Don’t let your elearning be a snoozefest
As instructional designers, we always want to create training that’s both useful and engaging. However, sometimes we’re very restricted in what we can do because of the content that we’re asked to deliver to our learners. In fact, the content can be so lengthy (and we’re not allowed to cut anything, of course) and complicated, that the training becomes a good alternative to counting sheep.
So, even though I’ve touched on some of these aspects before, I want to look into some ways to deliver challenging elearning content without losing the interest of our learners.
GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO LOOK AT
Reading bulks of text for several pages in a row can really turn you into a zombie-like creature who’s slowly losing brain power and hope. So, your task is to make sure that you do all that’s in your power to give the learners something nice to look at.
The simplest way would be to add some images. I know there are people who believe that images can be a distraction, and it can definitely be the case if they are over-used and have nothing to do with the elearning content. However, I find that a nice image here and there can really bring some much-needed relief. Of course, it needs to be related to the content, even if it’s in an abstract, general sort of way.
It’s even better if your complicated content allows for some visualisation, such as a chart, depiction of a process or a cycle. If you have appropriate content and the capacity to turn it into something visual, seize the opportunity!
MIX IT UP
Even though adding images can be helpful, this alone might not be enough to avoid monotony. The next step would be to list all your planned page layouts in sequence and see if it doesn’t look like somebody has accidentally pasted the same thing over and over until they ran out of space.
Even though I know that ‘Text+Image’ or ‘Text only’ can be quite tempting options, look for ways to provide some variety in how the elearning content is placed on each page. This doesn’t have to be anything ground-breaking. For example, if the text on the page compares two approaches, you could have them side by side in two columns (an icon next to each column title could be a nice touch). If a paragraph feels like additional, good-to-know information, maybe you can exclude it from the main text and have a button that opens a pop-up. If you think about it, there are actually quite a few things you can do.
MAKE THEM DO THINGS
To take it a step further, you can go for more interactive layouts that demand the learner to click and reveal the content. This could be a page with tabs or hotspots, or even a slider, for example. This will not only make the learner do something, thus decreasing the chance of them falling asleep. It will also serve as a good solution for breaking up longer text and making the page much more good-looking and easier to perceive.
MAKE THEM THINK
At the end of the day, the goal of any training is to help people understand and learn something, so that they could become better at doing something. So, apart from thoughtful use of visuals and page layouts, you need to enable learners to check if they understand and remember what they’ve learned so far.
I am, of course, talking about knowledge checks. I believe that, especially when it comes to lengthy and/or difficult courses, it’s essential to strategically place interactions that will make the learner switch from passive into active mode of learning. Ideally, these interactions shouldn’t be just about checking if the learners remember what they read 3 minutes ago. It should be about remembering and being able to apply the knowledge.
So, whether it’s a single choice question or a more complicated gamified interaction, I strongly encourage you to think of ways you can link the information to what the learners will encounter in real life. If you’re teaching a practical skill, look for possibilities to simulate it in your elearning. If the training is about soft skills, include some realistic situations and decision-making. Although it’s nice to list some objectives at the beginning of the course, it’s these interactions that will actually show the learners how they will benefit from what they’re learning and motivate them to go on.
DO YOUR MAGIC
I am absolutely aware that the material you’re basing your elearning on may not always allow for much creativity. However, I hope that I’ve managed to show you that there’s always something you can do to make the learners’ life easier. Just start by making simple changes and additions, and I’m sure your elearning will transform into something much better than you thought it could be!
Use interactions and games
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