SQUIRREL: Overcoming Distractions

March 8, 2018

The beauty of online learning is that the material is available practically anywhere at anytime.

It can be paused, replayed, and even skipped. Wait… it can be skipped! Oh No! You spent dozens (maybe even hundreds) of hours preparing a course and your audience can now skip all that hard work and head straight for the punchline.

Let’s dive into some tools that you can use to motivate learners to not only complete your course, but fully engage with its content and each other.

The Punchline.

Powerpoint presentations normally have one. You anticipate it. You may even listen intently trying to find it. It is a punchline, that main point that the speaker is trying to convey. Sometimes it is cleverly hidden in a comical metaphor, or it is written in large letters and repeated enough so that you will remember it for a few days (maybe even a lifetime).

This is very important. You want to be very specific about your punchlines. Select just ONE punchline per lesson/chapter. You may include smaller sub-punchlines, but try to pick out a specific one to truly emphasize.

Make it painfully obvious for them. Use all the tools you have in your pocket to spell it out, say it, show it, and put it on repeat or it may be skipped.

Shiny Objects.

There are so many ways to integrate fancy, ‘techy’ objects into web-based courses. However, your audience came to you because you are knowledgeable in a particular topic. If that topic is mindfulness, by all means flood your courses with mindfulness audio and video tracks. However, if your topic is how to reverse and cure type-2 diabetes, maybe just an occasional audio or video to demonstrate the key point is necessary.

Quality images can be just as impressive as a skillfully crafted video demonstration. One image may actually draw more attention and generate more interest than a 10 minute video (which can be skipped). Remember your punchline and stick to it! Gifs, animations, banners, and lengthy videos can be distracting if they are not aligned with the punchline of the course.


Branding can include logos, slogans, font, and color-schemes. This is the personality and character that you use to represent your essence. As you begin to create more than one course, your audience will become familiar with the nuances of your brand. They will come to expect it. Applying your brand to every course creates familiarity and comfort. It also allows for you to easily showcase your punchlines. If your colors are teal and navy blue it will be easy to intentionally draw attention to things in a drastically different color like purple or red. Fonts are another great way to draw attention.


When developing web-based learning tools, one of the most difficult qualities to measure is the engagement of your audience. One of the best techniques to measure engagement is with consistent, engaging activities. Creating short exercises and activities that are cleverly integrated into your lesson/module will force the participants to interact more frequently with the content. It will also provide mental stimulation. Use all the tools at your disposal to enable the type of engagement that you want to see.

If you use a site like Dream See Do, incorporate Video reflections, integrate Live Video trainings and coaching; and encourage supportive feedback and shared insights.

Promoting engagement is an art form. When you sit down to sculpt your course, arrange your tools, select your style, and get to work with a defined goal in mind.