It's so easy to assume that information is all that matters. The truth is, how such information was presented or formatted affects its effectiveness. The design of the screen, for instance, influences how students interact with information. Is the interface cluttered? Or is it designed to properly guide learners toward clear goals?
It goes without saying that for a learning environment to be effective, you have to evaluate the learning information, or content created for teaching, itself.
Here are four crucial factors that should be evaluated:
- Graphic Clarity
1. Graphic Clarity
This principle of good design goes beyond how the screen looks. It is rather focused on how the screen conveys information—the form.
Remember, the goal is always to communicate information in the clearest and most accurate way as possible. Interface design should be consistent and aesthetically pleasing to orientate the learner. Your use of graphics shouldn't be for mere decoration or for filling an empty space. Every graphic element should contribute to the educational purpose of your material and help students achieve their learning goals.
Take a look your screen. Does it actually "inform" or promote better communication? If it easily distracts, then you're nowhere near achieving graphic clarity. Be mindful of the learner's cognitive load. Take away the clutter by getting rid of those elements that obscure your message. A cluttered screen makes it harder for the eyes to read. But a simple, clear design—one that guides the eyes smoothly along the screen—definitely makes learning much more effective. You can use or combine different elements from line, color or whitespace to create a visual flow and guide learners to their ultimate goal.
- Avoid Cognitive Overload: 5 Rules for eLearning Design
- Quick Tips and Examples for Guiding the Learner's Eye
- 10 DIY Tips for Effective eLearning Design
Readability on screen is quite different from readability on traditional medium like paper. This is mainly because information is presented differently online. It's coded in several layers and distributed in several mediums.
Remember, students don't only read chunks of paragraphs online. They also interact with information in a lot of ways. They click on a link and hover their mouse on a particular image or location. These links and annotations allow them more access to information.
Better readability, then, is about helping readers understand the text. If the text can't be read, then your material simply fails to deliver. Since readability is an essential aspect of comprehension, it's necessary to consider the ease with which students can read the text. Can they scan it quickly? Even on different browsers and devices? What about the hover text? Can they recognize links?
- Four Revealing Facts on How Learners Read On Screen [Infographic]
- How We Read Online— A Guide for eLearning Professionals
You probably have heard a lot about usability these days. But what is it really?
Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group defines usability as “a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use.”
In the field of eLearning, usability considers how user interfaces easily allows students to perform typical learning-related tasks. When a student views a screen, the primary question is whether that page is usable for their purpose as a student?
Let's take your eLearning screen, for instance. Can students easily navigate their way from screen to screen? Can they effortlessly move back and forward or wherever they need to get to? And once they get to their intended screen, can they intuitively do what they're supposed to do? If the answer is yes, then there's no doubt that your material scores high in terms of usability.
To check for usability, watch out for broken navigation links, cluttered navigation system, vague menu options and labels, non-descriptive titles or pages, and missing images or graphics.
- The Holy Trinity of Effective eLearning: Usability, Utility and Desirability
- Experience is Everything in eLearning: Don't Make Learners Think!
Professionals often confuse learnability with usability. While these two are similar concepts, they are a bit different.
Based on several works by authors such as McLuhan, Arnheim and Elkins, learnability considers how well a page or screen promotes learning and thinking. To test for the "learnability" of an eLearning program, professionals would have to ask “How learnable is the course?” or “Does this screen help people learn?”
These questions focus on learning-centered usability. The page may be usable. It may enable students to complete tasks. But does it actually help them learn? Obviously, usability and learnability are inextricably linked. One cannot exist without the other.
To check whether an interface is "learnable," it has to present material in such a way that it encourages students to learn. Instead of just relying on dry and informational-thin PowerPoint slides or simply moving traditional format to the web, for instance, the screen has to fully take advantage of technology.