Three eLearning Design Challenges and Solutions

There is no doubt that eLearning designers need strong problem-solving skills. In the early stages of any design project, we need to wear our analytical hats and work out how to transform training content into an engaging learning experience.

When faced with 100 slides of content from a client, it can be a daunting task to organise the material and then build an eLearning course. Then again, some of us just love a challenge!

Here are three design challenges that I have faced and the steps I took to meet the challenge.

Condense large amounts of learning content provided by the client.

Recently I had a client provide material that included 6 PowerPoint slides covering all the legislation that learners needed to know. If I just added a few images and kept the content on 6 different screens, imagine how the learner’s eyes would soon glaze over reading screen after screen of legislation. My challenge was to present the material in a succinct way and to keep the learner’s attention.

Using Articulate Storyline, I condensed all the content into one interactive screen with tabs to reveal a layer for each piece of legislation.  The result is an interaction that is far less daunting for the learner (one screen of legislation looks better than six!). In addition, learners are more likely to get involved by clicking on the various elements on the screen. If the client insists that the learner reads every item on the screen, you can set the interaction so that she or he has to view each item before progressing to the next screen.

Create consistency in the eLearning course without making it dull.

As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. But when it comes to eLearning course design, too much variety is confusing for the learner. Imagine an online course with 10 different fonts, 10 different characters, 10 types of animation and every colour of the rainbow. How would this affect the learning experience? Most likely it would confuse the learner as the course would appear disjointed and hard to follow.

The best practice is to design with consistency in mind. Here are some ways to create a cohesive course:

  • 1 or 2 fonts only – We like to use one font for the screen titles and another for the body text.
  • Templates – Player templates and slide masters create a cohesive look and feel (while saving you time).
  • Colour scheme – Stick to 2 or 3 key colours for elements on the screen.
  • Activity boxes – Keep the same colour and format for special activity boxes in the course.
  • Symbols – This is a good way to provide recognisable markers for learners (e.g. a question mark icon to indicate a discussion question).
  • Main character – Introduce your character at the start and bring them in throughout the course, but not every screen.
Encourage the learner to stop and take a closer look.

Adult learners are usually time-poor and so they might be tempted to rush through an eLearning course. The challenge for the designer is to create courses that encourage learners to slow down, interact with the material and to think more carefully. There are many ways to do this—case studies, scenarios, quizzes, activities. The key is to draw the learner into the course through interaction.

Let’s say the learning material includes a flow chart. You could just copy and paste the flow chart onto the screen. Using this approach, some learners would stop and read through the flow chart; but many would just skip the screen because there is nothing to draw them in. The challenge here is to create an interactive screen. Again using Articulate Storyline the learner can click on each of the flow chart elements to read about that stage of the process. This is a great way to encourage the learner to take a closer look and digest the information at a deeper level.

Final word

If you are ever stuck with a design problem and need help or inspiration, I encourage you to go the E-Learning Heroes website. The E-Learning Heroes community has over 700,000 eLearning professionals who exchange ideas, solve problems, share resources and inspire each other.

If you are not already part of the community, it is easy to join up and find the help and inspiration you need. For a more formal training approach you could also try B Online Learning’s eLearning Design Essentials Course or our Certified Articulate Training.

Ways to Present Content in eLearning

There is a whole range of ways that information can be presented online. Most eLearning courses use a combination of instructional methods to provide information to the user.

We all sometimes get a bit ‘dry’ on inspiration, and you may have a preferred presentation method that you always fall back on by default. If it’s achieving its purpose of meeting the learning gap, and you can see so via your post course evaluations then ok; however other times we may just be repeating a presentation method ad Infinium slowly boring our learners to a long quiet death of boredom!

How do we keep things interesting and engaging? The short answer is we ‘shake it up’, using a mix of presentation styles to communicate the learning.

