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 tools like Articulate, its become 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.

eLearning Levels of Interactivity and Articulate 360

This post is adapted from a webinar – register here to view the recording.

They say for eLearning to be engaging, it needs to be interactive. 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! So how much interactivity do you require for your content?

Great question!

How interactive your module needs to be, comes down to the definition questions you asked prior to entering into the development phase of your module.

Questions such as:

  • Who are your learners?
  • What are the expected learning outcomes?
  • What do they need to be able to ‘do’ as an outcome of this module?
  • Are we talking simple tasks, or complex skill sets?

An interaction is a learning activity where an individual is presented with a problem or scenario, and must work to achieve an outcome or goal. Interactions should be designed to maintain the learner’s interest, and if required, allow them to practice the task or skill they are learning.

If the learner is able to apply their knowledge through interactions, it will assist them in processing the information in more depth, and they will have a higher likelihood of recalling the information and transferring it to a real-world setting.

Articulate 360 has many tools available to assist you in crafting your interactions, and in encouraging your learners to interact with their computer screens.

No matter what type of interaction you are after, you can be guaranteed that one of the tools out of Articulate Rise, Storyline 360, Studio 360, Replay 360, Peek or Preso will be able to assist you in building your interactivity. Bet you never would have guessed that even Articulate Review and the Content Library can help promote interactivity in your e-learning? Curious? Read on to find out how.

But first the big question…How interactive does your interactivity need to be?

Over the years that our industry has been around, research has supported the finding that there are generally four levels of interactivity available to you, when crafting your e-learning masterpiece.

Level 1 – Passive Interaction

The first level (conveniently named Level 1) is your entry level interactivity. The level of interactivity is relatively passive. In passive interactions, the learner reads information on the screen, and navigates backwards and forward throughout the course. The types of things you would expect to see at this level include text, images, diagrams, auto-played videos/animations; and the standard next and previous buttons. Nothing too ‘flashy’, fairly minimalist and functional. Level I interactivity is great for simple information.

For example, here is module I whipped up about a breed of dog called the Alaskan Malamute. It’s an overview of the breed, their key features and some videos and images to support the information. A quick little Level 1 passive interaction.

The primary thing to keep in mind about Level 1 interactions is keep them super short, with free navigation for your learner. This means they can jump in and get the information they want and spend as long or as little in the module as they want without the risk of boredom and disengagement kicking in. Level 1 is also great for short updates or ‘Just in time’ information.

Articulate Rise is a superstar for this kind of interaction! Here’s why:

  1. It’s extremely easy to work with, copy and paste your content into any one of its pre-built lessons, or use its custom lesson blocks for a bit more control and variety
  2. Upload your own videos, or embed videos from a number of different websites
  3. Most importantly, Rise content is automatically optimised for any device used to view it. So no matter whether your learner is viewing the Rise course on a desktop, smartphone or tablet; it’s going to look amazing

Rise is not alone in its superstardom though! If you want to grab a quick screen capture of an app to share with a learner, or coach someone through using a new software application, you can also use Articulate’s Peek to grab your screen capture or use Replay to grab the capture and add picture in picture footage of yourself as a coach, virtually guiding your learner through the program. But wait! You can also import your Replay and Peek output videos into Rise enabling further content to support your learning objectives, all automagically responsive to the screen it’s viewed on. Want to capture a quick level 1 interactive informal training course on your iPad? You can do that with Preso! Working directly on your iPad’s screen with annotation tools on a series of PDFs. You can share that via a link anywhere or publish it to Articulate 360 and it becomes a downloadable SCORM compliant presentation for you LMS. Again, if you want you can upload it to Rise for further enhancement and responsiveness

How cool is that!? Articulate is already killing it, and we haven’t even got to Level 2 interactivity yet!

Level 2 – Limited Interaction

Level 2 is mostly the same as Level 1 but the learner can also interact with multiple choice exercises, pop-ups, simple animations and even the occasional drag and drop activity. Limited interaction examples include interactive timelines, drag and drop activities like matching, sequencing and so forth, application simulations that follow a procedure or process, quizzes, interactive games/stories and audio narration.

