These days your employees are bombarded with all sorts of information: Whatsapp messages, social media notifications, email, phone calls, etc. While the average attention spans of adults range from 10 to 20 minutes, the expectations of the quality learning experiences are higher than ever. The only way to stand out in this flood of information is to make your courses STELLAR, aka: USEFUL, VALUABLE, MEMORABLE and ENGAGING.
As you design your courses always keep your learners in mind and what is honestly relevant to them and what will keep them focused. You can start by asking yourself what you would need to get the most from the course. Design to satisfy this objective and you are well on your way to effective courses.
The points below are classic and innovative all at once; each section helps designers achieve their best courses by considering the most useful angles: the audience, the strategy, and your writing.
In short, this is the industry’s golden checklist of “do’s and don’ts.” Apply them, and you could be on your way to a better eLearning courses by tomorrow.
1) Connecting with your Audience
The most important thing is to resonate with your learners. At the top of the list of priorities, connecting is the ground rule that will get you furthest. Below are some fundamental ways to get your course to achieving chemistry with your learners:
- Dress up your content to do the job that it’s been created to do. The challenge is to learn something new, so your content can't be hard to read or confusing. If learners are above their vocabulary or responsibilities, you’ve lost them way before you started. List the course’s title and objective to match the assigned audience.
- Help your employees embrace eLearning. Most companies have yet to incorporate a real learning culture. Yes, people consume a great deal of information, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they understand a lot of the things they are repeating. Cultivate a space that supports the programs that you are creating. There is no sense in creating an educational program that your everyday culture won't support. Depending on your employees and how familiar they are with eLearning, you may want to schedule an introductory session, to make everyone more comfortable. This can be conducted at a staff meeting, or via online conference call. Let them know that they are not expected to struggle and work out the problem on their own and that someone is always available to help. Read: The Google Way of Building A Strong Learning Culture
- Understand your learners motivations and expectations. Take your eLearning course and make it learner-focused by making sure your audience's needs and expectations are met first before anything else. Start here: Applying Audience Analysis Insights to eLearning Design
- Allow sufficient time to debrief activities and follow up with mini quizzes to encourage recall. If possible, provide specific feedback. It’s like tennis, once you know your backhand is weak, you know what to place your focus. If learning is part of the culture, we should be eager to provide information when learners are receptive.
- Make sure content is useful NOW. Do you want to learn something you’ll need in a year or something that will help you make the next sale? What you are providing needs to be applied immediately to prove it’s worth! Read more: 4 Reasons That You’re eLearning Course Isn’t Working, But Still Can
- Address participants’ pain points throughout the course. You could be using technology in the right ways, featuring killer and aesthetically pleasing courses, and even having the support of your organization.But if you’re not addressing your learners pain points — and missing what they actually need and want — then your program will fail. Analyze your employees’ goals, along with the skills you think they still need to achieve in order to be successful — and tailor your program to accomplish those specific objectives.
- Determine the learners’ existing knowledge base and go from there. Start designing without actually considering whom your audience is and what their experience level is with the subject matter will inevitably lead to a poor execution of the material. For example, top executives would likely want to see numbers and statistics presented while a project manager would need to know more about methods and techniques. Giving your audience what they need and want gives your course value. Find a way to do this to save them time in front of content that they don’t need. When using examples provide practical scenarios instead of theoretical concepts that might not be relevant to their everyday duties.
- Use language that will establish a connection with the “instructor.” Example, “Follow me to the next lesson!”
2) Defining a Visual & Interactivity Strategy
As they say, “work smarter, not harder.” The points below keep a focus on how to play it smart by avoiding some common mistakes and including quality elements in your eLearning course.
- Include powerful images to energize learning and illustrate concepts. Insert visuals to break the monotony of a seemingly endless series of text. You can also create infographics to liven up content, say for example, a list of statistics. The right images can give a second breathe to text or help depict a scenario too. Read more: 4 Ideas to Make Dry Content Interesting in eLearning
- Use emotion to keep the learner invested in the course. A learner will be more inclined to stay invested if what you are teaching them will result in less anxiety when carrying out a task.
- Use videos when possible. Video is even more likely to stir our emotions and get us riled up in some way than images. It is also one of the most effective ways to tell a story. There are also some things that just can’t be conveyed any other way as well. Selling something that has significant features such as speed or movement can only adequately be portrayed with video. Things like a fast car or a demonstration of how easy a new kitchen gadget is to use can really only be seen properly in a video.
- Mix up text with images, videos and graphics that way it’s engaging. Variety is a vital strategy to consider when creating your eLearning course. Everyone grasps information a different way and making sure there is something for everyone is a best practice. What’s important here is to know how an idea or concept will deliver best.