Before we careen away on throwing in as much variety as possible though, keep a couple of things in mind:

  1. A single type of presentation is repetitive and gets boring fast.
    Using slide after slide of text on left and picture on right will get the learner to the ‘kingdom of snooze’ on the ‘expressway of ludicrous speed’. Respectively, having slide after slide of interactions, where the learner has to interact with the screen every single moment can also get irritating as well – sometimes learners want to just read, pause and reflect. Look to balance the variety of the ways you present information. A great ‘rule of thumb’ that works when you are starting out is to aim at some sort of interaction every 3-4 screens.
  2. Keep in mind who your learners are. You should understand this before you even start authoring. Would they prefer ‘get in and get out’? If so you may need to limit the amount of complex interactions you are planning to use to a really good one, that hits the learning need directly on the head, as opposed to multiple ones that drag the process out. Quality over quantity. Or if they like games, journey and discovery; use gamified learning, or a learning adventure/journey to engage them rather than an extremely well designed infographic.
    Who your learners should always influence how you present your information and activities.

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but is a good starting point for thinking about the variety of ways you can present your content.

Presentation

Short chunks of material presented to the learner. Think text and image. A good example of this type of presentation is your stock, standard PowerPoint presentation slide. Now a lot of people groan the minute you mention PowerPoint, and if your entire course looks like that, I would agree. However a single slide here or there to consolidate learnings or to summarise information is appropriate. The key word here is ‘short’. Don’t provide a page of text for them to read, if you do, you might as well have given them a PDF to review. Use an active voice, and focus on removing any extraneous words, like excessive adverbs.

Check out my previous blog post 7 Steps for Writing for eLearning for more information.

Demonstrations

Using video or animations to demonstrate tasks and procedures. Video is great for this kind of presentation. Check out my blog posts on Enhancing Digital Learning Experiences with Video and Using Video in Articulate Storyline for more information and ideas.

Graphics and Illustrations

You can also use still or animated graphics, charts and diagrams to reinforce content or illustrate processes. Infographics are great for this type of presentation because they allow information to be communicated visually while generating interest factor in the content.

Interactions

Integrated opportunities throughout the course that allow users to explore content, apply knowledge and check understanding through questions games and activities. Interactivity is the key that keeps the learner’s interest, and assists them in embedding new knowledge once they have completed a learning module. It also helps to make the e-learning experience a little more fun! Check out my post on Aligning eLearning Levels of Interactivity with Articulate 360 for more ideas.

Sound

Sound in eLearning engages and motivates the learner. Whether it be via audio narration, different voices bringing a case study to life, or a rockin’ soundtrack! I’ve seen some movie quality soundtracks and soundfx added to modules that really draw learners into a learning journey or a gamified interaction! Can you create an audio soundscape to engage your learners?

Simulations

Whether they be a software simulation, where the learner can watch and then try a process onscreen, or even a product simulation like replacing virtual cartridges in a virtual printer, simulations have the advantage of letting the learner practice a process in a safe environment where it is ok if they don’t perform to the best of their ability, or if they do it incorrectly. By ‘failing forward’ it allows them to see where they went wrong, receive coaching or remedial training and then how they can apply their learnings to do better in the future.

Case studies, stories and scenarios

Reality is the ultimate learning situation. Learners engage with real life stories, case studies and scenarios much better than with bullet points. Tell a story about what you are covering, show them how it applies in their current situation.

One of the best ways we learn is by hearing what has happened to others and how they dealt with a particular situation.

  • Is what they did something that we could do? If so, what did they do?
  • How can I apply their discovery to my current situation?
  • Is what they did the worst possible scenario, and by viewing the consequences of their actions does that allow us to modify our own?

Never underestimate the power of a good story. If you want to take it a step further, turn the experience into a ‘choose your own adventure’ scenario for your learner, let them see the problem or challenge and have to make their own choice as to how they will deal with it, but then most importantly let them learn by seeing the consequences of their actions.

Scenarios are highly learner centred, and are based on the concept of situated cognition, which is the idea that knowledge can’t be known and fully understood independent of its context. Learning seldom takes place by rote. Learning occurs because we immerse ourselves in a situation in which we’re forced to perform. We get feedback from our environment and adjust our behaviour. Now that’s a powerful learning experience!

As you can see there are a multitude of ways we can present information to our learners. Just make sure you understand what your learner needs, and get your imagination firing!

