Top Online Learning Tools to Keep Audiences Engaged Behind a Screen

With the uptake of remote learning, there has been a wave of tools and technology to keep students engaged. Last year, our team tried and tested some of the best tools to make the online learning experience fun and enjoyable. Whether it’s a one hour or eight-hour training session, you can add them to your trainer’s toolbox. 

Before we reveal our top tools of the trade, let’s start with the basics. Because the slightest tweak to your training environment can create a big impact. 

When we think about setting up the ideal classroom for in-person training, we typically consider the seating arrangement, lighting, audio, refreshments…etc. It’s no different with online learning. Here are some of the basics to cover:

A Good Quality Microphone

Speak to any of our trainers and they’ll likely tell you about the microphone they invested in last year. Clear audio without the distraction of background noise can enrich someone’s learning experience. Training will go much smoother without the occasional pings or inbox messages about issues with audio. Here’s a snapshot of one our trainer, Chris Pellew uses. Looking at the mic and the soundproofing he’s done to the walls, it’s no surprise that he is passionate about the quality of his audio!

Sufficient Lighting

Lighting can set the mood for training and ensure that your students can see you. Natural lighting is a great option but not always available. If you’re training into the hours of the night or work in artificial light, there are ways to work around it. Consider a selfie halo light or a ring light you can attach to your computer. 
 

A Thoughtful Backdrop

You might be training behind a screen instead of in person but you’ll still want to set up your room to a standard of professionalism. Consider what your attendees will see when you present i.e. wall art, plans, photos. You might find that they always make good conversation starters. 

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into the tools our team uses. 

1. Transitions

When you’re staring at a training presentation all day, having a few animated transition slides can break up a session and set you up for the topics to come. Our trainer Chris Pellew uses the slides to have something to display when he starts the day and also during breaks: “It also gives me an opportunity to plug my LinkedIn ;)”, Chris says.

How to Create Your Own

You can create your own animated transitions with simple tools like PowerPoint. But if you are planning to upskill, Chris recommends Streamlabs OBS: “In SLOBS, you can create transitions and also screens with alerts and other elements to grab the viewers’ attention. It’s used mainly for streaming to places like Twitch but it has a virtual webcam function. It means I can bring the elements into my camera for meetings on Zoom, Hangouts etc”.

2. A Soundboard

When you’re training all day, it can feel like you’re speaking at a screen all day. Having a soundboard to create sound effects can help you create a fun classroom vibe. Think of sitcoms – they’re not always filmed with a live audience but sound effects are used to cue laughter or applause. Chris uses them to add an extra element to the training and draw people back in if they seem distracted: “People get a kick out of it and it can be hard for trainees to sit through a week of remote training, it’s just to add a little excitement in”, says Chris.

How to Create Your Own

I haven’t invested in a soundboard just yet so I’ve leaned on Chris for advice here. When it comes to creating your own soundboard, Chris shares: “I use the RodeCasterPro, which does way more than just soundboard. There are other options out there that are less expensive, but nothing matches the Rodecaster for audio work. People will forgive your camera looking a bit grainy but if your sound is difficult to comprehend or it’s filled with background noise, that’s all they’ll remember”. 

3. Kahoot!

There’s nothing like a little competition to get a crowd going. Kahoot! is an interactive quiz tool that we use in class but also as part of our social club aka CrowdCulture. Using the platform, attendees can answer questions that review key concepts covered in the training materials. To win, they will need to be the fastest to answer every question and with accuracy. 

How to Create Your Own

Kahoot! has a free plan but if you want to get the most out of its features, you’ll want to sign up for a plan.

4. Breakout Rooms

One of the things I personally miss about the physical classroom is putting students into groups so they can collaborate together. Last year, I discovered the use of breakout rooms. I put attendees in groups beforehand on a spreadsheet and assign a ‘captain’ to moderate the group. 

How to Create Your Own

Some conferencing platforms like Zoom have breakout rooms in-built but if your resources are limited, you can set up different ‘meeting rooms’ for each group.

5. Whiteboards

Everyone has a different learning style and visual learners might miss out on the benefits of a whiteboard. With tools like Mural, you and your students can collaborate and whiteboard together.

How to Create Your Own 

Mural has advanced interactive whiteboards you can share with your students. But if it’s out of the budget, you can also connect your iPad to your screen and use your Apple pen for sketches. 

With all these new tools available, online learning is no longer the alternative to in-person training. Putting any of the above into practice can improve the learning experience on the other side of your screen and make the experience fun for everyone involved.


Iona Yeung
A certified Salesforce instructor, she loves helping others make the most out of their marketing tools, especially Email Studio. She’s constantly looking for new ways to automate her marketing and has dozens of marketing funnels that continue to run themselves.

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