- Include a call-to-action. Sometimes we need a little push...to download more info, share or make a comment. Put it out there. Make it easy for your learners to do what you need them to do.
- Test, test, test. Here is the thing if you get feedback, you can incorporate insights that the source has requested. This insight will get you to know your audience better, how to speak to them, be more inclined to avoid certain things, and have an impact on their learning experience.
- Create opportunities for learners to experiment and discover. Learning should be ACTIVE instead of passive! Like Netflix tends to ask if we’re still there, make sure that the learner is listening. The best way to do that is requiring the learner’s participation in more than just advancing to the next page. For example, rather than listing six ways an issue can be solved over the phone, use six drag and drop icons. Then allow the learners to explore the information at their own pace. If they weren’t paying attention before, they'd catch on.
- Provide opportunities for learners to succeed and recognize their improvement. Status grows when your students learn and get better at implementing that learning. Navigating around the course should be intuitive. Frustrations shouldn’t come up here. Menus, moving forward, going back, search, all these things have been to top notch and smooth, so there is no loss of interest.
- Examples bring your content to life. You can’t rely just on telling your audience things; you have to show them to give them something real to hold onto. Explain what you mean conceptually but then show how that applies to the real world. These examples can be real or theoretical, but they must show what can actually happen. Giving an example of what their life could be different before and after your course helps you frame the relevancy of why your course is valuable. This gives them a clear goal and idea of what to expect, a point in the distance to focus on. Read more: How to Ensure Employees Take (and Complete) Your eLearning Course
- Trigger thinking by guiding the audience through reality-based learning scenarios. Ask the learners to solve a problem that they may encounter during their daily activities. Any time you can include the learner to make a decision, create something or evaluate a real problem, you are involving them in their own learning process while also preventing boredom. Read more: Five Rules of Engagement All eLearning Designers Should Live By
- Build a community. Have a forum, upload case studies, have group learning, use video, etc. Any and all of these will encourage participants to express and share amongst themselves. This will establish credibility as a useful platform.
3) Powerful Writing
At the end of every day, your writing needs to be memorable and engaging to have an impact. The points here are vital to not losing the learner before they get to the good stuff.
- Introductions and descriptions should be short, crisp and straight-forwards and full of direction. “You are here to respond to credit card fraud calls. We will achieve this by reviewing five steps from start to finish. This is an everyday task in your new role in the fraud department; improved and timely customer service can result in growth within the department.”
- Give more importance to instructions. The fact is that clear instructions are essential. Not knowing what to do or not understanding the steps they need to follow is overwhelming. Don’t assume that just because learners have taken an online course before they don’t need clear instructions and information.If you give clear instructions to your students, their level of frustration will decrease considerably. Read more: Why E-Learners Become Frustrated (And What You Can Do About It)
- Avoids passive verbs. Why do you think learners don’t finish courses even with interesting content? Because they find it boring. Your writing can turn a boring piece of content into something that learners gobble up greedily or an interesting subject into junk that the learners dump midway into the course. Passive voice is poor grammar and poor reader experience. Stop it.
- Everything should be short. There shouldn’t be long sentences. Screens tire the eyes, and they may still have the rest of the workday or week to tackle. Avoid long-winded rants. Avoid paragraph longer than six sentences. Make it skimmable and use styling.
- Use styling to help indicate when something is important. Instead of saying, “This is important,” show me by bolding, italicizing, or underlining a phrase.
- Use a one-on-one tone with your learner. If this is conversational between a learner and an instructor, the content feels more relatable, and the commitment seems higher.
- What’s the point? Get there fast! Don’t enjoy reading yourself. Make it snappy, so that learners can get the gist and move on with that in mind. If you provide an objective and it’s too long to remember, it won't surface when interest is lacking.
- Support text with relevant visuals. We mentioned this before, but it’s important to take this on from writer’s perspective. You’ll need to find good images that allow the eyes to rest and the idea to full circle.
- Humanize your writing. Technical or academic content tends to be formal. The trick is to give them the same material, in a different tone. Use humor or a casual dynamic. Keep sentences short and simple language, so readers don’t get tied up in industry jargon. See this as an opportunity to strike up a conversation with your learners!
- Sell the benefits. When introducing new words, tasks, or trying to influence a behavioral change, explain what the benefits are. Knowing what you are doing and why affects an individual's involvement and determination.
- Embrace storytelling. Everyone loves stories. It’ll give your content structure and flow. We all enjoy watching something unfold, and it’s a natural way of keeping your learners invested.
More writing tips: The Art of Creating Short, But Effective eLearning Courses
eBook Download: 10 Writing Strategies That Drive Up Learner Engagement Online
Each of these pillars carries its own weight, but together they create a fail-proof path to excellent eLearning content. Each of these in mind addresses the standard errors that end up working against each other, knocking the other down.