Recent events have proven that online and remote learning are more than just transferring instruction from in-person to online formats. The human element of learning and development (L&D) does not directly translate to digital delivery; engaging learners and providing them with an authentic learning experience is even more challenging when it happens in an online environment. However, it is not impossible. In fact, it just may turn out to be fun for everyone involved.

The essence of good instructional design is the same for in-person and digital learning. It’s more about awareness. Building off of a cinematic approach, there are four things for training professionals to consider to create a distinctive digital presence for online learning: music, backgrounds, natural stopping points, and games for assessment and measurement.

1. Music

Just like a film or a television show, the training experience needs its own soundtrack. Reflect on the content, audience and intended delivery; once you have identified these three elements, selecting a soundtrack to match them is simple.

Using one of the many music streaming services available, build a soundtrack to accompany the learning experience. Make sure that the music and the lyrics (if any) align with and support the content as much as possible. Similarly, keep in mind that your training program is a professional venture. While everyone involved is an adult, you should represent your organization in the best light possible.

2. Backgrounds

Most digital videoconferencing platforms enable users to create their own backgrounds. While there are numerous ready-made backgrounds available for use, making one is not difficult. In fact, you can use almost any image as a background. Branding and identity prove to be the biggest challenges, but they are not insurmountable.

Using image manipulation tools, many of which are available at little to no cost, can give you the ability to add your organization’s logo and other branding accoutrements to the presentation background. (As with creating a soundtrack, professionalism is of the utmost importance.)

3. Natural Stopping Points

Every learning experience, just like every story, has natural pauses and stopping points. Pausing, reflecting and checking for progress is essential, and recognizing the natural places to include those moments is invaluable.

In creating a distinctive digital experience, the way you plan and present these rests, reflections and measurements makes all the difference. For example, instead of including the question, “Any questions?”, or a similar check for understanding, you might include one, or a combination, of the following questions in the training session:

    • What did you enjoy? Why? (Choose a color to communicate the answer, and explain why you chose it.)
    • What did you not enjoy? Why? (Choose a taste to communicate the answer, and explain why you chose it.)
    • What are you looking forward to in the next segment? Why? (Choose a sound or song to communicate the answer, and explain why you chose it.)
    • How are you going to implement ____ in your own learning experiences? Why? (Choose a film or TV show to communicate the answer, and explain why you chose it.)

Connecting pieces of popular culture with learners’ responses provides an opportunity for participants to use their creativity in a non-threatening way. It also helps participants connect with each other and cultivates a sense of community.

The way an instructor leverages these natural pauses and stopping points plays a key role not only in shaping the learning experience for the participants but also in cultivating and fortifying their digital presence. For example, a facilitator who overuses these blocks of time for quizzes or other checks for understanding may appear to be frenetic and worried. Similarly, one who does not use these opportunities may present themselves, unknowingly, as disinterested. The key is balance.

4. Games for Measurement and Assessment

Using games for learning and measurement is nothing new in learning and development. However, you can use the type of game, its context and its placement in the learning experiences to build a unique digital presence. Participants are more likely to remember how they felt during the experience than what they actually learned. It’s human nature.

Capitalizing on this fact, an instructor can marry emotions with content through the use of games, especially in regard to assessment and measurement. Instructors who create a unique game experience for their participants, even if the game only lasts a few minutes, help boost learners’ ability to recall the content later.

There has been much consternation lately as more and more learning and development experiences have had to migrate online, but this shift is more than just a technological challenge. Instructors must communicate their personality and presence more actively in these contexts.

One of the fastest ways to overcome this challenge is to ask yourself, “What will this learning experience look like in a remote setting?” Answering this question provides the first, pivotal step in creating a distinctive digital presence.