How High Engagement at Scale℠ Yields Successful Digital Learning

September 12, 2023

Organizations of all kinds turn to online content to teach learners these days, but that doesn’t mean that digital learning experiences can just be thrown together. After all, the best algebra course or financial services training program in the world is useless if the learner loses interest before completing it. At Studion, we’ve been collaborating with mission-driven nonprofits, corporations, and higher education institutions for over a decade to build richly engaging digital learning experiences that can serve growing audiences without losing their impact and effectiveness. This work is important to us because we believe in creating a better world through healthy, empowered people. Our team’s diverse experience and expertise has helped us create experiences that engage learners and produce successful, meaningful outcomes. Our methods are reinforced by a growing body of research into the importance and benefits of engagement. (Toth, 2021) 

In order to do our work effectively, we have to know the person behind the screen; we have to bridge the gap between human needs and technology. There is no one-size-fits all approach, no single technology stack, no specific pedagogical technique that works for all learners and all organizations. The organizations we serve want and deserve efficient and effective solutions for the challenges they and their learners face, and they want to make sure they’re supporting learners so they can succeed. 

Our approach, which we call High Engagement at Scale℠ (or HE@S), incorporates a set of design principles and tools that guide the critical strategic and tactical choices every organization has to make when building a learning experience.

Using our Five Ingredients, we guide each of our clients to get to the bottom of their audience’s needs and their organization’s learning goals so that we can deliver engaging learning.

These Five Ingredients focus on the aspects of engagement that will draw learners in and motivate them to invest in their own learning and drive exceptional outcomes. And they do so at scale.

HE@S Ingredients
  • Learner-centered content: Digital learning experiences must attract and retain the learner’s attention. Therefore, the content must place the learner at the center—taking into account who that learner is likely to be—and center their needs, perspectives, life experiences, desires, and abilities.

  • Active learning: If a digital learning experience is going to engage learners at scale, it has to be purposefully designed to incorporate strategies and techniques that stimulate active learning. This encourages learners to go deeper into the information and skills they’re learning. It promotes reflection. And it can be as simple as an in-class poll or as complex as an interactive simulation, so it can be matched to each situation.  

  • Unbounded inclusion: A welcoming environment creates that crucial sense of belonging that learners need in a digital environment in order to feel comfortable actively participating with people they’ve never met face to face. Individuals’ different views, which reflect their lived experiences, should be valued as they enrich discussion and raise the level of critical thinking. 

  • Community connections: When digital learning experiences are artfully designed, peer-to-peer connections and social interactions are encouraged. This builds community, which is itself a motivator for members of a diverse group. It creates a sense of belonging and a desire among learners to advance their mastery of the material as far as possible. Importantly, communities of peers and teaching teams can also scale personal attention and feedback to more learners.

  • Real-world outcomes: A learning experience that enables students to achieve tangible results in the real world carries added motivation. Such real-world results can range from achieving career goals to skill certifications to practical knowledge that can be put to use in an individual’s everyday life. Tangible benefits acquired through digital learning experiences motivate students to engage with a sense of purpose that is grounded in and relevant to their life goals.

At Studion, we constantly explore how digital learning experiences can transform and achieve real-world results, and we’ve found that highly engaging and effective learning always incorporates a mix of these Five Ingredients. But it’s important to note that there is no single recipe. We’ve worked with nonprofits such as New Teacher Center, which provides high-quality professional development to almost two million teachers and school leaders across the U.S., to build out their digital experiences. We’ve worked with the University of Notre Dame to create college-level programs for a diverse learner group, and we’ve helped learning businesses such as the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants make an integrated digital experience to prepare for a key accounting exam. Depending on the educational context and audience, these ingredients get combined differently, considering a number of factors including the composition, abilities, and needs of the learner population, and the distinctive strengths and weaknesses of the sponsoring organization. As Senior Product Designer Matt White says, “Design is not how things are the same, it’s how they’re different. You pull out two pens, design is what makes them different. You’re creating a system that makes sense that people can follow. There’s a problem to solve, and we’re going to try to solve this problem creatively in a way that works for that learner that’s going to give them the best thing they can walk away with, the best experience they can have.”

Well-designed learning experiences incorporating these Five Ingredients deliver much higher levels of learner engagement than previously thought possible at scale.

Fundamental components and good practices combine to engage learners and support them through a successful journey of acquiring new skills, knowledge, and experience, a journey in which they are active and enthusiastic participants. We know that this can happen as well on a digital platform as it can in an intimate classroom setting; we’ve seen it happen, such as when we helped Fitch Learning, a global leader in financial services training, and transformed a predominantly classroom-based course into a globally accessible digital solution to prepare learners for the rigorous CFA® Program exam.  

With these Five Ingredients to define and measure engagement, we’re able to provide our clients with the expertise and evidence to make critical decisions more confidently. We’re building a rich data set that allows us to help our partners design better, more engaging experiences from the outset; to target ongoing investments to align with their learners’ needs and their organizational brand; to focus continuous improvement efforts more effectively; and to meaningfully benchmark learning experiences within their organization and across their competitive landscape. 

Does your learning experience meet High Engagement at Scale benchmarks?

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