ATD Blog

How to Engage Learners in the Modern Classroom

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On October 16, Jennifer Hofmann, president of InSync training, presented Learner Engagement in the Modern Classroom to an enthusiastic ATD audience. The agenda for the session was “answer a lot of questions about the way modern learning works, and how learning professionals engage their participants.” Here are highlights from each question discussed. To hear all of Jennifer’s insights, watch the full session recording. 

Question 1: What Is the Modern Classroom? 

Session participants answered this question in number of ways, effectively covering the definition. Key attendee contributions included: 

  • “Lots of distractions, fast technology—we are ‘Google searchers.’” 
  • “Blended learning.” 
  • “More informal means of learning, more collaboration.” 
  • “Virtual, mobile, interactive.” 
  • “In and out of ‘trade class,’ podcasts, share sites, virtual tools.” 
  • “An environment that facilitates a learning experience, across all available platforms—physical and digital.” 

Question 2: What Is Learner Engagement? 

Learner engagement using the definition created by an InSync Training colleague: “Engagement is an internal learner dynamic that varies throughout a learning experience, which can affect motivation, persistence, and satisfaction.” This definition is ideal because it takes the following into consideration: 

  • Motivation: Do I want to continue to learn in this environment? 
  • Persistence: Do I think I can push through when it gets difficult? 
  • Satisfaction: At the end, am I inclined to think that it was time well spent and I’m better off for it? 

Question 3: Does Engagement Equal Learning? 

Attendees agreed that engagement does not equate to learning. But as I said in the webcast, “Just because you’re engaged, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re learning. Providing engagement and keeping learners engaged, giving them a reason to persist through the training, improves the chance of true learning and meeting performance objectives.” 


Extrapolating further, attendees contributed: 

  • “Engagement may more accurately equal the amount [learners] get out of training.” 
  • “Engagement implies a two-way connection.” 

A great question came through chat: “Can learning occur without engagement?” The answer yes. It’s equally true that engagement can help learning, but it doesn’t mean people are learning if they are engaged. You can be engaged in the moment, but that doesn’t translate into learning. 

Question 4: What Does Modern Learning Culture Include? 

InSync Training has defined 10 ways to influence modern learning culture. To see all 10, download the company’s infographic, What Is Driving the Modern Learning Culture? 


One way to evolve with the learning culture is to create community. Session participants shared how they build community in their organizations, including: 

  • “Whole team participates in learning as well as facilitating learning. We share ideas and concepts often.” 
  • “One topic per quarter: Month 1 we write a high-level blog. Month 2 is a detailed blog. And month 3 is a webinar." 
  • “We do a monthly webinar called Fridays With Learning, where we discuss a focused, relevant topic for our sales organization.” 

Question 5: Why Is Engagement Different in the Modern Classroom? 

To conclude the session, I asked attendees why engagement is different in the modern classroom. The perspectives shared brought the session to a fantastic close: 

  • “It’s not as easy as calling on someone and making them answer a question anymore; you really have to convince learners to participate.” 
  • “The modern learning culture is consistently multitasking and integrating multimedia." 
  • “Expectations are higher; people want relevance.” 
  • “Environmental factors have altered the way younger learners learn.” 
  • “Employees are tasked with more process responsibilities—multiple roles.” 
  • “Pressure to deliver something that ‘wows’ [learners].” 
  • “Generational and cultural differences, global world." 
  • “Flexible work schedules make it hard to have a collaborative group available at the same time.” 

To learn more or enroll in one of the ATD education programs that Jennifer Hofmann facilitates, visit
Download a special resource associated with Jennifer's session.

For more information about modern workplace training, the virtual classroom, and engagement techniques, access these complimentary InSync Training resources: 

  • Infographic: The Art of Design for the Virtual Classroom 
  • Whitepaper: Enabling Virtual Learners by Design

Join us for our next offering of Blended Learning Certificate in Las Vegas from January 11-12, 2016. 

About the Author

Jennifer Hofmann, a pioneer in the field of virtual classrooms, is the president of InSync Training, a consulting firm that specializes in the design and delivery of virtual and blended learning. Featured in Forbes Most Powerful Women issue (June 16, 2014) as a New England Women Business Leader, she has led InSync Training to the Inc. 5000 as the tenth Fastest Growing Education Company in the U.S. (2013).

Hofmann is the author of The Synchronous Trainer’s Survival Guide: Facilitating Successful Live and Online Courses, Meetings and Events (Pfeiffer, 2003), Live and Online! Tips, Techniques, and Ready-To-Use Activities for the Virtual Classroom (Pfeiffer, 2004), and How To Design For The Live Online Classroom: Creating Great Interactive and Collaborative Training Using Web Conferencing (Brandon Hall, 2005). Additionally, she is a chapter contributor to The Handbook of Blended Learning (Pfeiffer, 2006), The AMA Handbook of E-Learning (The American Management Association, 2003), and The ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals (ASTD, 2008, 2014). She has co-authored, with Nanette Miner, Tailored Learning: Designing the Blend That Fits (ASTD, 2009), a book focused on taking advantage of distributed technologies to create the best blended training solution possible.

Her most recent projects include a monthly Training Magazine Online series titled Virtually There and her newest book Body Language in the Bandwidth – How Facilitators, Producers, Designers, and Learners Connect, Collaborate & Succeed in the Virtual Classroom (2015).

Follow Jennifer Hofmann at her blog, Body Language In The Bandwidth at or on Twitter @InSyncJennifer.

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