Learner Centric eLearning Design

Years ago when I was learning to be a teacher, I was quickly thrown in the deep end to teach a group of adult learners. ‘Prac teaching’ can be a daunting experience.  I still remember the feedback from the teacher who observed my first lesson; she said I needed to be more ‘learner-centric’.

It took me a while to truly appreciate the difference between a teacher-centric and a learner-centric approach. In this post I would like to explore the difference, and in particular how it can be applied to eLearning design.

Teacher-centric approach

With this approach, the teacher is thinking about ‘what content do I need to deliver in the lesson’ and the goal is to cover everything by the end of the lesson. In essence, the lesson becomes like a presentation. The teacher does most of the talking/presenting and the learners are more like passive recipients of the information.

Designer-centric approach

When it comes to eLearning design, there is also the risk of being so preoccupied with organising content that we overlook the needs of the learners. The focus is on pushing out the content, rather than pulling in the learner. In the field of eLearning, perhaps we could call this approach ‘designer-centric’ or even ‘SME-centric’.  This approach often results in courses that look very similar to presentations.

Learner-centric approach

Here is a useful definition of the learner-centric/student-centric approach:

“In student-centred learning, students are active participants in their learning, they learn at their own pace and use their own strategies….learning is more individualised than standardised. Student-centred learning develops learning-how-to-learn skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking and reflective thinking. Student-centred learning accounts for and adapts to different learning styles of students.”

Teachers and trainers who use a learner-centred approach are able to tune into the individual needs of learners and do their best to meet those needs.

How can eLearning designers be learner-centric?

With the latest technological advances in authoring tools, it is becoming easier for designers to create engaging courses that cater to individual needs and preferences.

Here are a few suggestions for being more learner-centric in eLearning design:
  1. Think of the course as an experience for the learner. If you realise that your eLearning course is starting to look more and more like a presentation, then it is time to step back and imagine you are the person taking the course. Would you enjoy the learning experience or would your eyes soon glaze over?
  2. Use scenario-based learning. This involves presenting a realistic situation to the learners and then asking them to apply knowledge by making a choice. Each choice branches to a screen with different consequences. This is a great way to encourage the learner to actively participate in the course. You are asking them to think for themselves and make their own decisions.
  3. Give learners choices where appropriate. For example if you are including a research activity, give the learners a choice of three websites to go to. Another option is to give them a choice of topics to research. This will make the learning experience more enjoyable.
  4. Provide a range of mediums for people to learn from – videos, podcasts, documents, graphs, charts, lists, quizzes, activities and so on. This will help you to cater for visual learners, auditory learners and so on. For example you could provide this instruction: Read the PDF document attached. Alternatively watch the video which covers the same information.
  5. Give learners additional resources to branch off and explore a topic further if they need to.  Remember that each learner brings her or his own pre-existing knowledge and skills to a course. Some learners will need more information than others. I like the idea of boxes throughout a course entitled – ‘Want to know more?’ or ‘Need more information?’ – and then you can insert a link to a document or website with more details. This is not for essential course information; instead it is for supplementary material. Some people may read the additional information out of interest, others out of necessity and others may ignore it. The point is you are recognising potential differences and catering for those differences in the course design.
Final word

Of course at the most basic level, a learner-centred approach means you must have a good understanding of who the learners are. Before starting the storyboard, it is worth doing any necessary research about the ages, abilities, attitudes and expectations of the learners. With a clear learner profile in mind, it is easier to design a course that meets their specific needs.

What is Microlearning?

To learn more about Microlearning, register to watch Matt Blackstock recorded webinar here.

Microlearning is “A short piece of learning, that addresses a specific practical skill, that is just ‘long enough’”.

So what’s the big deal about microlearning? Why are organisations investing time and resources into it? What’s wrong with a good old-fashioned workshop or eLearning module? There’s nothing inherently wrong with a workshop or a self-directed online learning module, they both serve a purpose. Whether you utilise one or the other depends on a whole number of things which is a debate for another time. We’re just interested in the ‘why’ of microlearning. The simplest answer is: we have terrible memories.

