4 Ways to Engage Learners During Continuing Education Live Events
How well do your continuing education (CE) live meetings engage learners? Just because nobody nods off during a meeting doesn’t mean that the content is as engaging as it could be – or that learners are actually learning.
In planning your meetings, you probably cover the fundamentals. Booking experienced speakers and addressing contemporary topics are important. But so are factors like:
- Presenting the content in a compelling format that demands attention
- Collecting data on the learner experience and using it to plan future events
- Setting goals and deploying infrastructure to determine whether you’ve met them
- Exploring new formats, styles, and interaction strategies
In the absence of such efforts, CE events become predictable affairs with the same configurations and the same results. Changing the status quo isn’t always easy. It often requires rigorous experimentation and the ability to translate success into quantifiable metrics. However, the results are compelling: more engaged learners, stronger identification with your brand, and results that have a positive real-world impact.
Here’s are four ways to make it happen:
1. Determine what it means to provide a “successful” experience.
What does it mean for a live event to be a success? Different education providers will have different responses, but the idea that learners should walk away having learned something of value to their professional practice is universal. That being the case, a successful experience should tick one or more of the following boxes:
- Relevant to the learner
- Influences the learner’s professional practice
- Impacts people (other than the learner) in a positive way
- Inspires the learner to innovate or explore
- Imparts new skills to the learner that he or she can teach to others
One way to meet some of these success benchmarks is to follow up with learners several weeks after an event. For example, a continuing medical education (CME) provider might send learners a post-activity outcomes survey. Learners receive this survey six to eight weeks after attending a meeting, fill it out, and inform the provider as to the success of the event.
Maybe the content influenced their practice but hasn’t shown a real-world impact on patients. Or maybe it has! Maybe they’ve noticed improvement in patient health thanks to insights provided by the activity.
The only way to know is to ask.
You can also draw on learner evaluation and survey responses to inform future live meetings. Based on learners’ comments, you can decide whether a given format or presentation style is engaging and relevant.
You’ll also find out if an event met other benchmarks for success.
2. Turn learners into participants.
After thinking about content delivery formats, you’ve decided that you have two options:
- A series of talks delivered by one person with a Powerpoint presentation
- A series of events that encourages group discussions, games, movement around a lecture hall, and trivia contests related to your industry.
Which format do you think will result in higher learner engagement?
Even when your learners are professionals (physicians, attorneys, accountants) involved in a professional undertaking (continuing professional education), that doesn’t mean they require their meetings to be solemn affairs. In fact, they’ve probably attended plenty of meetings that were serious to the point of being dull. Your meetings don’t have to be that way.
Instead, you can make each learner feel like a participant, not just another person who filled a seat. Examples of interactive CE presentation formats include:
- a Jeopardy-style game that helps child neurologists assess their knowledge of the latest autism-spectrum disorder research
- case-based scenarios in which learners work as teams to develop diagnoses
- a session that requires learners to move to different areas of a meeting hall, complete various challenges, and share results with a group.
Compared to a typical speaker/PowerPoint format, all of these options require learners to engage with the content from beginning to end. They also treat learners as participants and give them more of a stake in their own learning.
3. Structure presentations around a learning model.
According to one senior manager at an organization that provides career development opportunities to engineers, structuring presentations around a learning model helps learners retain information. The right model can also encourage critical analysis, simulate real-world decision-making, and encourage change on the job.
The bottom line: Presentation structure matters. Having presenters follow a proven model can do wonders for increasing CE learner engagement.
One example is the Appreciative Inquiry model, which encourages learners to:
- Identify existing strengths
- Imagine new possibilities (provided they’re presented with new information, of course)
- Create a solution to a problem using the new information
- Commit to an exploration or application of the acquired knowledge in their own practice.
Step 3 in this model opens up a wealth of opportunities for participatory learning. Learners can collaborate with peers around example cases or envision their own scenarios in which the new knowledge could be useful.
The right learning model will encourage active learning, expanding the possibilities for knowledge retention and real-world application.
4. Only provide credit to learners who attend from beginning to end.
Another way to boost engagement is to embrace learning technologies that automate the request for credit process. Why? Because doing so ensures that learners stay (and participate!) for an entire event in order to receive credit.
Just consider how most hospitals process credit for learners who attend regularly scheduled series (RSS). Learners add their name to an attendance sheet. The sheet makes its way to an administrator who enters the names into a spreadsheet. Later on, administrators use that spreadsheet to manually award credit to learners.
This process is cumbersome for administrators. It also doesn’t include a mechanism for verifying whether everyone whose name appears on an attendance sheet was actually present for the entire session.
With the Rievent Platform, we solve this problem with a 5-character code. Learners only receive the code at the end of a session. They just log in to Rievent and enter the unique code. Credit processing occurs behind the scenes, and it’s fully automated.
As a result, you’re more likely to hold learners’ attention throughout an event. You can even prompt learners to complete an evaluation during the request for credit process and determine whether an event is meeting your success benchmarks.
Engaged learners are enthusiastic learners.
They’ll arrive at your events eager to participate. They’ll also be more likely to apply their new knowledge in the workplace, advance their practice, and have a positive impact on the communities they serve.
All it takes is some outside-the-box thinking and a willingness to explore new formats and technologies.