You can crank Articulate Rise up a notch to Level 2, and add all sorts of interactivity via its pre-built lessons or custom blocks. It will allow you to add timelines, interactive markers, matching activities, multiple choice quizzing, sorting activities and processes, all again fully responsive and looking gorgeous for your learner.

The other option is using Articulate Studio 360. As e-learning developers we are often given slide decks to convert into self-directed eLearning modules. Now, not all slide decks deserve to be converted, in fact most eLearning developers would cringe and shy away from just converting a slide deck and handing it back as an eLearning module. Not a great experience for the learner! And that process has significantly contributed to the bad wrap our industry gets!

But what if the slide deck is well designed and already follows some good instructional design processes? It can be converted easily to a Level 2 interactive eLearning module using Presenter and some instructionally sound Engage interactions.

Engage will give you the interactions you need like conversations, FAQs, guided images, labelled graphics, processes, timelines, tabs, checklists etc.

Then using Articulate Quizmaker you can add any number of interactive knowledge checks like multiple choice or multiple response answers.

Got a great Level 1 interaction you want to include in your module? Using the Web Object feature of Presenter you can pull it in and use it as well. All those Peek, Preso and Replay videos can be reused easily by importing the video outputs. Why reinvent the wheel when you don’t need to?

With Level 2 interactions you can hold and maintain your learners interest a little longer than Level 1 because you’ve got them, as Tom Kuhlmann says touching the screen and interacting with the content. You can usually push the time of your module here out to 10-15 minutes or so.

A good rule of thumb is to get the learners to interact with the screen every 3-4 slides. This assists in maintaining interest and reducing the boredom factor.

Level 3 – Complex Interactions

The learner will make some of the responses in Level 2 but in addition, they will also be expected to enter text and experience consequences for wrong answers.  Scenario-based branching logic is introduced at this level. Branching logic allows the learner to experience some kind of penalty for incorrect responses, and their progress is determined by their decisions. Complex interaction examples include branching scenarios, viewing video and identifying faults, problem solving activities etc.

Want to create a course with decision-making scenarios, custom interactions, and quizzing that is highly interactive?

Calling Articulate Storyline 360. You’re up.

By using Storyline’s layers, states and triggers, you can create complex interactions easily, and by using SL360’s variables you can personalise courses by capturing and tracking the learners inputs and actions, creating a dynamic experience for the learner.

By combining all these feature you can build fully immersive scenarios that draw in and engage your learners. For example are you teaching counselling skills? By using Storyline’s triggers you can not only get text feedback on how you are going, but the body language of your virtual client can also change from positive to negative and back again depending on the choices you select. A great way for a would be counsellor to practice their skills in a safe environment with coaching and feedback available for their actions.

Storyline is also quite capable of producing Level 1 and 2 interactive experiences, but its power really shines when you are creating more complex situation for you learners.

Again, you can import and reuse Rise, Replay, Peek and Preso content via a web object, and if you’re really keen, you can push Storyline created interactions even further by utilising JavaScript.

Level 4 – Full Animation or Real Time Interactions

This is the ‘top end’ of interactivity when it comes to eLearning development. Real time interactions include enhanced gaming technology, real life 3D simulations, virtual/augmented reality, interview/interrogation simulations with extensive feedback and multiple branching options, interactive spreadsheets, solving a mystery, interacting with a virtual product and so on.

Level 4 interactions can look good and be extremely high-tech, but that doesn’t necessarily always produce a ‘meaningful learning experience’ as they may have been created by animators/coders etc. who don’t have instructional design experience.

Level 4 interactions can be awesome, but are usually quite expensive and time consuming. They may also rely on technology that learners do not have access to e.g. VR goggles.

Again here Storyline can assist you in achieving this level of interactivity. Take the above counselling interaction to another level by adding multiple branching outcomes based on each and every decision you make, keep the decision by decision coaching or leave it out until the very end of the interaction and receive a personalised ‘report card’ based on how you went, with suggestions for improvement and reinforcement of the correct skills used.

You can also use a high level animation app like Vyond to create videos to import into Storyline.

Additionally, want to make it even more real time? Add a countdown timer to put the pressure on and mimic an actual consultation time frame. If you aren’t done by the time the counter reaches zero, the client will walk out on you.

