Connecting With Your Audience: 5 Strategies for Courses that Create Loyal Fans
In this post, I'm sharing some of my favorite strategies for connecting with your audience. If you're new to course creation, here's some more articles that cover the basics:
For me it was always history and English--- I just loved these subjects when I was in school. Algebra though? Not so much. Calculus? Even worse. Like many students who were less than mathematically inclined, I repeated the refrain “when am I ever going to use this?” more times than I could count. I’m sure you could argue that memorizing Chinese dynasties or diagramming sentences was not particularly useful either-- but the point is, perceived relevance is so important to learners.
For adult learners seeking professional development, this is even more true. As online course creators, we have to grapple with the fact that our students have many, many options when it comes to training programs. Therefore, we have to design our courses with the needs and desires of our students in mind.
So how can we make sure that our content comes across as both relevant and engaging? Scroll down for a few of my favorite tips.
1- Be clear on how your training will help them
Adult learners usually turn to online courses because they are trying to solve a problem or tackle an immediate goal. Giving your audience a really clear sense of how your training will help them achieve their objectives will not only help you drive sales, but it will also help you maintain their interest throughout the program.
It’s a good idea to remind learners of the value of your course at various points in the material. In addition to simply telling them what you’re going to teach (“after this lesson, you’ll be able to design a kick-ass sales page” for example), you’ll also want to help them visualize their success.
You can inspire your students through telling your own story, providing a case study of someone who succeeded using the materials in your course, or by inviting them to share their goals for how they’ll implement the content themselves.
The key is to focus on the transformation and highlight exactly how your course will help them achieve their goals.
2- Encourage Community
Your audience is made up of diverse people with a wide range of skills and experiences. Incorporating these experiences into your program can create a richer experience and higher levels of engagement.
Regardless of whether your course is live or recorded, in person or online, I believe that you’ll greatly enhance the learner experience by providing a place for learners to interact with both their instructor and their fellow students.
Because it’s so ubiquitous, the easiest and most effective way to do this is typically to create a Facebook group for the participants in your program. I’ve found that groups are much more effective when they are actively moderated. Try creating pinned discussions around important topics. Tag new members of your group in a weekly welcome post. Host online “office hours” on Facebook Live weekly.
3- Incorporate Real World Exercises
If you’ve ever been a teacher (or even taken an education class) you’ve undoubtedly encountered Bloom’s Taxonomy. Basically, it’s like the 1990’s eat all the bread you want food pyramid of acquiring knowledge.
At the base of the pyramid, you’ve got foundational level learning-- basic remembering and understanding. These are important as a starting point, but they typically aren’t the end objective for adult learners. Most of our learners are not cramming for a test or simply trying to remember some facts. Rather, they want to develop a sophisticated set of skills that they can use to enhance their lives, careers, or businesses.
To help them achieve these goals, we have to move up the pyramid and design materials that support higher level learning.
The number one way to do this? Incorporate real-world materials and exercises into your curriculum. This gives your learners a chance to use their new skills in a realistic way. Try creating case studies and asking students what they would have done in that situation. Give them a first draft of a document to critique or incorporate scenario-based activities into your course. Depending on your content, you may even be able to create worksheets and job aids that help your students start applying what they’ve learned straight away.
4- Provide Relevant, Actionable Feedback
Help set your learners up for success by providing feedback that will help them apply what they’ve learned. If you’re teaching a very large group, it may not be feasible to answer all of your students’ questions or provide 1:1 coaching. That said, it is still possible to provide them useful feedback.
Try creating an index of frequently asked questions to help you knock out email inquiries quickly. The online office hours mentioned above are another great option for answering questions in a way that your full audience can benefit from. If you’re teaching live, you may also be able to show example student work and provide feedback on it for the whole class.
5- Find Your Authentic Voice
Your learners value connection & community. Be genuine. Let your personality come through in your teaching. Try to speak to your learners as if you were speaking to a friend-- it really helps create a strong sense of connection and a more engaged audience!
Have you tried any of these techniques? What do you do to keep your audience engaged?
I’m an instructional designer providing eCourse solutions for creative entrepreneurs. My focus is on helping you learn how to talk to your audience and validate your programs to take the uncertainty out of launching.
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