In the past 200 years, we have seen the agricultural, industrial, and information revolution come to fruition. Our current revolution is that of experience. Everything from personal streaming to escape rooms is created towards giving a unique moment in our lives. Couple with this, we are bombarded with information in all formats at all times of the day. These two shifts have altered the learners’ perception of what their training courses should be like. This can easily become overwhelming when thinking about design. How can you possibly cater to the needs of each learner when you have upwards of 100 or more interacting with the content? Luckily, there are proven strategies for engaging a diverse audience.
1) Create Similar 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 the traditional learning environment, the learner listens to the expert for an extended period. They are expected to take notes and listen attentively. Videos capturing information do not work like that in the 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 investment. 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.
4) Creating a Range of Assessment Questions
Over 80 percent of assessment questions focus on recall of facts or content. This means that less than 20 percent focuses on the application of complex problems to generate multiple solutions. However, it is this application and evaluation that most closely resembles the type of problem-solving needed in their career.
Build assessments to match expectations after the learner has completed the series of content. Make sure that the verbs used in assessment questions match with those learning objects.
5) Develop Adaptive and Modular Content
Traditional eLearning design is most effective for the average learner. 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 passed, then the learner can entirely skip that module. An aspect that needs to be considered in this sort of environment is that it can be very challenging to build higher order thinking assessment questions in a machine-evaluated environment. Therefore, if learners need to, for example, teach someone else how to do something, the machine will not be able to assess this. If this is the goal of design, then a more suitable assessment would be to have that learner produce a video teaching someone else about a concept.
Forget the linear way of imparting content. 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.
6) 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.
7) Allow Easy Archiving
In the fast paced world in which we live, people learn anywhere and at any time. This means that they will be engaging with content on devices that do not have an easy way to take notes or annotate. An eLearning system that allows learners to click on a piece of content and move it to a journal, pin it to a board, save it in GetPocket, to save for future use lets the learner save information they want to come back to at a later time.
8) Create a Mobile App of Content
It can be hard to remember a time when Google was not present in our workflow. These queries range from simple to complex and from personal to professional. However, the information we find on Google can frequently be wrong. Having a mobile app repository of learning experiences allows learners to find answers within a standardized set of information. This means that the information they search for will not be in conflict with company expectations. A great example of this in practice is a Microsoft Excel tutorial. There are multiple versions of Microsoft Excel. Without a mobile repository of the right resource, an employee in the company could go to Google to find a solution and encounter a video not based on the version of Excel they have.
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.