How To Engage Passive Peers In Progressive eLearning

As a participant, an educator or even making a presentation in your classroom or workplace, no one feels comfortable or feels as if they are making an impactful difference, when looking out on an audience and realizing some of the faces tuned to you, aren’t really tuned in at all. 

It’s frustrating, but not just for the person delivering the content but truly for the recipient, and sometimes those around them.

There are basically two distinct types of learners: one who engage in opportunities to seek what they can whether its knowledge, instructions or just content, and then the tougher group, the learners who are passive about what is presented to them. This latter group are those individuals who may seem to acquire information like the rest of us, but don’t appear to apply anything they have garnered. This can be apparent through assessment, that somehow they have embraced the content of the lesson or presentation, but what they have grasped may isn’t really going to change their behaviours or have this newfound knowledge and understanding make an impact on their lives. They are basically the same person they were before. And their business or professional skill set is unchanged.

For a presenter, or one delivering a lesson, it is far more rewarding to engage passive learners, but much trickier. This is where eLearning deliverables are so helpful. Using the tech savvy innovations available today, many learning styles can be addressed. And there are tips to make this even more productive.

Strive to discover what motivates a passive learner

This is the first step because it is key. Every learner has a source for his or her own motivation. It’s like understanding how a machine works, to be able to tweak it and keep in good working order or repair. Professionals who use eLearning can use this to our advantage and create memorable and relevant eLearning experiences. If you are able to research your students or audience, you may learn why they are participants in the lesson, or why they are enrolled in the course. Working to this is objective is easier when it is understood. What are the opportunities your audience wants or needs to get upon completion of the course? Ideally you may be able to tap into this as the source of inspiration that will get them excited about the learning process.


Feeling you can direct the personal experience of a course, particularly an eLearning one means feeling you will benefit from the undertaking or participation. No ne does well I those “penalty imposed” driver’s ed. courses, or mandatory credit courses to complete a program of study. But being able to learn at your own pace, or dealing with content on your own terms is so much more likely to make a difference to the participant. Many passive learners don’t want the pressure of peer work, or to keep up with other learners. When possible, let the learners select from a menu of topics or what should come next. Make supplementary eLearning materials accessible, and in varied formats, particularly videos and articles.

Use online peer collaboration

Today, connecting with others is easier than ever. In a course of study, students are not restricted to class time to engage, share and learn with each other. This is where eLearning is such a boon. It is this sharing of skills and knowledge where even the most passive of learners can benefit. Self-confidence and productivity are enhanced. Online collaborative activities, such as games, forums and shared work on presentation means they can use the resources they might already have ( Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media) to expand their social connections and bring this to the exercise or lesson. Membership in the group can have a profound effect on learning

Use visual tools

Particularly when striving to engage passive learners, you have to wow them, and your first opportunities are usually visual. Using a wide assortment of visually compelling images and graphics will grab attention. Sometimes skipping the text or content later and beginning with a visual presentation is a better order for a lesson or presentation. It can also often lead to a more thought provoking opportunity. A detailed Powerpoint or other slideshow can be a better way to present content than relying on text that will may lead to a loss of interest. Be aware that cognitive overload can stymie a lesson, for all kinds of learners.

Use all the e-tools you can

Learners today need to feel as if they are part of an eLearning culture. They want to feel current and up to date, where their knowledge and skill sets are progressing. Passive learners in particular need to feel they can apply what they are learning. At times, putting a measurable progress system, such as a reward or point system in place can do the trick. Looking for input with tools such as:

  • Unplag that allows checking content authenticity and is to launch a free assignment management system for teachers with in-built plagiarism checker;
  • ClassKick - assignment management system for teachers to create review and control student learning process;
  • PearDeck - another interactive platform for teachers to better administer student work in real time, and more.

Make content relevant and personal

Passive learners will not connect with subject matter if it doesn’t touch them on some level. They want to feel the content will be applied outside of the classroom. Using images, stories and scenarios can make this a more memorable learning experience for all kinds of learners. Making an emotional connection is more impactful.

Recall if you can, the most memorable learning experiences you had, either from an early elementary school experience, or high school, college or even as an adult. Even when you were bored or force to attend, why did you gain something from this? Somewhere along the progression of the lesson, one of these tips were the factor that made the learning experience something that has stayed with you today. 

About the Author
Lynn Usrey, a newbie essayist, freelance writer and educator. Also she runs writing course in Orlando, Florida.

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