Further customisation can be added with Storyline’s variables, giving the course a personal feel for the learner, including lost opportunities if information isn’t followed up on (True-False variable), a personalised experience where the client refers to you by your actual name (text variable) or even a ticking clock showing time remaining for a successful consultation (number variable).

Did you know that Articulate Review can also support a Level IV interaction? Articulate Review is great for garnering feedback from stakeholders via its comment system, but what if you used that comment system for a Level 4 interactive, asynchronous learning event?

Upload a module to review that poses a number of questions or review a particular learning skillset, and encourage your learners to comment on the learning presented, or answer the questions you have posed in the module. Learners can also respond to other’s comments on Articulate Review creating a real-time interaction for learning.

In rapid eLearning the ‘sweet spot’ to aim for, is a level of interaction set between Level 2 and 3. This is usually achievable with regard to time, money and resources and still obtain a quality output that addresses learning gaps.

Articulate 360 can help you with whatever level of interactivity you want. If you’re dry on inspiration have a look at the Articulate Content Library which is available with the Articulate 360 subscription for some ideas. Or check out any of the links below for interactive inspiration.

Want interaction? All you need is your imagination and Articulate 360, and you have the winning combination.

Handy Links

E-Learning Heroes https://community.articulate.com/

E-Learning Challenges https://community.articulate.com/series/e-learning-challenges

Why you need the tools in Articulate 360 and when to use them – Nicole Legault (Community Manager E-learning Heroes)

https://community.articulate.com/articles/why-you-need-the-tools-in-articulate-360-and-when-to-use-them 

Articulate 360 https://bonlinelearning.com.au/articulate/articulate-360

Articulate Rise

Articulate Peek Vs Replay

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?

Using Animation in Articulate Storyline

Have you ever been bogged down building slide after slide and went to preview the story to find it’s just a slideshow? Or have you looked at an older module or course you’ve created and thought to yourself “This look boring!”.

Then look no further! Here are some quick and handy tips to breathe new life into otherwise monotonous screens. Check out the link to follow through the tips to see the changes for yourself! Example 1

Tip 1 – Use your slide master

Your slide master is an incredibly versatile tool which can be vastly under used. Not only is it key to uniformity and the gateway to keeping your branding team happy, it is also a brilliant way to tweak some of those static graphical elements and add some movement to add interest to your slide without having to change anything on the base slide itself. (See Slide Step 1 on Example 1)

In the Example slide, you can see that the three circles in the corner fly in staggered from the left and the title animates in. This is just an example of what you can do to change the slide without editting anything on the base slide itself, all you have to do is apply the layout.

Tip 2 – Entrance and Exit animations can be triggered

Sometimes you need to trigger in an animation when the user has completed something or to show more information. This can be done simply by having an object, such as a text box or a shape starting at “State: Hidden” and having an entrance animation. Next all that you have to do is to build a trigger which can change the state of the object to “State: Normal”. The trigger example below will change the state of our textbox called “Closing” to the “State: Normal” when the buttons are equal to visited.

What does that mean practically? (See Slide Step 2 on Example 1) Here you can see the instruction to click the next button appears when the user has visited all of the layers with information.

Tip 3 – Use your transitions

Transitions are often neglected or used in the wrong way. They can be an elegant way of adding flow to your courses. Here you can see the push animation has been used in conjunction with an animation on the slide master title text box to give a feeling of momentum when moving between the slides.

My top 3 recommended transitions are; Push (as you can change the direction in effect options to a whole variety of effects), Cover/Uncover, (for that feeling of cards) and finally, Fade, as it is versatile and softens the transition between slides.

Tip 4 – Use your timeline to loop animations of visited layers

How, you ask? Just follow the steps below and you will be able to build a looping layer in no time! (See Slide Step 3 and Final slide on Example 1)

Once you have your slide and information on your layers you can follow the steps below:

Step 1: Group your layer objects together.
Step 2: Set your entrance and exit animations, check the length of your animations and take note of the length, in the example we have 0.5s entrance and a 0.5s exit.


Step 3: Select an option under Effect Options to achieve different effects e.g. entrance: from right exit: to right.
Step 4: Add up your entrance and animation times 0.5s+0.5s = 1.0s.
Step 5: Set your timeline to 1.0s.


