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By: Karla Gutierrez

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March 21st, 2017

4 Ideas to Make Dry Content Interesting in eLearning

Instructional & Graphic Design


As eLearning developers, we are creative folks. We want to create courses that sparkle with our personalities, dazzle, at first sight, stir the learner’s emotions, and make a lasting impression. Unfortunately, the topics we have to teach mostly are anything but wildly exciting. Finance. Safety training. Ethics training. Pharmaceutical compliance courses. The heart hardly leaps with joy at the thought of sifting through tons of legalese or pharma-talk (the raw matter) and then creating a course out of the jargons and lingo. 


The onus is on us to create engaging courses out of this dry, technical matter. We have to create courses that are not only instructionally effective but also arresting to the senses. It is one of those challenges that keep us up at night, as confirmed by more than 500 training professionals we surveyed.

In this article we will give you some ideas to bring to life dull topics, simplify complex technical matter, and make the learning process a memorable journey. 

Idea #1: Use colors to set the mood 

Who says you have to stick to dull grays, monotonous blacks, and insipid blues just because you are teaching a complex topic? If you don’t want to drive your learners away or bore them to sleep, use colors that evoke particular emotions.

Fiery red. Pretty pink. Cool blue. Mysterious black. Dull gray. We have all heard or read these phrases. There’s a reason why certain adjectives are used to describe specific colors.

There’s a reason why men do not wear baby pink- or canary yellow-colored suits to corporate gatherings. There’s a reason why red roses, and not yellow sunflowers or blue morning glories, are the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.

Colors create moods.

This way, when you know how the human mind perceives specific colors, you can use the power of colors to create the right mood and influence learners.

Adult corporate learners are bombarded with a slew of information every waking minute of their day. Their minds are overwhelmed, and they do not feel motivated to respond to another new message. To catch their attention and then keep them hooked to your course is a stiff challenge. But you can appeal to their emotions using the RIGHT colors.

Create a course with colors that feels inviting and set the right mood. We humans always go weak in the knees when someone speaks to our hearts!

Here are some tips to help you learn the language of color and master its nuances:

  • First of all, learn about the  psychology of colors and evoke the right emotions in your learners.
    • Use cool colors to help learners focus on the learning and improve the learning outcome.
    • Use warm colors if you want learners to get excited or to inject some liveliness into a dull subject.
  • Choose a color palette that contains 2-4 colors. Using too many colors on the screen has a jarring effect. For instance, choose a vibrant color as the primary color in the palette. Then choose 2-3 other colors that complement the primary shade.
  • To make the content stand out, insert a colored or textured background. The background will also create a cozy nook of sorts for the content to be housed in; this will add “personality” and an element of interest.

Note: Don’t sacrifice visibility for the sake of using colors. Make sure that your colored backgrounds don’t make text illegible.

Have fun with colors. Mix-and-match colors to create more evocative designs. However, before you experiment with the color palette, ensure that you know how different colors gel with one another.

Check out this Color Combination Guide.  

See how we set the right mood in this screen by using an adequate color palette that is in harmony with the topic of the course:

Employee-Wellness.jpg

Idea #2: Add Visual Power

As human beings, we are naturally drawn to visuals. We love watching movies. We click open and share more social media posts with pictures than those without. As an eLearning developer, you should wield this powerful medium often and especially when you have to make boring and dry content engaging.

Here are some tips to wield the power of visuals to create meaningful courses:

  • Insert visuals to break the monotony of a seemingly endless series of text. You can also create infographics to liven up content, say for example, a list of statistics. Here is a 5-step guide to help you create compelling and effective infographics.
  • Use animated visuals to explain complex procedures. For instance, an animated GIF that demonstrates the steps of a procedure is more effective as a learning tool than a chunk of text. It is the next best thing to attending a workshop and seeing a demonstrator perform the steps right in front of you. And just like in a workshop where you can ask the demonstrator to repeat a step for you, you can pause and replay the GIF demonstration to review a step.

Here are some sites where you can learn to create your own animated GIFs: https://gifs.com/
and https://giphy.com/create/gifmaker

Here are some more ideas on how you can use visuals to break down, simplify, and explain complex procedures.

  • Identify keywords that define the content and create graphics to represent these ideas and concepts.
  • Use icons for bullet points. This adds an element of interest to the content without taking up valuable screen real estate.
  • Screenshots.  Anything that can be done on a computer should mainly be explained with screenshots. This type of visual example helps you show your learners exactly what you mean. How much easier is it to see where an icon is rather than trying to find it based on a word description? Screenshots are ideally suited to visualize computer tasks, lab operations, a sequence of events or tasks, teaching software, and walkthroughs.

Check out how we played with colors and numerical icons to create more visual power:

visual-power.jpg

Idea #3: Use Examples and Non-Examples

Sometimes specifying both examples (what something is) and non-examples (what something is not) can nail down a concept more vividly than just defining it. For instance, statistics do not often convey the gravity of a natural calamity. We are more shocked when we see the visuals on TV. Real consequences stir us more than possible implications whose magnitude have to be imagined.

When you teach policies, for instance, explain with examples and non-examples. Gather information about instances of policy violations that may have taken place in the company in recent times and what happened as a result of the breach. Then weave a story of a non-example into the scenario and present it to the learners. The examples along with the non-examples provide irrefutable rationales.

Read more: 6 Ways to Incorporate Examples into Your eLearning Courses

Idea #4: Add Video

Here is a golden rule of eLearning: if you have to demonstrate something, use a video. A chunk of text, however descriptive it may be, cannot recreate the realism video provides.

Here are some tips on how and when to use videos to achieve the most effective learning outcome:

  • Use videos to demonstrate what can go wrong during a procedure and how to fix the problem.
  • Use them to teach about harassment or discrimination. Instead of listing workplace don’ts, provide a video that illustrates body language, facial expression, and the subtle or overt signs of aggression present in the environment.
  • Use videos to teach behavioral responses, for instance, when you have to teach your sales force how to respond to the subtle cues given off by potential customers and recognize the right moment to upsell.
  • Create videos where employees speak about their experiences in handling risky situations and overcoming challenges. Such documentary videos featuring real people—co-workers—make the course relatable and add an inspirational touch.
  • You can add more interactivity to your course by letting learners share their experiences of the training session through video or audio. This adds context to the course and more reliability.

For instance, explain the rules of Lab Safety through a Zombie analogy to make it more fun and interesting:

VIDEO.jpg
 Want to create your own videos? Check out this DIY guide.

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About Karla Gutierrez

Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT.

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