SHIFT's eLearning Blog
Our blog provides the latest best practices, tips, insights and thought leadership on modern corporate training, eLearning and mLearning.
Have you ever read something where it seems like the material was written by someone who simply wanted to show off how smart they are? When this happens, do you find yourself thinking how brilliant the author is? No, it’s far more likely that you get annoyed with the person who wrote the piece and possibly frustrated with yourself. This is NOT the way to write your courses. As an eLearning designer, there will be times when you know the material far better than the average student, but the last thing you want to do is create a course that goes over students’ heads. You need to strive to be clear without talking down to your audience and engaging without being letting the entertainment value overshadow the information. Additionally, there are certain things that you need to consider when designing for people who will be viewing your eLearning course on a computer screen or other device. People who are learning online have far more built-in distractions over people reading from a piece of paper, which makes online learners: Focus on tasks not an overall experience Read up to 25% slower because there are distractions like links to click on Read only about 20% of text on the average page Skim information instead of reading every single word Because of these factors, your eLearning courses must be concise and organized into easily manageable parts.
Unless you have a phenomenal photographic memory, chances are you struggle to remember things and wonder how you can make information stick better. The answer? PAY ATTENTION! When you pay attention, you are far more likely to retain that information. This also applies to the learners you design eLearning courses for. Effective eLearning course design starts with understanding the science of attention. Neglecting this important step makes the difference between learner’s remembering your content for a few minutes, hours or a lifetime. Try some of these techniques for getting learners’ attention from the get-go:
It’s happened to all of us: we’re presented with information and yet we forget it. Why does it happen? One of the most common reasons is because our attention is elsewhere. It’s similar to what happens when a student is attending a lecture, yet is simultaneously spending time on their smartphone. While they may be physically present in the lecture, their divided attention leads to a failure to retain most, if not all, of the information taught. Another reason we don’t encode information is because we don’t see it as relevant. If you’re training employees and they don’t see content directly related to their job or their career growth, they’re likely to lose focus and fail to embed the information in their memory. The third most commonly cited reason we don’t manage to remember information is because our brains feel like they’re being bombarded with too much information at once. Your brain has only a certain threshold of information it can process. If you inundate the brain with huge amounts of data, it will selectively decipher what to retain and what to let go.
Like the King of Pop once sang “it doesn’t matter if its black or white…as long as you use good, complementary choices from the color wheel.” Ok, maybe those weren’t the exact lyrics, but the point is that color, regarding its place in eLearning design, is quite significant and knowing how to use it can make or break your eLearning courses. So, how do you decide what colors go where and how? The answer can be found in the spinning wonder we know as The Color Wheel. That spiffy, rainbow-hued circle you were likely introduced to all the way back in elementary school is actually an extremely useful tool for creating seamless, organized designs.
Powerful writing is required for powerful eLearning. This eBook will help eLearning developers master the art of writing and tap into the power of words to create memorable courses.
You have to schedule meetings with the SME. You have to speak with the business executives to figure out the learning objectives. You have to know the target audience. It seems you have your hands full. Why should you bother to rack your brains and think of a story? Why would you need to tell a story in an eLearning course? Stories hold enormous power over our minds and hearts for a reason. They are how we think, how we make sense of information, how we define ourselves, and how we persuade others. According to a recent article in Psychology Today, stories continue to hold power in this digital age because the human brain hasn't evolved as fast as technology and it's only through stories that we can connect to the various digital platforms and media messages out there today. Stories can improve your eLearning courses, not only making then more instructionally effective but also more engaging.
We, instructional designers, know the feeling. We take copious notes when we interview the SME, and when we return to our desks, we are at a loss wondering what information to include in the course and what to toss out. Most of us end up squeezing into the course almost everything the SME had said. At other times, we read through the raw content, fall in love with a piece of data that is new to us and seems exciting, and cram it in the course. The result is an information-heavy eLearning course that overwhelms the learner but does not benefit him or elicit the response from him that you had desired. Information overload is a common pitfall that eLearning designers should be wary of. Your goal should be to create a course that packs in only that much information that fulfills the learning outcomes. Relevance increases learner engagement. Besides, your adult learners are busy people; you cannot expect them to sit through a course as you ramble on.
What is the first thing that attracts a learner to your course? In most cases, it is a photo or a graphic. No points for guessing it right!
Do you buy clothes online without looking at the photographs? What sounds more exciting—reading about a seaside town or actually walking through the streets of one while smelling the sea in the air? Why is your computer crammed full with photographs and videos of long-gone birthday parties and family picnics? That is because, we love images! Images talk to us, move us, make us remember, and inspire us in ways that words hardly can. We also happen to learn better through images than with text. The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times quicker than text!