Standarized and "one-size-fits-all” eLearning courses are no longer relevant in today's context. Personalization has become the norm.
Modern learners are used to Netflix, Spotify, Alexa... and they expect their eLearning courses to work the same way.
Designing personalized courses is all about offering the right content, to the right audience, at the right time. For this to happen, designers need to pay attention to a series of elements:
- Content formats (e.g. audio, video, textual, graphical, etc.)
- The sequence of the content and the different possible learning pathways
- Where content will be delivered
- How students will be evaluated.
- and many other factors
In this post, we will share some proven ways for creating more personalized experiences.
1) Provide Information in Multiple Formats
Some of your learners will want to read the content, others prefer a podcast, and still others want to use an interactive learning object. To meet this breadth of diversity, consider making similar content in different formats and allowing learners to choose how to view the content. The important element to remember is that each learning resource created must align with the central idea of the module.
For example, in an eLearning module, learners could:
- Watch an overview video of the topic
- Download an Infographic
- Complete a Comprehension Assessment
- Participate in a discussion with other course participants
There are two additional benefits to designing for multiple formats. First, designing this way affords the learner power to choose how they continue with the content. If a learner wants to view multiple formats, there is nothing stopping them. Second, universal design focuses on engaging with content in more than one way. This means better learning for all.
2) Share Short, On-demand Videos
In many eLearning courses, we still find the typical screen that includes a 1-hour talking head video where the learner listens to an expert for an extended period. They are expected to take notes and listen attentively. Videos capturing information do not work like that in the modern eLearning world.
The ideal video is 3-5 minutes long with a hook and a purpose. Drill down to the most essential aspect of the content you are going to deliver. Focus on creating a video out of this. The video needs to be scripted before it is recorded and should be able to be edited, if necessary.
One of the major concerns with creating video is the cost. It is not cheap to produce a ready for TV video. Fortunately, eLearning courses do not require this level of video. There are many low-tech solutions that create effective yet affordable video products.
3) Signposts and Pathways
Learners expect to engage with content in flexible ways in short chunks of time. However, this does not mean that they can effectively learn from multiple modules without an underlying connection. The savvy eLearning designer will build pathways and signposts into learning. These provide a visual journey for the learner to take.
What these pathways and signposts look like in reality varies. You have creativity in helping learners to track their progress, reflect on what has been learned, and identify future goals. They should always provide a sense of direction to the learner, even if this direction does not look the same across a set of learners.
- The Rapid Rise of Learning Pathways
- Learner Experience Mapping: Building Personalized “Learner-centric” Experiences
4) Develop Adaptive and Modular Content
Traditionally we've created eLearning courses targeted to the average learner. However, everyone in the company who is an expert in the content the course offers will view the course as largely a waste of time. Conversely, novice learners will feel that the content is over their heads. A solution to this problem is adaptive content.
An adaptive eLearning platform adjusts the flow of information based on previous learner interactions. For example, if a preassessment is successfully completed, then the learner can entirely skip that module. Or else, if the nature of the content allows it, you could just leave the navigation open so employees can play around as needed.
Forget the linear way of delivering content. Instead of designing the typical linear experience, offer learners a clickable experience that features diverse activities. Remember, your learners are looking for just-in-time solutions. You need to give workers bite-sized modules frequently, to fit into the different needs of your diverse audience.
Your eLearning courses should allow learners to define:
- Their learning path (based on the level of experience they have). Empower learners to carve their own learning paths. Create a design and put in place a technological framework that lets learners explore, find, and “pull” the solutions towards them instead of you thrusting (pushing) the learning down their throats. For instance, allow learners to skip learning modules that they don’t want to take.
- The “place and pace” of the learning
- The device they wish to see the content on
- The format: Determine when your audience will likely access the content. This is valuable information because it will help you determine the type of content to create. For instance, sales personnel might want to have handy lists of the features of a new product when they are on the shop floor. Machine operators might want to refer to short how-to videos covering safety checks or troubleshooting instructions when they are at the production facility.
5) Give Recommendations for Future Learning based on Their Needs
After we make a purchase or viewing an online show, we see given suggestions for other products or shows we might like. Taking this idea further to music streaming, we are even able to dislike some of the suggested songs. Providing learners with control in the form of future suggestions and liking or disliking them creates engaging experiences for all learners. This gives variation to all learners as the next content they see will be based on their preferences.
IDEA --> Create an environment where learning can happen organically. For instance, whet audience interest by letting learners rate and review courses on a social platform, or create more opportunities for co-workers to collaborate and learn from one another. At Facebook, much of the learning is driven by employees and imparted by peers.
Diversifying content for your audience requires an eLearning design mindset that expects to devote extra attention to personalization and multiple learning pathways. Incorporate this into the project scope so that everyone else involved in the project knows what to expect. Choose the suggestions that are possible now for immediate implementation. If some of these are not possible due to your learning management system, keep them in your back pocket and use them as motivation for upgrading learning and development capabilities.