What is engagement? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, engagement is “a promise to meet or be present at a particular place and time”.
Although this provides a good (and ironic) starting point for discussion, how we define engagement as related to learning is much more complex.
And it’s a question that anyone responsible for designing an effective learning experience, or participating in one for that matter, should be asking themselves.
In this episode of the Leading Learning Podcast, Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele discuss the topic of learner engagement, including what it is and a 3-part framework for fostering it.
Listen to the Show
Read the Show Notes
[00:18] –A reminder to check out the upcoming Leading Learning event, Learning • Technology • Design (LTD) to be held May 18-19, 2016 in Arlington, VA. The event is designed specifically to help professionals in the business of continuing education and professional development find new and better ways to engage learners and create lasting impact through the effective use of technology.
[01:55] – It’s recommended that you take a few moments to think about how you would define engagement.
Celisa shares how she defines engagement and starts by citing the definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary: a promise to meet or be present at a particular place and time.
She explains that this is the bare minimum that we would hope for related to learner engagement and talks about how, ideally, learners would be fully present and actively participate in the learning experience.
[05:22] – Jeff builds on Celisa’s definition saying that he defines engagement as a bridge between motivation and learning.
The point is made that engagement can happen in any environment, whether physical or digital because fundamentally everything is the same.
[07:14] – Jeff stresses that engagement is not equivalent to social interaction and that you can’t always see engagement.
[08:12] – Jeff shares some examples to explain how the barriers and benefits related to engagement might differ based on the context.
Components to Fostering Engagement
[09:52] – Celisa and Jeff share three components to foster or encourage (not create) engagement:
- Make sure the experience is relevant.
You can do this by observing or by directly asking but when observing, you need to create scenarios to do this and collect data over time. Related to asking, you need to do so artfully because asking certain questions won’t yield useful data.
- Build ways that encourage learners to take action and focus that action so that they can apply, elaborate on the knowledge, and make connections (i.e. discussion groups, relevant independent work).
Additional tips to engage learners such as a well-chosen question and note-taking by hand rather than typing.
Jeff also talks about the idea of learner responsibility and says that this needs to be a cultural shift in organizations.
See our episode The Trend That Isn’t: Learner Responsibility.
- Make it possible for the learner to see results/outcomes and to provide meaningful feedback around those.
Note that if you pose a powerful question, it’s helpful to give substantive feedback related to the learner’s response.
[19:50] –Implications related to this framework for achieving engagement:
- Organizations need to be much more intentional in thinking about how they foster engagement.
- You have to model engagement with facilitators/teachers so that they can do it effectively with learners down the line.
- If you are a serious learning provider/practitioner, you need to be engaged in reflection around your own learning experiences.
Note that the three points covered that set the stage for engagement all need to be wrapped within a context of iteration.
Jeff encourages you to mentally or physically take some notes about not only what was discussed on this podcast, but also how you are going to apply this to your day-to-day work and what results you are going to be looking for.
[23:51] – Wrap-Up
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[25:50] – Sign off