Humanize Your eLearning Courses or Risk Losing Learners
eLearning is a valuable tool in education. Whether the goal is training or professional development, even complete college degrees, eLearning is here and here to stay. This begs the question, how can we ensure that we maximize the potential of those who are engaged in eLearning? Certainly, if there is content we expect people to learn, we want that content to “stick” in their minds and to be something they can recall later. Personalizing learning, which must include making the eLearning more human, is one important way to maximize the potential from eLearning.
eLearning at its core is about connecting with your learners. And to do this effectively, your content has to be relatable. Moreover, if you want to resonate with your learners, you need to humanize your content.
Here are some ideas to start with:
1. Put Learners At the Center.
Learning starts at the individual level. When the eLearning designer finds a way to allow a learner to embrace learning set up to maximize their own needs and talents, the learner is taking more responsibility, and the atmosphere becomes more learner-centered. The fault of most textbooks and other curriculum guides is they are too standardized, too one size fits all rather than allowing a human feeling that can help a learner feel like an individual.
When eLearning courses pay attention to the diversity between learners, take into account how learners learn best, their feelings and desires, and there is an atmosphere that respects each learner, the learner self-directs their learning to find their purpose and goals for learning. Failing to do this can make a huge difference in the success of the course.
2. Address the Human, Personal Need.
An important part of any eLearning course is the content, but learners don’t just need to know what they are supposed to learn, they want to understand the practical application of that content. Behind the professional, logical need there is a human need. Perhaps it is important to understand that A+B = C, but what the learner wants to know is how arriving at C will help them do their job better. You must appeal to the WIIF because you are talking to a human being even in an online context.
3. Lose the Robotic Corporate Speak. Write for Humans.
- Write in the second person. Call the learner “you” to personalize “your” writing.
- Write in a conversational tone using fairly short sentences.
- Read what you write out loud. You can catch many mistakes in your own writing by following this rule of thumb.
- Don’t waste words. Whether spoken aloud or in writing, wordiness loses the audience.
- Use contractions. It makes you sound less robotic.
- Ensure that what you write is clear. No one wants to read something that they have to decipher, and that is especially true when trying to reach a learner on a personal level.
4. Use Human Faces.
Use pictures of humans who can adequately express feelings and values you could otherwise not express. A picture really can be worth 1000 words, as long as the right picture is used. It is also wise to use faces that resemble the target audience. If your learners young professional people, then the pictures used to illustrate points should be of young professional people. We want to relate to the pictures we see, and we pay more attention when those people resemble us.
5. Use Realistic and Personalized Images.
Photos of real people, at real locations, and if possible even in real situations can also make things feel more personal. By using real photos, the learner develops a sense of trust and develops a feeling of personalization.
Take Note: The perfect image is a rare find. Most of the time, you will have to customize an image, crop it, or manipulate some of its elements. Instructional designers usually edit a stock image to make it more unique and own it. Here are some ideas.
6. Human interaction, either through email, social networking, or even the phone is important
The difference between someone who is able to learn and someone who is not able to learn can be as simple as having some sort of personal interaction. This interaction can be between two learners, or between the instructor and the learner, or, between the learner and content if it is interactive.
eLearning is at its best when the learner is regularly exposed to consistent feedback from a faculty member or instructor; when there is a community of learners to give various points of view on topics, as well as feedback; and when feedback is given and that feedback can encourage growth. Online discussion forums and video links are great opportunities for learners to communicate and provide feedback to each other.
7. Authenticity in eLearning
Any learner can sit in front of a computer screen to answer questions and write reports that will satisfy an instructor and earn credit of some sort. But that isn’t authentic learning. There isn’t reliable engagement in the content and the process when this occurs. One incredibly important part of authentic learning is applying knowledge to a situation that is either real world, or a very good simulation of a real world situation. The other important part of authentic learning is reflection. Communicating with other learners and instructors about what was learned, or perhaps what is still fuzzy from attempted learning makes eLearning authentic.
eLearning is an important way to access continuing education. However, work must be done to ensure that real learning occurs. Although not always easy, this approach to learning can ensure that authentic learning and understanding occurs and that the process isn’t simply part of “jumping through the hoops.”