Back in 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus did some research on what he called ‘the forgetting curve’. The forgetting curve indicated that without some form of reinforcement over time, we forget a large percentage of what we have learned. For example, you attend a day’s learning workshop and after 4-5 days you have forgotten 80% of what you covered. That’s a pretty big loss of new information!

To combat this, researchers have proposed that learners should use the ‘spacing effect’ to assist them in remembering what they have learnt. The spacing effect is the phenomenon whereby learning is greater when studying is spread out over time, as opposed to studying the same amount of content in a single session. That is, it is better to use spaced presentation rather than massed presentation.

Researchers such as Will Thalheimer have taken this concept a step further and proposed a learning technique called spaced repetition that incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material, in order to exploit the spacing effect. By having a spaced review of something we have learnt over time – less of the learnt content is forgotten.

So, does microlearning fit into this idea of spaced repetition? Yes, it does. Microlearning allows us to provide short review pieces that allow a learner to embed what they have learnt over a period of time.

Best practice microlearning in the workplace

What has best practice shown from corporate learning that might give us more information about why we could use microlearning?

  1. Microlearning is no good if it’s too short. People can’t and won’t engage fully. That’s why it’s impossible to give a time limit to microlearning, and part of the reason why our definition says that the learning should be ‘long enough’. That may be 3 minutes or it might be 10. The learning still needs to grab the learner’s attention. What’s in it for them? Why should they care?
  2. Content must be able to ‘stand alone’ It’s not just breaking an existing program into smaller units. This turns the training into a ‘start/stop’ process. The learning becomes inconsistent and fragmented, and there is the added effort on the learner to remember “where am I up to?” and “what did I review last time?”
  3. Workers have limited patience – they want to be able to finish a task and move on to the next one in a reasonable time frame. If they feel something is bogging them down and preventing them from getting on with their day, they will get frustrated and negative towards it fairly quickly.
  4. Even if they have more time for a task – it generally won’t happen – interruptions continue in the workplace because they have their ‘real jobs’ to do! Projects, customers, clients, meetings, communications etc. all are clamouring for their attention.

When microlearning keeps these practices in mind it can be effective and not add any additional burden on the learner. Heck they may even enjoy it!

What is and what is NOT microlearning?

Microlearning is NOT:

  • Chunking, breaking down, and ‘to be continued’ – Microlearning has to stand alone. If you’ve just chunked down a full program into smaller pieces with a ‘too be continued’, it’s too fragmented and too much of a cognitive demand for a learner to remember where they left off. Chunking down a 20-minute video into ten 2-minute videos just provides an increased annoyance factor of ‘what did I watch before?’ and ‘which video am I up to?’ Both questions eat into their small window of patience.
  • Video only – It could also be a job aid, a scenario, a couple of quick questions, a podcast, a mini module etc.
  • Less than 5 minutes – It could be if you discover that 5 minutes is ‘just long enough’, but time should not be the deciding factor.

Microlearning IS:

  • Just in time (not ‘just in case’)
  • Short and specific
  • A single focus – One idea/objective/concept/behaviour.
  • Immediately applicable – no theory/no extensive history/no backstories.
  • Available for the learner to access on their In other words, accessible on any platform – phone, desktop or even tablet, available at work and at home – what suits them?
  • Easy to find – not buried in the depths of your LMS/Intranet.
  • Great for review, practice or extension, all of which fit into spaced repetition well.

Check back soon to read my other posts on how to build microlearning with Articulate tools and how to use Birch Learning Platform for microlearning.

eLearning Tools Empower Your L&D Experts

One of the biggest concerns for organisations adopting an eLearning approach is that it will devalue the learning experience and overwhelm learners with poor quality programs. But we believe the exact opposite is true.

Instead, eLearning tools get your subject experts back on the front foot and delivering their expertise directly to those who need it. It removes complex, overly technical and long winded development from the equation. It allows your specialists to easily develop programs which are tailored specifically to their learners’ needs. Being directly engaged in the course development and design is great motivation and leads to a better quality course and better results.

