10 Strategies for Engaging Learners with Interactive e-Learning Software


This document outlines 10 strategies for engaging learners through the use of interactive e-learning software.This is not a how-to document; we simply describe some of the types of activities and strategies that may be useful in your course.

On our campus, we have several e-Learning resources available for instructor use.  As an enterprise tool, fully supported for use by Faculty and Staff, we have SoftChalk Cloud. Academic Technology Services also has more advanced e-learning software available on high-end computers located in the Center for Excellence and Innovation, including a full Articulate suite. 

 “One of the main advantages of media over direct experience lies in the possibilities to intentionally shape, arrange, and optimize information with regard to the cognitive apparatus of its recipients”.

(Schwan & Schwan, 2004)

10 Strategies for Engaging Learning with e-Learning Software

Strategy #1: Create interactive, Media rich, Self-Paced lessons

The basics: Studies show that “The provision of dynamic visualisations with interactive features may indeed accelerate the process of skill acquisition”( Schwan & Schwan, 2004). Make your online lessons interactive by building variety into the delivery of material. Use visuals, pictures, audio and video parts to present new material. Engage students with interactive activities. Create easy-to-make online quizzes and link the result to D2L grading system.

Strategy #2: Teach with Visuals: Picture-Based Learning

The basics: A cognitive theory of multimedia learning is based on three main assumptions: there are two separate channels (auditory and visual) for processing information; there is limited channel capacity; and that learning is an active process of filtering, selecting, organizing, and integrating information. One assertion in this realm is that people learn better from words and pictures than words alone.The right picture at the right time at the right place is a great way to boost understanding as well as helping your learners build a memorable mental construction around a topic (Clark and Mayer, 2008).

Variations: E-Learning software helps instructors create instructional multimedia in customizable ways.  This allows the instructor a means of creation for materials that align with prevalent multimedia learning theory. Deliver new material accompanied by pictures and photo albums with their description. Make slideshows that contain not only picture with textual description, but also audio narration.

Strategy #3: Build Inquiry-Based Learning in Online Courses

The basics: Inquiry-based Learning refers to inquiry driven learning environment where “the tutor establishes the task and supports or facilitates the process, but the students pursue their own lines of inquiry, draw on their existing knowledge and identify the consequent learning needs” (Kahn & O’Rourke, 2005). The learning starts with a scenario, after which students identify their own issues and questions. Students do research about the given topic and gather information about existing knowledge on the issue. Because the knowledge is acquired in relation to a real problem students retain it more readily.

Variations: Interactive e-learning software makes it possible to design an inquiry-based learning in online environment. For example, in SoftChalk the instructor can introduce the scenario using different multi-media means which can be embedded into SoftChalk lesson. The software allows to insert external links and additional information to guide students’ learning through inquiry-based learning. Different games and activities will help students to complete the last step of IBL, that is articulate new understandings and identify paths for new study.

Strategy #4: Conduct Formative Assessment

The basics: According to Sadler “Formative Assessment refers to assessment that is specially

intended to generate feedback on performance to improve and accelerate learning” (1998). Interactive e-learning software makes it easy to conduct formative assessment after each learning unit, get feedback and improve achievement. Activities that help to support formative assessment are Scoring Activities and Quizzes, such as Matching, Pairs, Ordering and Identification.  Students can be allowed to do either single or multiple attempts in tests thus making the assessment another way of learning.

Variations: Use SoftChalk Cloud’s Learner Technology Interoperability links (LTI), or Articulate’s SCORM mechanics to connect assessments directly from your learning modules into the Desire2Learn (D2L) gradebook.

Strategy #5: Scaffolding in Online Learning

The Basics: According to Grady (2006) scaffolding is “the instructional devices that enable students to complete tasks they would be unable to master without assistance”  Using interactive e-learning software, structure your content using page numbers and page headings that indicate the progression of materials and concepts that build upon one another.

Variations:  Include table of contents with meaningful page numbers to help learners access the material they need (Softchalk). Create internal links in the lesson to direct learners to additional material they need to reach the goal of the lesson (Articulate). Create TextPoppers for defining new concepts in the text.

