Stine Snekkenes is Motimate Creative Studio’s trained pedagogist and resident expert in the method and practice of creating online courses. Her experience working with diverse organizations has proven just how important well-thought-out design and communication is in creating successful online learning. Stine has made it her mission to help learning teams everywhere design and deliver the best learning content that they possibly can.

In the early 1900s, a Russian psychologist called Lev Vygotsky established a theory that has become a key influence in 20th century learning. Social Constructivist theory tells us that learning is a shared experience that happens through interaction with others.

Even earlier, in the mid 1700s’, the French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, realized that learning needs to be contextual and relevant because we learn best when we can see the usefulness of what we learn and connect it to the real world.

Despite this, learning has historically been a relatively passive activity. Learners have absorbed information from teachers and instructors in classrooms and training rooms, or read textbooks, often taking a test or exam to see how much they can remember.

Applying knowledge learned in the classroom or from a book to your everyday life or job – solving problems and making decisions that affect people – is not an easy leap to make, no matter how many case studies you examine, because this is second-hand learning, or learning through the eyes of others.

Today, we’re able to introduce context into learning in ways Rousseau quite probably never imagined! We can create learning environments that mimic reality and help learners understand how to apply the learning in real life situations. We can even create courses that learners can follow as they complete actual work tasks, applying the knowledge as they learn it – something known as learning in the flow of work, or on-demand learning.


A Motimate client created a course to teach waiting staff about fire safety whilst on-site in their restaurants. In order to move to the next course chapter, they had to scan QR codes placed on fire extinguishers.

Thanks to Lev Vygotsky, we know something else about learning that we didn’t know before. We know that people learn best when interacting with others. Something the classroom does offer is the opportunity for discussion and idea sharing. This is something we need to think harder about in the digital world.

We also know more about the brain than we did before. We know that different activities stimulate different parts of our brain, helping us to develop important skills that help us to navigate our jobs and everyday life.

Active learning is about activating the brain, stimulating as many parts of it as possible to mobilize a person’s ability to analyze information, think critically, and make decisions that will solve problems.

By challenging learners to make decisions we are asking them to exercise critical thinking skills – creating a safe space in which it’s ok to experiment, to get it wrong, and to learn from their mistakes.

Reflection is important too. Taking the time to process the information we have received and think about what we have learned helps us commit things to memory and to develop our critical thinking skills. Previously this function would have been fulfilled by tests and exams, today we can do more.

Try incorporating these 5 principles into your digital courses

  1. We learn when sharing and discussing ideas
    Make learning a social activity. Use online forums and social media style sharing functionality to encourage learners to discuss ideas and share learning.

    Our customers use our Motimate Pulse platform to communicate, create posts, share information and engage in discussion with colleagues.This helps them share information in real-time, gain helpful input from across their organization, learn from each other and develop their analytical skills.
  1. We learn through variety
    Create dynamic content – mix up your formats because variety keeps learners engaged and appeals to different learning dispositions (visual, audio, kinesthetic). Make use of imagery and video, games, audio files and podcasts. This will help bring the learning to life and create an immersive experience.
  2. We learn through context and experience
    Contextualize learning to make it useful – share stories but also problems that need to be solved. Think about designing courses that can be completed in real-time, as people complete actual work tasks. This will help them commit the learning to memory and help people want to keep learning.

    A Motimate Creative Studio client created an active learning course to educate employees about the need to use a safety harness when working on construction sites. We kicked-off the course with a series of news articles about serious accidents that have happened on building sites – accidents that could have been avoided if a safety harness had been used. Putting the topic in context and using real-life events as examples helped learners to more quickly understand the dangers that they need to offset.
  1. We learn through our mistakes
    Place learners in the role of decision-maker by designing content that requires them to make decisions and get things wrong, because it’s ok to make the wrong choices now, so that they learn right choices in the future.

    At Motimate, we use games that put decisions in the hands of the learner – for example a simple swipe game that requires them to make a series of choices before they can reach the next stage in the course
  1. We learn through reflection
    Give learners the opportunity to reflect on what they have learned by using quizzes, polls, and discussion forums. This gives them the opportunity to explore ideas and offer feedback on information, helping to transform the learning from a passive to an active exercise.

Need a helping hand?

Getting active learning right can be a lot to think about. If you would like some advice, guidance, or even someone to just do it for you, get in touch with the team Motimate Creative Studio.