Here are some benefits of having your L&D team take the in-house eLearning approach:

  • They know your audience and they know what works. On aggregate this leads to better outcomes.
  • Ease of use for those who don’t have a sound knowledge of IT. (although they still need to know how to structure a good learning experience!)
  • By making minor updates themselves, their courses can stay current whilst keeping costs down.
  • Speed of development means fewer resources are required both in terms of time and expertise.

Training courses like our Certified Articulate Training allow teams to trial and evaluate authoring tools. Here, teams can play around with these tools without paying for them first, and learn how to structure a course so that it’s both meaningful and engaging. Additionally, course participants will:

  • See more clearly and from the learner’s perspective having attended a course themselves, they will get a much better feel for what works.
  • Be exposed to a wide variety of approaches. Methods and techniques are changing so fast.

What are your views on eLearning tools? What benefits have you seen? What concerns do you have?

Design eLearning That Makes Sense

When I tell people that I make my living as an eLearning Designer, some people have a blank look on their face. So I usually ask ‘Have you ever done an online training course at work?’. And the response is usually ‘Oh yes, you write those courses do you?’. This inevitably leads to a discussion about what it was like learning online and whether it was a worthwhile and interesting experience. But more and more, I have been asking ‘Did the course make sense?’. It is a simple question, but it is ultimately one of the most fundamental questions to ask when measuring the effectiveness of an online course.

In the classroom setting, teachers and trainers have the advantage of asking the learners questions like:

  • Is that clear?
  • Does everyone understand that?
  • Are there any questions?
  • Would you like me to explain that again?

In other words, when we are training face-to-face we can check that the learners are keeping up and understanding the learning material.

How can we do a similar thing in eLearning? If we use a blended approach, learners can complete an online course or module, then meet face to face or in a webinar to check understanding and engage in discussion. This is probably the ideal situation for many learners.

But here I would like to focus on those courses that are designed purely for online delivery. In this case, the onus really is on the eLearning Designer/Instructional Designer to create a course that makes sense. We need to make sure the learning experience is meaningful and that learning objectives are met.

It may help to imagine that you are the teacher or trainer standing up in front of the class. What instructions do the learners need? What is the most logical way to present the learners with information? How can you explain something as clearly as possible? These are all useful questions to bear in mind.

Here are ten ways to design courses that make sense to learners.

  1. Always include a navigation screen at the start, even if you think the learners have done eLearning before. The navigation screen should have clear and simple instructions so any learner can easily progress through the course. By making navigation easy, learners can focus on the course content.
  2. Free up navigation. Make sure learners can easily go back to previous screens if they need to revise any material for a better understanding.
  3. Pay attention to the layout of each and every screen. Avoid cluttering screens with too much information. The screen should be pleasing to the eye and designed to draw the learner’s eye to the most important information.
  4. Draw on the experience of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Many of them have experience teaching the material face to face, and so you can ask them questions like ‘What did the learners struggle to understand the most in this section?’
  5. Include a glossary. Never assume that the learners will understand jargon, technical terms or acronyms. The glossary should be comprehensive and explain key terms in plain English. I like Articulate’s Engage Interaction Glossary because it places it at the top of every screen for easy access.
  6. Include regular quizzes or case studies to check the learners’ understanding of the content. Instead of having one huge test at the end of a course, it is better to have shorter tests at regular intervals throughout the course. Regular tests and quizzes are a good way for learners to measure their own understanding and build their confidence.
  7. Give learners the option of finding out more information if they need to. You could include a box on some screens saying “Want to know more? Click on this link to learn more about …..”
  8. Provide a contact person for questions. If the learners do have questions, is there someone they can contact? For example you could include the email address of the training manager within the organisation.
  9. Ask another person to check the course to see if it makes sense. If you have access to proofreaders or quality controllers, they can point out any content that is unclear. Alternatively you can ask a pilot group of learners to go through the course. Ask them specific questions such as ‘Was there any content that didn’t make sense?’
  10. Engage in continuous improvement. Even when you have published and released your course to learners, there is still the opportunity to gather feedback and make improvements to the course. You could include a survey asking learners if there was anything they found unclear. This is a great way for you to keep learning about the learners’ perspective and to remind yourself that you are designing courses for real people.

