4 Forward-thinking ways to facilitate online learning 

5 minute read

Launching online learning effectively is a tough task for any team. Follow these tips to engage learners with your course curriculum or academic conference.

Schools, businesses, and associations alike have all felt the effects of the pandemic., So, finding creative ways to support online learning has become essential to organizations with academic missions and educational events. 

If you’re an academic event planner or teaching professional, you’ve likely seen first-hand how versatile virtual tools can be. What began as a situational necessity for some has become a highly valued resource, and now thousands of organizations are searching for ways to take their own online learning strategies to the next level. 

So, whether you’re a professor hoping to boost your students’ virtual engagement or an association event manager looking to impress your members at your next conference, all virtual learning planners can benefit from these techniques. 

To maximize the success of your next online learning experience, we’ll cover the following instructional design strategies

  1. Combat shortening attention spans with microlearning. 
  2. Engage your audience with interactive and personalized content. 
  3. Optimize your course materials for mobile use. 
  4. Leverage the digital medium with graphics and video. 

There’s no need to hold onto those dusty textbooks for students or print out hundreds of pages for your attendees. Once you’ve learned how best to administer your own online learning materials, you’ll be stunned at how truly flexible, engaging, and effective these tools can be. 

1. Combat shortening attention spans with microlearning. 

Your audience may be a large group of young students or a team of association professionals. While these groups will be learning different lessons and require different materials, there’s one characteristic that both of these groups have in common: limited attention spans. 

The internet and instantaneous access to different media have made it difficult for anyone to maintain their attention for extended periods of time. Even the most dedicated learners may struggle to make their way through a session or lesson plan that’s administered in large, unwieldy chunks. 

As a teacher, once you’ve developed your curriculum and begin to organize your course materials, make the most of your audience members’ time and focus by assembling manageable mini-lessons and widgets. This might include infographics, short quizzes, and even smaller reading sections. These are all examples of microlearning, and the goal of this technique is to pack a large amount of important, skill-building data into easily consumable packages. 

Or, using these same, bite-sized engagement tools, academic event attendees will be able to quickly and easily grasp important takeaways from educational sessions. This means the community at your next scholarly conference will be better prepared to engage with your material and participate in the experience. 

2. Engage your audience with interactive and personalized content. 

One major limitation of physical materials, such as course textbooks or a conference book of proceedings, is that there’s no way to really interact with them beyond flipping a page and scribbling in the margins. Digital materials don’t have the same limitations. 

While it’s difficult for any online learning to be made completely personalized and interactive for each user, there are features available that could help you to individualize the experience and deepen engagement.

For example, ensure that highlighting, bookmarking, and note-taking are possible for your learners. By enabling these basic interactivity features, users can add their own comments, reactions, and tips to increase their understanding of the material. Quizzes are a particularly strong interactive widget to help personalize your content as well. They not only add a fun level of gamification to your course materials, but quiz questions and results can direct users to areas of the text they might’ve personally struggled with. 

Even further, Fonteva’s article on association member engagement suggests ways that association event organizers can use the data from their online learning platforms to increase engagement during their learning events. 

Information such as what sessions are most popular, how far learners made it through particular lessons, and similar metrics can all help you to better organize your conferences (or online courses) for maximum success. 

3. Optimize your course materials for mobile use. 

With every passing year, mobile usage grows. More people now turn to their phones as their main channel to access the internet. Studies show that, as of 2021, over 85% of adults own a smartphone. And 15% rely on these mobile devices, rather than broadband, for online access within their own homes. So, while you may have designed your online learning for desktop, you should anticipate that some of your audience might need access through their phones. 

If you plan on organizing your own course materials and hosting them on your institution’s website, some association and school website creators provide dedicated features for mobile optimization. However, you may also consider investing in a dedicated online learning platform. This would house your various course materials in a single, centralized location so that your learners won’t be redirected to off-site content or resource links. On top of that, some online learning platforms even have companion apps for a completely optimized mobile experience. 

4. Leverage the digital medium with graphics and video. 

From streaming entire movies on Netflix to watching a dozen thirty-second clips on YouTube, your audience likely spends countless hours engaging with various digital media. In comparison to all of these dazzling and highly engaging channels, it’s no wonder that a student or attendee could quickly fall behind when asked to keep up with their prep material.

Through online learning, these same media that your audience enjoys for hours at a time can be leveraged to enrich your lesson plans. Short demos, micro-lectures, videos, and infographics can be added to your digital course materials or conference content to increase engagement both before and during your events. 

For instructors and professors, this might mean that students are more likely to actively participate in class, perform better on examinations, and enrich the classroom environment. For event professionals, this would mean that their audience is more invested in their sessions, and member retention and acquisition are likely to increase as a result. Either way, utilizing the power of different visual media can be highly beneficial towards your own institution’s engagement goals.  

Online Learning for the Future

Over the course of the past year, there have been radical changes to how conferences, lectures, and classes are being conducted. Maybe you were one of the individuals swept up in these changes, or maybe you’ve been managing online learning and hosting virtual conferences for years prior to our new normal. 

Either way, these intuitive strategies will help you to engage, educate, and retain your audience in ways that are nearly impossible through a physical medium.

Further Resources…

For more information on how these multimedia elements can be implemented into your online course materials, check out Skyepack’s guide to digital course materials. This resource provides a number of other multimedia widgets you can use, such as animation and embedded assessments, and breaks down how online learning materials can be used to create a more affordable, engaging, and convenient educational experience for your audience. 

Or, for more information on planning academic conferences (both online and off), you can check out additional articles on the blog at Ex Ordo.


This guest post was submitted by Austin Bates, Director of Operations & Instructional Design at Skyepack. Born and raised in Texas, Austin learned at an early age the importance of dedication to a craft. During his Masters pursuit at Texas A&M University in Educational Technology, Austin began to question “Why not create better ways to teach in the online environment?” Skyepack soon became his catalyst for this new paradigm in online instruction. He is valued for his abilities to plan course designs, implement powerful teaching technology, and execute daily production assignments. In his spare time, Austin enjoys biking, watching football, and making every minute count.