9 Must-Haves to Foster Student Engagement with Your Content

Worried about student engagement? To author engaging online learning content, start with these fundamentals.


Young woman responds with enthusiasm to computer screen

Perhaps your online course covers a super-fun topic students are eager to learn and will voluntarily pay for. Or perhaps your course is a required job training and the students have little to no desire to be taking the course. Either way, you likely feel responsible for ensuring the course is engaging to students.


An engaging course starts with engaging content. I don’t mean that the topics must be innately engaging. I mean that as the content author and online course producer, you’re responsible for ensuring that your content is clear, approachable, and relevant so that students have the best chance of being drawn in.


Here are 9 fundamentals for how to author engaging online learning content.


Keep the material concise and clear.

Having content that is clear and concise shows students that you value their time. Longer content is not better. The goal is to cover the material that is required with the depth that is required to do it justice, and then move on.


Producing concise material requires a concerted effort. (As Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.”) To do this, start by having a well-organized content plan with a strong set of Learning Objectives as the backbone. After authoring your content, go back through to evaluate its pace. Is there material that can be consolidated? Are there places where the wording can be tightened up? You can always provide a list of additional resources at the end of the course for students who want a deeper dive.


Answer the question “Why should I care?” proactively.

I’ll be the first to admit I asked “Why should I care?” during my days as a student. Now that I’m on the flip side of the education equation, the question is even more relevant. We can anticipate this question from students and address it at every opportunity.


If your course is voluntary, students may already be committed and ready to learn. If the course is required, you can show that time spent on your course is valuable by anticipating the “Why should I care?” question (or its cousin, “When am I ever going to use this?”) by answering it proactively throughout your content. For example, if you’re building a required training course, think about the roles of the different students. Can you tailor part of it to their specific role so that it’s clear you had them in mind?


Don’t be afraid to use humor.