How To Retain Online Learners


Research shows that people remember what they learn first. To tap into this learning engagement tool, share the goals of the session at the very beginning; make it clear what your learning audience will be able to do after the session that they couldn’t do before. This will help learners mentally settle into the session and the topic so they’re prepared to retain information.


Sixty percent of people prefer to receive information visually, so add pictures, graphs and cartoons to your presentation to illustrate your point. Steer clear of text-filled slides and use bullet points sparingly. Visuals help store information in long-term memory, so be careful to choose images that link strongly to your point.


Music has a powerful impact on the brain – it can increase focus, reduce stress and set the feel of the environment – so consider adding it to your learning sessions. To best prepare the brain for learning, play instrumental music in a major key with 60-80 beats per second.


It’s hard to sit still for long periods of time, which is often required in online learning. To keep your audience engaged when they’re getting antsy, use games and testing to provide fun interaction. Ask basic questions that only require short answers to quicken the pace.


Use stories to enhance your learning content. People connect with stories better than they can connect with learning content alone. Emotional connections help learners stay engaged and retain information, so use stories — even if they’re fictional – to explain your points.


With each point you make in your presentation, explain how learners can use the information and how doing so will benefit them. Think about answering the question “Why am I learning this?” When you make it about your learners by providing context, you keep them engaged and help them retain the information.


It’s no secret that, as humans, we long to belong. If you can create a sense of community within each training session, your attendees will feel more comfortable with and connected to the material. Starting a session by asking a question like, “Where are you attending from today?” and having attendees chat their answers helps establish a sense of community. You could also assign peer partners to check in with each other, and make sure you make yourself available to any attendee that needs additional assistance after the session.


Lecturing is boring, but learning doesn’t have to be. Let your attendees explore the topic and discover the material by interacting with it. When you let games, stories and peers move your presentation along, the subject becomes more engaging.


People remember what they learned last, so make sure to review at the end of the session. The more interactive your review is, the better it will seal the material into long-term memory so play a game or ask questions at the end of the session to review the material you’ve just presented.

2 thoughts on “How To Retain Online Learners

  1. These are some good strategies to retain online learners. Nice one Joe.

  2. Donna Bain Butler says:

    Hey Joe, these approaches have worked for me as a legal writing teacher!

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