Elearning can be adapted and used by just about any business to train its employees effectively. It’s this adaptability that makes elearning such a constantly evolving industry. There are many things to think about when trying to create a successful course, so I’ve put together GLAD’s Ten Commandments of Elearning to provide some tips and insight.
Commandment 1: Thou shalt understand thy learner.
Any elearning course that you create should be built around your learners. They are the ones who will be using the course, hopefully long after your involvement is over. You need to find out as much as you can about the people that will use your course – what are their needs, their roles, their abilities? Then you can set about building a course that is bespoke, unique and focused entirely on them.
Keep in mind that for a lot of users an elearning course may be mandatory. They may be required to complete it in order to enhance their skills, keep their job or climb the career ladder. Understanding exactly what they need will greatly increase engagement.
Commandment 2: Thou shalt respect thy learners’ intelligence.
Chances are your learners aren’t stupid. They’re all adults and some will have decades of experience in the area of your elearning course. So treat them like that! Create a course that is engaging and relevant to exactly what they do. Offer them the opportunity to move through the course more quickly if they demonstrate existing knowledge. Don’t just write a list of instructions for them to follow.
Commandment 3: Thou shalt write in easily-digestible chunks.
You open up a document crammed with information and not so much as a paragraph break, and what happens? Your mind immediately switches off. Many learners struggle when bombarded with a block of words, and the truth is that most people scan-read at the best of times.
Your challenge, then, is to make your users scan the points they need to learn. The best way to do this is content chunking – organising your content into bite-size morsels with the aid of bullet points, step-by-step guides and concise sentences. Your learners will be able to retain a lot more information as a result.
Commandment 4: Thy elearning shall be consistent.
A consistent course is easier for learners to follow and gets rid of potential distractions. And consistency applies to both the look and sound of your course.
The colours, styles and logos you use should all match your client’s branding. Consistency helps your learners know what is important and what you want them to do – think about how bolding a word or using a different colour can make instructions or important points stand out. Choose two or three fonts to use throughout and pick colours that contrast well.
You also need to create a strong narrative introduction and summary, and ensure you tie your story in throughout the course. Start each section with a gate slide to help with navigation, and refer to characters (see Commandment 8) and their situations throughout. Finally, consistent grammar and tone of voice help with ease of reading.
Commandment 5: Thou shalt cater to all learning styles.
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn“ – Benjamin Franklin.
We’ve all been bored in a presentation or when taking a course, usually because they’re designed to simply to tell us what to do. If you want your audience to remember your content, you need to provide them with learning options so they can find the one that best suits them: they can read information about a set of tasks or policies (Tell Me); they can sit back and watch a demonstration of how something works (Show Me); or they can interact either with software simulation or a scenario to test and demonstrate their understanding (Try Me).
Many people learn best through trying something for themselves. Elearning is a great way to offer learners this hands-on approach, but in a safe environment.
Commandment 6: Thou shalt use only meaningful graphics.
Useful and well-thought-out visuals can make the difference between an average course and a great course. The best graphics can grab your learners’ attention while at the same time being a useful aid to illustrate the steps in a process, interactions between people, or simply a concept.
Overdoing it can have the opposite effect. Too many visuals become a distraction that prevents learners from focusing their attention on your course. You need to give users room to breathe by employing negative space and graphics that are useful, not decorative.
Commandment 7: Thou shalt make it interactive.
Interactivity is crucial to making your course engaging and involving for your learners. You can incorporate interactivity in your elearning course in a variety of ways. We design elearning courses that encourage learners to ‘touch the screen’ at least every third or fourth slide. You can employ a number of different methods including click-to-reveals, drag-and-drop, matching pairs and other interesting interactions to allow learners to discover content for themselves. Case studies allow learners to see real-world examples of what your course is about, making it ultra-relevant to them. Scenarios encourage independent thinking and allow users to choose their own outcomes, creating an immersive experience that enhances engagement. Creating multi-branching scenarios takes this one step further.
You can also test your learners’ knowledge by including games and quizzes. Gamification is an elearning buzzword, and with good reason. It helps give your course a sense of fun, encourages active participation, and can provide healthy competition between users.
Commandment 8: Thou shalt use characters.
Using engaging characters in your elearning can personalise the experience and create a deeper emotional connection between your learners and the content. Characters can be used to provide narration, to act as a presenter or guide, and as an integral part of any scenarios. They can be photographic, illustrated or animated. If you’re creating a series a courses, using the same character can help add to the consistency of your work. Just make sure your characters are easy for to relate to and are relevant to both learner and content.
Commandment 9: Elearning shalt certify thy learners’ knowledge.
Tests and assessments are a great way to see what users have learnt from your course. There are many different types you can employ, from simple true or false and multiple choice questions, to drag and drop and fill-in-the-blanks. If your elearning is training users how to use a new application, you can even include a simulation to test their knowledge in a real-world environment.
Once a learner has completed a test, their score can be automatically calculated and custom feedback given based on that score. You can make them retake the test if they score below a certain level, and provide a certificate when they pass. It’s important to remember, though, that learners want to be challenged, so you need to pitch the difficulty of your tests at the right level. Don’t just give away the answers – make your learners think and apply their knowledge. And your elearning should be written to SCORM, AICC or Tin Can (xAPI) standards to ensure their achievements are tracked on their LMS or LRS.
Commandment 10: Thou shalt pay attention to detail.
Your course needs to look, sound and feel right in order to gain credibility with your learners. Are you using the correct terminology for their industry? Are you using the same tense throughout and the active voice as much as possible? Do your bullet points have full stops at the end? Are your graphics and assets correctly aligned? Check, check and check again to get rid of anything that could distract your learner’s attention away from actually learning.
At GLAD we specialise in providing brilliant elearning solutions. If you’d like to know more about what we do and how we can help your business, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on Twitter.