Adjusting your course to better fit the needs of your learners may not be as complicated as you think.

Have you ever signed up for a course on a subject you really cared about, only to find yourself losing motivation after a couple weeks, even though the content is as good as ever? Being honest, this is probably most of us. Losing motivation once things get “hard” is a common struggle. But sometimes the difficulty isn’t the problem. Sometimes it has more to do with the delivery method, or being overwhelmed by updates, or feeling alone and invisible.

Fortunately, these are all issues that you can address directly with your course. By customizing the learner experience, you can tap into learner motivations, support learners during their slumps and struggles, and create a course that dovetails neatly with their preferred learning environment. Here’s how.

1. What are your goals and motivations?

Why is your learner taking your course? It would be hard to find a learner who couldn’t give you an instant answer to that question, even if that answer is “I have to for my job.” Even a work requirement can be attached to a deeper and more meaningful motivation—”I need this certification so that I can be considered for a promotion,” for instance.

Keeping a learner engaged starts with focusing their attention on the reasons they signed up for your course in the first place. Ask them to define the big “why” behind their decision to enroll, and then come back to that throughout the course. Help them remember why they’re there.

How to customize the learner experience:

  • Ask them to write words of encouragement to their future self, then put those into automated emails to remind them of their motivations.
  • Have your learners select which motivations most match their own from a list, and use those to tailor blog content or review quizzes.
  • Make a note of your learner’s response and offer personal check-ins along the way via video call.

2. What pace do you want to set for yourself?

Some learners are highly motivated and plan to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Others may be just as motivated, but are going to struggle to find more than a few minutes a day to move forward. If you’re delivering content at a rate of fifteen minutes a day, the first group of learners will become bored and drop out. And if you expect learners to sign in for an hour or more at a time, they will grow discouraged and burn out early.

You can address this both by adjusting the pace of your course to fit their needs, and matching learners with similar motivations and availability together. Low-key learners may enjoy the social aspect of building relationships for the long-term, while fast-paced learners may feel stimulated by the competition.

How to customize the learner experience:

  • Create different drip-feed schedules based on the pace a learner selects.
  • Place them in different groups with peers who are setting a similar pace.
  • Use gamification to let them set how many “points” they want to earn a week.

3. How do you like to study?

No, we’re not talking about learning styles. We’re talking about routine building. Successful learners rely on a regular routine to have productive study sessions. Maybe they have five minutes every day in the morning to practice French while they’re waiting for their coffee to brew. Or perhaps they sign on in the evening, after the kids are in bed, and they finally have a solid chunk of peaceful time to focus on their writing assignment.

For the first learner, a study reminder that goes out at 10am will be too late to help them. And for the latter, short study prompts throughout the day will likely only get in their way as they try to clear their other tasks so they can focus on their learning. You want both timing and content to better match what your learners can actually handle, so that they successfully turn it into a habit.

How to customize the learner experience:

  • Automate a study reminder to go out when their preferred study time comes around.
  • Offer short bits of learning material throughout the day, or larger sessions wi the material grouped together.
  • Create a streak tracker to help learners build a routine.

4. What support do you need to keep going?

Every learner will hit a point where they’re stumbling and need a hand. The thing you need to know is: what response will motivate them to get back on their feet. A timely intervention when a learner first starts to show signs that they’re slowing down can do more than a fair-weather pep talk.

Learner support comes in all different forms, from simple reminders to in-person interventions. Let your learner know what support options are available to them, and have them specify which you’d like them to use.

How to customize the learner experience:

  • Have the learner specify what study trigger they need to keep going.
  • Offer supplementary materials to help them through areas where they seem to be struggling.
  • Prompt them to schedule a call with you after a certain number of days go by without them completing a quiz.

Knowing how a learner wants to learn can help you deliver a better course experience.

Children largely have their learning experiences guided by the adults in charge of their education. However, as learners get older, these controlled environments can be powerfully demotivating. Adult learners want ownership over their learning environment, and delivering that is much more within the reach of adult educators than many may realize.

Customization always takes extra work. But if the results are greater learner satisfaction, more word-of-mouth referrals, and greater engagement and completion of your course, it’s well worth the effort. In the end, the work you put in up-front work will pay you better dividends in the long run.

Laura Lynch photo

About Laura Lynch

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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