The Heath brothers wrote a bestselling book Made to Stick, and in it they revealed why ideas stick or fade into oblivion. Why do people believe in a particular idea and hold on to them for years? The authors have already solved the riddle for us. For an idea to stick, it has to make people
- Pay attention (to something unexpected)
- Understand and remember it (because it’s concrete)
- Believe in it (because it’s a credible idea)
- Truly care about it (or make an emotional connection with it)
- Be able to act on it (by telling it as a story)
Instructional designers and eLearning developers can learn a lot from these bolded keywords alone. But to be more specific, here are some tips to make your eLearning content stick.
1) Get Learners to Pay Attention
Attention in an attention-deficit world is rare yet extremely necessary. As a course developer, it’s your job to capture learners’ attention and get them engaged now. You can’t afford to lose students in the first 30 seconds of your presentation.
But if you are going to learn only one technique, then learn the art of getting attention in the first two minutes. Study striking headlines, catchy radio ads and irresistible copywriting. You’ll find that all of them tap into human behavior to capture attention from start to finish.
2) Help Learners Understand and Remember
Students should fully understand an idea or concept first before they can remember it.
The easiest way to achieve this is by structuring your content in a brain-friendly format. The brain can process and hold only a limited number of information at once. That’s why you should divide content into bite-sized chunks and organize it in a way that reduces mental strain.
Using vivid images or visual information is another technique to help the brain retain information. The more detailed the image, the better. You can’t use visuals all the time. So be prepared to do repetitions or similar memory-retention techniques. You can repeat important concepts or key takeaways at the end of the section. Checking in with students will also help students constantly work to retain their lessons.
3) Get Students Believe
People tend to ignore ideas unless they have faith in the source. Check if your facts and sources are updated.
Go beyond raw facts and focus instead on creating a meaningful learning experience. Spice up your material by including credible and relevant facts, images, quotes illustrations and statistics.
Testimonials and real-life stories are best in making people believe—as long as they are credible, of course.
4) Make Them Care About the Course
Give them at least one compelling reason to care about the subject. Make them forge an emotional attachment to it. Will it make them more successful? Perhaps happier? More knowledgable?
The material should make them feel, think and act on something. Most importantly, the material should be about them. It should speak in their own language—that is, in a conversational, friendly tone. Use of emotive terms is okay but be careful not to overdo it.
5) Get People to Act
A well-received and well-understood speech deserves a resounding applause and even a standing ovation. In eLearning, students get and believe in your content when action is involved.
Tell them what to do. Allow them to perform what they learned and learn from their performance. Let them make realistic choices by providing real-world examples. Every action they take and decision they make should (closely) mirror the real world.