Looking for more ideas to design your eLearning courses, check out our Certified Articulate Training and eLearning Design Essentials workshops.

colour digital learning

Using Colour to Communicate in Digital Learning

Colour is important to the visual experience. It’s a powerful tool because it can change our mood. Think about a recent advertisement that grabbed your attention. It may have motivated you through the bold red colours it used, or it may have calmed you by using cool blue shades. Alternatively, you may have perceived the red as aggressive and perhaps the overuse of blue as cold. This also applies in digital learning.

Colour creates an environment that fosters learning as it plays a significant role in memory performance by enhancing the absorption of information and facilitating the thinking process. Using the right colours can influence the attention, attitude and feelings of people as they learn.

When designing your next course, this Colour Wheel of Emotions might come in handy as you choose your colour palette.

digital learningSource: https://www.aalabels.com

Blue for thought

Cool colours such as blue tend to have a calming effect. Blue is good for promoting high levels of thought as it calms learners as they’re presented with complicated or overwhelming information. Although blue is essentially a soothing colour, it can be perceived as cold and unfriendly if you use too much in your design. Try balancing it with other colours.

Green for concentration

Green is refreshing and easy on the eye. Being at the centre of the colour spectrum, it’s the colour of balance and is an ideal choice for maintaining learner concentration. Studies have found that consumers spend more time shopping in stores that are painted green. If you want to enhance your learners’ concentration levels, then go green!

Red for attention

If you want to direct your learners’ attention to a specific point or boost their motivation, then go with red. Red evokes a sense of urgency. According to a study on the effects of colours, red makes us vigilant and helps us to perform tasks where careful attention is required. Although red is attention grabbing, it can be perceived as demanding and aggressive, so consider when and how you place it in your course.

Orange for stimulation

Since orange is a combination of red and yellow, it’s a warm colour, great for activating thinking and memory and, also preventing boredom. Try using orange particularly with content that can be perceived as dry and dull. It can be used to highlight key information and communicate activity. However, when using orange consider the brightness and saturation. Too bright, and you’ll give your audience a headache!

Tips for using colour

  1. Combine colours cleverly – don’t go overboard with colour. You’ll lose the effect of the colour palette if you use too many colours and your learner won’t know where to focus.
  2. Be consistent with the colours you use – this will help the learner to navigate the course.
  3. Select legible colour combinations – pay attention to the contrast between the text and background as it’s vital to the legibility of your content.
  4. Have a purpose for your colour palette – consider what mood you’re trying to achieve in your content. If you’re presenting your learners with complicated information, use blue and if you’re working with dry subject matter, consider using orange to engage.

I can hear you now asking about colours and company branding. When we design our courses, yes, more often than not we do face some limitations because of company branding guidelines. However, understanding how colours are perceived should make it easier for you as you choose the colour palette or accent colours as you work with the branding guidelines.

References

Adams FM, Osgood CE. A cross-cultural study of the affective meaning of color. J Cross Cult Psychol. 1973;4(2):135–156. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3743993/

Colour Affects. 2017. Colour Affects. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.colour-affects.co.uk/how-it-works. [Accessed 31 July 2017].

Nicole Eberhard. 2017. The psychology of colour and its role in e-learning. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.hubblestudios.com/psychology-of-colour-role-in-e-learning/. [Accessed 31 July 2017].

Karla Gutierrez. 2017. The psychology of colour: How do colours influence learning? [ONLINE] Available at: http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/how-do-colors-influence-learning. [Accessed 31 July 2017].

HumanNHealth. 2013. Effect of different colours on human mind and body. [ONLINE] Available at: https://humannhealth.com/effect-of-different-colors-on-human-mind-and-body/243/8/. [Accessed 31 July 2017].

