a voice. The ability to have discussions, ask questions, provide suggestions, raise concerns, and get involved in decision-making can improve learner engagement.

It also creates and boosts a learner-driven support system, which nurtures learning and spreads positivity in the workplace.


tip #8: Make it fun


Meg Whitman rightly said, “If you have fun at your job, you are going to be more effective”. So, try to make it more fun. While doing so, we still need to keep in mind that fun is not the main purpose here, it’s making learning more engaging and effective as a result. Unnecessary or irrelevant fun activities will distract from the learning process.

For example, if a program is about project planning, then to demonstrate common mistakes while planning, we could use real-world case studies that show how poor planning led to project failures. Instead, if we use an interesting case study about how lousy project testing led to delays in project completion, it would sure be fun but irrelevant and distracting.


What tried-and-tested tips do you have for boosting learner engagement? Let us know in the comments!