There are various strategies adopted by e-learning creators in order to enhance the engagement of the learners and make the course a success story. Whether you create an e-learning module for a company training or as a part of a school curriculum, one of the best approaches is to customize it and if necessary, to translate and localize it. Developing the course so that it can meet the specific requirements of the target audience by taking into account their strengths and weaknesses is a way to grab and keep the learners’ attention.
One of the best ways to learn what your target customers know is by asking questions and evaluating the answers that you receive. The Q&A model is highly efficient in many settings – it can be utilized online, during conferences and work meetings and is also an effective strategy when it comes to creating engaging e-learning courses.
Different Types of Online Q&A Models
People always search for new information and the internet is one of the easiest ways to receive an answer to your question. You can google your question and come up with a great variety of articles on the topic – some from quite prestigious and trusted sources, while others turn out to be absolutely irrelevant to your topic or presenting a fun side to the problem if any. With time, Q&A services gained a lot of popularity and people started logging directly into such sites to get an answer they need. Such popular forums now are Quora, WikiAnswers, Yahoo! Answers, and social media such as Twitter or Facebook.
Erik Choi, Vanessa Kitzie, and Chirag Shah decided to identify the most popular type of such online Q&A services in their paper “Developing a Typology of Online Q&A Models and Recommending the Right Model for Each Question Type.” They have identified four models of Q&A services:
- A community-based Q&A model – this is a form of knowledge-based community, where people search for personalized answers. A person goes in and asks a question and receives an answer from another person. The members of such a forum can also rate the answers and comment on them.
- A collaborative Q&A model – this model is similar to the previous one with the only difference that more than one person can answer the question and there is an option to rephrase or edit your questions/answers in time.
- An expert-based Q&A model – this model uses the same type of information exchange as the previous two – users can get in and ask questions and receive responses. The only difference is that the people providing the answers are experts in the field. In some cases, they can receive payment for their contribution or do it on a voluntary basis.
- A social Q&A model – this model utilizes the features of users’ social networking sites so that the person can ask a question to their friends within a social network. The service is quite similar to that of the community-based model with the main difference being that the person receives a response from someone they know and thus it is more likely for them to trust the answer.
The ideas of these models can be incorporated into e-learning modules as well. The course can start with a question and answers found through one of the Q&A sites or provided by an expert in the field. If it is a company training, it can incorporate the answers of various employees from different layers to see how they perceive the issue raised and then proceed further with the training based on the responses.
What can we Learn from Q&A Sessions?
Q&A sessions can be highly productive if incorporated in an event in the right way. In many cases, the organizers are afraid that such a session will prolong the event or there will be no interest from the audience to participate in it. In order to avoid the negative effects and turn the Q&A session into an effective tool, it is a good idea to:
- plan in advance the Q&A session and allow sufficient time for it
- have a strong moderator who can direct the session in the right direction so that it can achieve the overall goal of the event
- collect questions prior to the session – participants can write down their questions while listening to the presentations since towards the end of the event they may have forgotten what further information they wanted or just be too tired to engage in a discussion
- provide an option for more answers – it is not necessary only the key speaker to respond to the question. Other experts in the hall can also take the floor and share their knowledge
- allow Q&A sessions in the middle of the presentation – thus, participants can ask for further clarification of what has been presented so far. This will also give feedback to the speaker and give them the opportunity to slightly amend the rest of their speech so that it best answers the needs of the audience.
These five ideas are a model that can also be followed when developing an e-learning course that uses the Q&A model. The concept can be quite efficient for corporate training especially when the manager is part of the training and can act either as the moderator of the Q&A session or as the expert answering the questions.
How to Incorporate the Q&A Model into an E-Learning Course
The goal of the question in an e-learning course is to elicit a response that can trigger or facilitate the process of learning. A module can start with a question that will allow the learners to share the knowledge they have on the topic. For example, if the training is on translation techniques, the course can start with a question “Which techniques do you know or use?” or with a sample of a translated text and a list of possible techniques, from which the learners can choose the right one that was used, etc. This will trigger more interest than simply listing the possible translation techniques.
Upon receiving the answers, it is necessary to provide feedback and then proceed further with the course. The option to share their knowledge by responding to questions allows the learners to feel that they are actively participating in the learning process instead of being spoon-fed the new concepts.
Q&A sessions can be included in different parts of the course but not on each and every slide as then the whole module will look like a quiz.
There are different types of questions that can be used to engage the learners:
- A simple yes/no questions
- Multiple-choice questions where the learners can identify the right answer(s)
- Open-ended questions where learners can fill in their answers
The Q&A model can be incorporated into different types of e-learning modules from microlearning modules for business training to branching scenarios. It is suitable for virtually any topic that can be covered by an e-learning course and can be incorporated at the beginning, in the middle, at the end of the course, or at a combination of any of the three.
Providing learners with the option to share their knowledge and ask questions makes them feel that they are actively participating in the learning session. That makes the modules more attractive and increases the engagement throughout the entire e-learning process.