Strategy #6: Make Interactive Videos with Small Quizzes/Knowledge Checks

The basics: Studies have shown that videos can be just as effective as print when they afford self-regulated information processing (Merkt, Weigand, Heier & Schwan, 2011). Using Interactive e-Learning Software, you can embed Interactive videos into your online course materials. This can allow students to navigate through the information and control the pace of their own information processing. One important purpose of making videos interactive may be to give the viewers the opportunity to adapt a presentation’s pace and sequence to their own cognitive needs and skills (Schwan & Schwan, 2004).

Variations:  Similar to strategy #4 in this document, follow up manable-sized video lectures with small quizzes or, knowledge mastery checks. More details on this variation can be found here: in our 10 Strategies for Engaging Learners in Blended and Online Classes - Pepper Lecture Segments with Mastery Checks.

Strategy #7: Make Flashcards to Assist in Delivering Information

The basics: Studies show that students’ performances has been improved while using flashcards and the improvement is especially visible for less successful students (Palombella & Johnson, 2005). The easy-to-make flashcards will engage students in memorizing important concepts or facts.

Variations: Using advanced e-Learning Software from Articulate, you can compile a nearly limitless number of flashcards that can be used for review and test preparation.  The amount and sequence of the interactive flashcards can be randomized to provide a dynamic means of content review.

Strategy #8: Guided Discovery

The basic: Guided discovery is a facilitated process that leads learners to insights and generalizations. Instead of giving the general ground rules, learners are introduced to specific tasks and come to generalizations as a result of inductive processes. Using e-learning modules, instructors can present students with specific situations/content while also facilitating the consumption of internet resources to extrapolate meaning and understanding beyond what is presented in the lesson.

Variations:  Using ‘Sidebars’ in SoftChalk Cloud, or additional resources tabs in the Articulate suite, can allow you to form a guided narrative for students to follow while also encouraging their active pursuit of similarly related topics.


Strategy #9: Weaken the Language Barrier with Audiovisual Materials

The basics: Online classes suppose learners from a wider geographical area, including other countries. Use Interactive e-Learning Software to design lessons that meet the challenges your international students may face. Results suggest that gaps in achievement, motivation, and interest between native and non-native speakers can be eliminated when instruction involves visible authors rather than invisible authors. (Inglesea, Mayerb & Rigottic, 2007). In this regard, allowing non native speakers to actually view speakers as they are speaking, versus reading transcripts or listening to audio alone, can be beneficial.

Variations: Studies provide ‘encouragement that new media such as TV archives can be used to foster learning in academic settings, especially for students who are non-native language speakers”.( Inglesea, Mayerb & Rigottic, 2007). Consider incorporating such archives when appropriate into your course content. Please be aware of and abide by any and all copyright restrictions.

Strategy #10: Case-Based Teaching

The basics: Case-based teaching is a pedagogical strategy that fosters learners’ analytical thinking and helps them to apply their knowledge in practical situations. By examining a real world situation or a case study, students are encouraged to engage in critical thinking and discussion by applying foundational knowledge to more complex and relevant situations, that may extend beyond the scope of the course work. Students may have increased motivation to gather additional information about the topic due to pertinent discussions that relate to experiences outside of the class.

Variations: e-Learning software (particularly Articulate Storyline) allows instructors to create dynamic and complex learning modules wherein student decisions and actions have ‘real-life’ effects on how the student progresses through the module.  Building these interactions allows a student to benefit from safe decision making through reactive, nonconsequential results.


Making It Happen

If you’re interested in employing one of these strategies but aren’t quite sure how to get started or need some assistance, please contact Michael Manderfeld, michael.manderfeld@mnsu.edu or Marni Dunning, marni.dunning@mnsu.edu to arrange for a consultation.

Contribute Your Own Strategies

Do you have your own effective strategy for engaging learners that isn’t represented here? Let us know about it! Email your ideas to Michael Manderfeld, michael.manderfeld@mnsu.edu


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Kahn P. & O’Rourke K. (2005). Understanding enquiry-based learning In Barrett, T., Mac Labhrainn, I., Fallon, H. (Eds). Handbook of Enquiry & Problem Based Learning. Galway

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Sadler, D. (1998). Formative assessment: revisiting the territory. Assessment in Education 5(1): 77-84.

Schwan, S., & Schwan, R. (2004). The cognitive benefits of interactive videos: learning to tie nautical knots.Learning and Instruction, 14(3), 293–305. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2004.06.005

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