Turn your (online) lecture into a learning experience

Mannelijke student volgt een online hoorcollege

'A well-designed lecture is in the first place not a transfer of knowledge at all, but rather the art of seduction: trying to evoke something in the students, to involve them in an unknown universe.' Ruben Jacobs wrote this in his blog 'Why you should not bin the lecture' (Waarom het hoorcollege niet bij het grofvuil moet worden gezet in Dutch). But how is this done, seducing students to join you on an intellectual journey? Jessica Hegeman and lecturers discussed this during the interactive Webinar “Making the online lecture a learning experience”.

Jessica asked the participating lecturers to remember their own experiences: What stimulated them to start their intellectual journey? What primarily shows from their experiences, is that the use of (practical) examples can be one of the most important factors in stimulating the learning process (see the word cloud below). And indeed, it is precisely the exchange of practical examples that is highly appreciated by the webinar participants.

Deze woordwolk laat zien dat praktische voorbeelden erg gewaardeerd worden door deelnemers aan een webinar

The power of a CISS

What else can you do to make a lecture a learning experience? Consider: “The power of a CISS”. CISS stands for connecting, interacting, storytelling, and stimulating curiosity. Jessica explains the four components:


What is the power of making connections? [Ambrose et al 2010] It stimulates more involvement, comfort, and feeling valued. It also creates both a challenging and a safe learning environment. How do you do this as a lecturer? Be sure to discover your students’ interests, experiences, and existing knowledge, as this enables you to connect to their experiential world.


What is the power of interacting? [Nilson 2010; McKeachie 2014] Interaction enhances active learning, stimulates the learning process, increases attention and motivation. How do you do this as a lecturer? Ensure that you are interacting with your students and that you stimulate interaction between students. Motivation stimulating and targeted tasks can help, as well as varied assignments wherein the students actively engage with the subject material.


What is the power of storytelling? [Haven 2007; Green 2004] Telling stories can raise interest, activate pre-existing knowledge, enhance understanding, provide structure and details. How do you do this as a lecturer? Make sure to use your own practical examples (anecdotes), metaphors, and/or analogies. You can even take it a step further by giving students a Quest, including causality, conflict, complications, and characters.

Stimulating curiosity

What is the power of stimulating curiosity? [Pluck & Johnson 2011] Curiosity helps keep students’ attention, has a positive effect on memory, speeds up knowledge acquisition, and learning. How do you do this as a lecturer? Ensure that students can solve a mystery including unexpected approaches, disrupt an existing perception, as questions that stimulate students, make them think.

By including these CISS elements in an (online) lecture, more students will become involved in education. You not only stimulate the learning process by doing so, but also create a learning experience. Important here is that you keep to the essence and provide focus (“less is more”): What are the learning goals, and which learning activities are needed to reach these goals? [Biggs 1996]

Take-home message

The (online) lecture is the start of an intellectual journey with your students. So remember: it all starts with a CISS!

two people giving a kiss


Would you like advice for making your lecture into a learning experience? Contact Jessica Hegeman.


  • https://www.brainwash.nl/bijdrage/waarom-het-hoorcollege-niet-bij-het-g… [in Dutch]
  • Ambrose et al. (2010) How Learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. Jossey-Bass  
  • Nilson (2010) Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. Jossey-Bass. Chapter 11 Making the lecture a Learning experience
  • McKeachies’s Teaching Tips 2014. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Chapter 6 How to make lectures more effective
  • Haven (2007) Story Proof: te science behind the startling power of story. Abc-Clio. p. 92 ff.
  • Green (2004) Storytelling in Teaching. Association for physiological science
  • Pluck & Johnson (2011) Stimulating curiosity to enhance learning. Education Sciences and Psychology, 2(19)
  • Biggs (1996) Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment, Higher Education 32:1-18