Enhance Digital Learning Experiences with Video

I love a good vid. In this age of Netflix, Stan, Foxtel Now and YouTube, you can be pretty much guaranteed to find something you want to watch that is engaging and entertaining. Pretty much any interest you have can be ‘googled’ and located not only for entertainment purposes but also for learning. Want to learn how to build a deck? There’s a vid for that. Want to learn how to cross-stitch? There’s a vid for that. Want to learn how to use photoshop? There’s literally millions of videos on how to do that! How about how to take a better picture? Yep you guessed it. There’s a vid for that.

Practically anything you want to learn these days can be located in a 3-5-minute video or series of videos. So why would you want to sit through an eLearning module that goes for an hour and a half? If you had the option to complete a 1 hour eLearning module on building a timber deck, compared to a 5-minute video which would you choose? I know which one I would choose.

Unlike a traditional presentation of information where you read about a procedure, view some diagrams or pictures about it, and then trying to apply it in a real situation, video enables you to see, listen and review application all in the one package. I can see how someone is holding the hammer while nailing the decking timbers, or how they are checking everything is level with their spirit level, or how they are marking out their measurements.

Video is an extremely powerful learning medium, because it gets a lot of information across in a short period of time, and the viewer is engaged through sight, sound and a ‘real life’ situation. The success of websites like YouTube are a testament to the popularity of video and show how this medium can be used effectively in a learning environment. So, what about our eLearning modules? As developers, what are some ways we can use video in our modules to capitalise on the learning power of the medium and provide an engaging experience?

Provide a personal touch
You can add a short video to an induction module welcoming new starters by the CEO, Executive team, HR team, direct manager etc. Great to put a face to a name! Also makes it easier for the new starter to know who they are looking for if they need to find a particular person. An induction module we created for APG & Co. included a personal greeting from the company’s CEO, welcoming the new starter to the organisation.

Observe a Process
The process might be an interpersonal one, showing an example discussion around a customer service encounter, or a performance management session etc, or even how to use a product.
For example, a module we put together for the Department of Primary Industries around how to put on and take off Personal Protective Equipment when doing a site inspection.

Another example is one we created for NSW Health Get Healthy Program which allowed learners to observe a process and then answer questions about what was done well, and what could have been done better.

Case Studies
Another great way to use videos is to play out a case study. Rather then the learner read through a document describing the situation, the learner is able to watch it ‘live’ as the situation unfurls, and how the situation should be dealt with as best practice. For example the team I worked with created a series of videos for a financial institution to cover of the best practice way of completing a personal loan for a customer. This included all of the must ask questions required to process the loan as efficiently as possible, and showed the learner all of the expected legal obligations they needed to cover off while completing the transaction. The feedback was it was invaluable for the learners to see the required behaviour modelled, and it assisted them in understanding the various requirements.

Another example from our APG & Co induction video around ladder usage and safety. What was quite a graphic video allowed the learner to see the consequences of falling from height, and what sort of safety precautions should have been in place to avoid it. The module then went on to discuss how APG & Co. manage ladder safety.

Scenarios
What about a ‘choose your own adventure’ branching video scenario? The learner watches a situation occurring, and in various places the video pauses and they need to make a decision. When they make a decision, the next video shows them the consequences of their decision, and may prompt them to make further choices with other consequences. It is those choices and consequences that provide the learning experience, and assist the learner in gaining the new knowledge required.

Video can be as simple or complex as you like
It all comes down to your experience and the resources you have available. Start small and build to bigger and better engaging scenarios as you get more comfortable with producing video and as resources become available.
Have fun with it! You don’t need to be Hollywood to create great learning videos, with good instructional design you can create video on the cheap that is effective, and has the learning impact you are after.

Some are more involved with more professional production values, but both can be used effectively to engage the learner and get them involved in the story. When you are starting out with video keep in short and sweet but visually exciting for its 2-3 minutes, don’t just use a talking head – boring! Get your visual design hat on. A great example of this is the videos produced by Commoncraft – short and visually engaging while explaining quite involved concepts.

To learn more about enhancing your digital learning with video watch my recent webinar here.

Now take a look at some ways we can use video in Articulate Storyline to create interactive and engaging learning experiences.

