7 Critical Don’ts for eLearning Success
Don't: Forget it´s All About the Students… Not the Instructor!
Sometimes the daily pressures when designing an eLearning course lead us to develop training sessions forgetting one of the most important elements: the students. Don´t create courses that merely satisfy the expectations of the instructor or other stakeholders involved, it will often end up being ‘on message’ but ineffective – a course which says all the right things but fails to tackle the real problems.
The only way to define what is to be taught, when and how is to know the target audience of your course. According to the characteristics of your learners, you can define the most appropriate teaching strategies and resources. Without a focus on the learner, their needs, and aptitudes, eLearning cannot take place.
Don't: Mix Different Graphic Styles
Using different colors, styles, sizes, fonts, logos and layouts in your courses stops students from identifying with your organization. Whether your project is focused on customers or your own employees, you should give it a personality in order to differentiate and position your company in the audience´s mind.
You should carefully employ your company´s existing brand guidelines to ensure consistency across eLearning deliverables. For example, a course for new employees should be in perfect sync with your company´s brand style. These employees should know immediately that the course belongs to your company. Bottom-line: your eLearning courses should differentiate and be appealing to the eye, but do so in a way that also supports your corporate brand.
Don't: Evaluate Only At the End of the Course
Sometimes it can be a (bad) habit to include a test at the end of your course, just because your stakeholder wants to know that people learnt something after completing the course. However, you shouldn’t asses for the sake of it. Assessments in eLearning must respond to specific learning objectives and learners should be able to get something out of them. Including these just at the end of the course is not enough. An assessment at the end of every module for example can really help learners: constantly make learners think, reinforces what they´ve just learned, increases retention, and keeps them awake and interested.
Including review questions throughout the course will allow you to measure the level of understanding and assimilation of new knowledge at different levels. Take advantage of the dynamic and interactive nature of the eLearning environment to include different types of assessments for example: fill in the blanks, matching, drag and drop, engaging learning games, scenarios followed by multiple choice questions and/or simulations in which learners work through a procedure, or true or false cases. The key is asking thought-provoking questions and offer challenging problems.
Don't: Lock Navigation
Why force every learner to view what only some need? Even when students have been forced to read every screen of the course, that doesn’t mean they’re “getting” all of the information. Locking the navigation and exposing students to every piece of content does not make content more understandable… on the contrary, it may cause learners to focus just on the progress of the course (hoping to finish ASAP!), instead of paying attention to the content of each screen. If you want to avoid this, create a course that is relevant and motivating enough for learners to continue till the end.
Wake student´s interest and let them learn in their own way! Learners should be able to speed up or slow down if necessary, and be able to choose content and tools appropriate to their interests, needs and skill levels.
Quite simply, the more restricted you make the course, the more opportunities you have to disengage and frustrate learners. By creating an environment where learners have as much freedom as possible, where they can click around and explore content as they wish, you are enhancing the learning experience.
Don't: Take Traditional Curriculum and Simply Move it Online
One of the most common mistakes people make is to take a traditional face-face classroom and transfer it online, saying it to be eLearning.
Imagine for a moment ... what would students learn if we use a Power Point presentation that an instructor used as a reference in a presential classroom as an online course? Probably nothing! It would just be a boring slideshow that doesn´t explain information clearly.
If you want to convert traditional training sessions into eLearning courses you must transform and adapt the content, not just change its format. What works well in person and in traditional classroom situations does not translate to the eLearning environment. Online courses need to be more than just online reading. They should engage, challenge and inform the learner. With some instructional design techniques and a bit of creativity a simple presentation can be restructured to be more than just slides with text.
Don't: Overdose Your Learners With Interaction
Interaction has always been seen as a key component of an eLearning course to get learners involved. Because of this, meaningful interactivity should be at the top of your list ALWAYS. However, an excessive use of interactive means can become a distraction for the student and reduce the effectiveness of the course. Moreover, studies reveal that when talking about interaction in online courses, more is NOT always better. Putting together excessive amount of graphics and media everywhere distracts the learner by taking attention away from the points that really matter.
Find different ways to liven up the course with the right measure of interactivity and to have learners do more than just read. Interaction is all about getting them feeling, acting and connecting. Some ways you can do this are through storytelling, analogies, videos, avatars or learning agents, simulations, put learners in real-life scenarios where they can try on their skills, or encourage interactive discovery and exploration in your course with case studies or success stories.
Don’t: Try to Cram In Everything
You’re excited about your content and everything you can do with it — and you want to tell the learners as much as you want. That’s great, but be sure the quantity of content does not overwhelm the design of the course.
Using a reasonable font size and leaving a decent amount of white space on the screen will help make the content easier to consume. Get your design team involved early in the content creation process to help set expectations for the amount of text that can be supported without compromising readability.
The key is to feed the learners a little bit at a time by chunking content, using bullet points or breaking information into steps. The method of trying to cram as much information as possible almost never works! So focus less on dumping information on the learner and more on what information they need to do their daily tasks.
Follow these basic rules and you're guaranteed to see positive results from your eLearning courses!