5 Great eLearning Boredom Busters
A common refrain heard by eLearning program developers is that using eLearning software is boring. Often, learners find using many eLearning programs to be dull and passive activity, making them unlikely to retain the information the programs offer. As developers clearly want to create successful eLearning programs, they incorporate features intended to make the program more interactive and less dull. Colorful graphics, animations and video, quizzes, drag-and-drop content, and other features are used prominently to make the learner feel more engaged with the content. So why don't they work? Start by focusing on the learning experience rather than on content presentation...sometimes that's all it takes to get learners engaged.
Read carefully through this list of things to do to avoid boring eLearning courses that will ensure you to be a hit with your eLearning audience.
Boredom Buster #1: Avoid content-centered design
Many eLearning programs make the mistake of focusing primarily on their content. This may seem like a bizarre statement; what else is the course supposed to focus on, if not the content it's trying to impart? But that is exactly the problem: the program isn't trying to impart information – it's trying to alter the learner's behavior, by teaching them to do something, or not do it, or do it differently. The content is only a means to that end. Instead, many eLearning programs approach their topic as though they were a book – or a book report! – in electronic form. Successful eLearning developers focus less on how they can showcase their content, and more on how they can shape their audience's behavior.
Solution: Make it all about them! Get to know your audience, focus on how learning takes place and how the learners use the material. Think of the course as an experience for the learner. If you realize that your eLearning course is starting to look more and more like a presentation, then it is time to step back and imagine you are the person taking the course. Would you enjoy the learning experience or would your eyes soon glaze over? What would YOU want to read if you were a student? Think of your audience first before you create. When you have this covered, then you can move on. Build courses that will engage them not just by listening to an audio or by reading a full-text screen, but by doing tasks that can engage their minds. This allows them to focus their time and efforts on what’s in front without any distractions.
Boredom Buster #2: When talking about content...make it “sticky”
The problem with treating eLearning courses like textbooks is that every student has had the experience of reading a passage, closing the book, and having no memory of what they just read. When information is learned by rote, it stays in the memory only as long as it is frequently refreshed; without the reminder, it fades. True retention comes from understanding, when the information is able to build on the learner's existing knowledge base and become integrated into their "whole picture" of the subject – in this case, their job tasks. For that, context is necessary; the information must be related back to the learner's experience, so connections can be formed. As well, breaking-up or “chunking” complex concepts helps learners out. Studies show that users remember content more if they’re not overloaded with too much information.
What exactly is sticky content? Is information on eLearning courses that keeps learner’s attention and gets them to spend a good amount of time on the course, actually learning. We need to build courses that stick with our learners so they are able to perform at the right times. If your courses aren’t sticky, your learners will forget they took them once they are finished.
Solution: Content should be informational, should involve your audience and turn them into participants. Organize your information so that learners can see first the “must learn” and “high-value” content. But specially, build courses learners enjoy taking by creating memorable content. The key is in inspiring interest in even the most heavy-going topics. How can we make this? Some ideas: Build programs that involve practical tasks and learning through experience or include real life scenarios (where participants relate to scenarios they recognize in order to put immediate use once they return to the office environment).
Boredom Buster #3: Show, don’t tell!
That old writing adage applies here in full force. If the eLearning program is intended to teach the learner a new procedure, strategy, or skill, simply describing the desired behavior conveys only a superficial impression. For a deeper, more intuitive learning experience, successful eLearning programs will make the learner actually perform the desired behavior, or a reasonable simulation thereof. Whether that means the program walks the learner through using a new computer program, provides simulated customers to interact with, or offers sample documents to review and alter, it should ask the learner to do the task they are meant to learn.
Solution: Instead of simply telling those raw facts on your screen think of interesting, creative ways to show learners what you want them to internalize. You goal is to allow learners to experience information, not to drown them with heavy-handed courses. Using video is a great method to helping learners understand content in a specific context.
Boredom Buster #4: Spell out the famous WIIFM
(WIIFM= What's in it for me?) Any program that tries to shape a person's behavior has one major obstacle to overcome: people don't like to change. Successful eLearning courses provide a reason for the behaviors they are trying to impart. The explanation should show how a new computer program makes the learner's job easier, or why a new procedure will make his work more efficient or successful. This ties in easily with the simulation elements discussed earlier; when the learner gets something wrong in an exercise, the program should provide useful feedback that explains the consequences of the misstep, rather than a shallow, "Sorry, try again!" Similarly, it should explain the benefits of the correct response, instead of simply offering, "That's right, good job!"
Solution: It’s very simple: your audience wants to know "What's in it for me?" So, tell them. If you don't do that, no amount of fireworks and giveaways matter. In order to engage learns and prevent them to get bored since the beginning, the course should have meaning and implications to their jobs. Be clear, specific and honest. Even more, talk like a person, person to person. Otherwise you come across as "institutional" and who wants so much formality? This will definitely increase the sense of awareness to previously “boring” information”.
Boredom Buster #5: Avoid "busy work" interactivity
Busy work” leads people to learning things that don’t give any additional value to their experience. Clicking multiple-choice bubbles isn't interactive. Watching colorful videos isn't engaging. Interaction and engagement come from being asked to think and respond intelligently, rather than simply reacting to stimuli on blind reflex.
Dressing up a page-turner with lots of interactions and multimedia resources is not a solution. Including animations, videos, and all those powerful graphics definitely makes your courses look sexy and attractive, but your goal is to achieve that ever-elusive balance we are all seeking. The first couple of times your learners might be impressed with all that interaction. But then, soon they will understand this is just a trick to distract them and stop them from recognizing they are reading boring slides of page-turning content.
Solution: Build worthwhile courses that pull out learner's personality and actually make them apply their knowledge to daily tasks. Courses should help employees make practical uses of the content they are learning. Several sources of research suggest that all the interruptions can in fact have a negative impact on learning and retention. Interaction for interaction's sake is a trap of poorly designed eLearning. Include interactions only when necessary and only when it helps support your learning objectives. Use interactions to reinforce the accomplishment of mastering a new topic - not as filler to make your course seem more valuable.
To do: Identify the actions and strategies that are making your eLearning boring, so you can stop it. You’ll have more engaged audiences and be more effective in your training sessions than ever before.
What do you do to keep from being boring on eLearning? Let us know by posting a comment below. And don’t forget to Like, Tweet, Pin and Google+ this post!