Importance of a Good User Interface in Learning

I’m a huge fan of cooking shows such as MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules and one of the expressions they use when judging dishes is that people eat with their eyes. What they mean is that the presentation is the first thing people see which creates an impression even before they’ve tasted the food. This analogy is much the same in the world of eLearning, as people can be turned off just by the look of an eLearning module or LMS interface.

The User Interface or UI refers to both the look-and-feel and functionality of the eLearning module or LMS menu. This means that your colour palate, navigation, images, icons and layout are all contribute to the overall UI. A well-designed website is easy to use and requires no instruction thereby minimising the amount of extraneous cognitive load on users. The same should apply to digital learning because if people are frustrated due to a lack of intuitiveness, it will take away from the objectives of the piece. The UI is not just making the screen looking pretty, it’s a tool to guide people through the learning experience.

Here’s some tips for improved UI design:

1. Make the Navigation Clear

Make sure it’s obvious what people need to do next. How to they move forward? If they need to click on all objects before moving ahead, let them know otherwise they may think there’s a problem if the module won’t advance. Also, remove any items that are not needed. One of my pet peeves is when I see a previous button on the first slide of a module. If something isn’t needed or doesn’t do anything remove it!

2. Make it Familiar

Many people who complete eLearning modules use the internet at work and home so are used to certain elements that are used in website design such as a ‘X’ used to close a window or blue, underline text for a hyperlink. Use these same standards in your eLearning as people are already familiar with them.

3. Consistency is Key

My colleague Matt Blackstock has written some great posts about making your visual design C.R.A.P. otherwise known as using Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. Applying these principles will also improve you UI design. Some examples of consistency include keeping navigation elements in the same place across your module and making clickable objects (such as buttons) the same style, so one colour if the button is active and another colour if it’s inactive or been clicked on.

4. Don’t forget Mobile

If your eLearning will be viewed or your LMS accessed via mobile devices, it changes things when it comes to UI. Screens are smaller, and interactions are performed using fingers so keep the design free from too many elements and make sure all items can be operated via mobile devices.

5. Test, Test and Test

It’s always good practice to test your work both as you build it and at the end to ensure everything works the way you intended. When testing, you should always do the opposite or try a different way than you intended and see if everything still works. If you can, organise a pilot group of testers watch them as they use your module. Don’t forget to test in different browsers and devices too.

One final point is that it’s best to apply good UI design during the build phase as it is much easier than trying to go back re-design at the end.

What are your tips for good UI design?

Compliance doesn’t have to be boring

I’m sure you’ve experienced this situation before. When you mention mandatory compliance eLearning you’re greeted with a sigh and can see employees automatically disengage. This doesn’t have to be the case. You can turn your compliance training into an experience that employees actually want to complete.

Here are some tips:

  1. Instead of just focusing on the policies and highlighting what’s contained in each, engage employees by focusing on when the policies need to be followed and why they matter. Provide examples of what could happen if they don’t follow the policies. There are consequences that occur if policy isn’t followed – the consequence can be the opening of your training. This is how you can get employees emotionally engaged.
  2. Your training can list many policies and procedures or only highlight a few, but in either situation, can employees actually apply what they’ve learned in the real world? Instead of a knowledge assessment at the end of the training, why not involve the employees throughout the training through relevant real-life scenarios?
  3. Make the training convenient. Everyone is busy and the demands on employees is on the increase, so consider “Just-In-Time” compliance training. Provide resources that employees can access at the moment of need. If resources are readily available at the point of need, employees are more likely to retain the information. They are using the information and acquiring the skills when faced with a real-life situation on the job.
  4. Make it mobile friendly. Everything is mobile, so compliance training should be mobile too. Provide employees the opportunity to access the training when it suits them. Also, try to avoid cognitive overload and make the training bite sized (especially for mobile).
  5. If possible, make it social. Use social media groups and online forums where employees are invited to post questions and ideas and upload content. Get the discussions happening and incite a collaborative environment. Two heads are better than one!

I’m sure there are many other ways that we can create compliance training that isn’t met with a sigh. When tasked with creating compliance training, I try to think of myself as the learner and take it from there.

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