Step 6: Build your triggers
  • Trigger 1: pause timeline when timeline reaches 0.5s (length of entrance animation)
  • Trigger 2: resume timeline when user clicks (close button) or you could say when user clicks outside Group 1 (for example when they go to click another button)
  • Trigger 3: hide layer when timeline ends – this is very important, the interaction will not work correctly unless this has been specified. This is because storyline will think the layer is still open even though the timeline has ended which will make the user unable to click anything else on the slide.

Step 7: Change the layer settings

Finally lets change the layer settings to show other layers so we have an overlapping effect AND reset to initial state.

There you have it, that’s how you can build a looping layer just like in our Example 1, slides Step 3 and Final Slide.

If you would like to see some of these tips in action check out Example 2. The Welcome slide uses animation to move objects into the screen as well as a Transition to the next slide which uses a gif background to add movement as well as the looping layers for the information. (The gif is from a giveaway from eLearning Heroes) The other slide is a basic slide with animation added from the slide master layer and the final slide uses a variety of animations to display the information.

Before you go here’s a quick recap of what we have learned:

  • Use your slide master to add interest without touching the base slide.
  • Use triggers to animate in objects from hidden or do the reverse and hide an object.
  • Use your transitions to add flow and movement to the course.
  • The power of the timeline in using entrance and exit animations to loop animations in layers.

Finally, keep experimenting! Storyline is a simple but incredibly powerful tool, the only real limit is how you use it!

Thank you for reading and I hope you have enjoyed this quick look at animation!

If you have any questions about our content development or would like to see more blog posts about animation feel free to contact us here mail@bonlinelearning.com

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.

Using Adult Learning Principles in eLearning

When developing eLearning, it is important to put yourself in the shoes of the learner.  Two essential questions to consider are:

  • ‘Who are the learners?
  • ‘What will motivate them to learn?’

The tools today are packed with features to make learning exciting and easier to use with templates ready to get you started quickly. But for those of us designing courses for adult learners, it’s helpful to understand adult learning principles too since this is not an automated function of any tool.

Malcolm Knowles pioneered the study of adult learning (called andragogy) in the 1970s, identifying the following six adult learning principles.

  1. Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  2. Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  3. Adults are goal oriented
  4. Adults are relevancy oriented
  5. Adults are practical
  6. Adult learners like to be respected

These principles are an excellent summary of how adults learn.

PRINCIPLE 1: Adults are internally motivated and self-directed

According to research, “adult learners resist learning when they feel others are imposing information, ideas or actions on them”.

Adult learners like to feel a sense of control over their own learning. Online learning gives adults the choice to log on and learn at a time convenient to them. But what if they log on, and then have no freedom to navigate through the course in their own way? If possible, I like to give learners options to move around the course freely. It is best not to lock down the navigation which may lead to frustration and impede the learning process.

It can be argued that some learners will just click through to the end without reading each screen. To address this problem, I recommend putting in a Case Study or Quick Quiz at the end of each section to check their understanding. This will encourage them to go back to previous screens and take a closer look if they need to.  You could lock the Quiz or Test so they have to pass before progressing. For more information about navigation options, read Tom Kulhmann’s post on the Rapid E-Learning Blog.

But what about if the client asks you to lock down the navigation?

Some managers want their staff to click and read every item on a screen before progressing to the next screen. The good news is that self-directed learning is not just about navigation. If you have to lock down the navigation, there are other ways you can encourage self-directed learning. An important guideline is to lead the learner toward inquiry before supplying them with too many facts. Facts are often presented in the form of bullet points but this may not be the best way to facilitate learning. In fact if bullet points are over-used, it is a sure way for the learner to switch off. Instead try creating a real life problem (case study) that the student has to solve for themselves. You can supply a few facts or resources that they have to draw on to solve the problem. Then provide guidance or feedback after they have submitted a solution. In this way the learner is motivated to learn within a meaningful context. The learner has to think for themselves—and remember, adults like to solve problems and think things through for themselves. It is more likely that they will remember the information if they have had to apply it to a realistic workplace scenario.

PRINCIPLE 2: Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences

Even if you do not personally know the learners you are designing for, you can be sure that as adults, they have a wide range of knowledge and experience to bring to the course. Try to draw on this experience from time to time in the course.

When I start designing a new section in a course, I like to ask the learners a few questions to draw on their pre-existing experiences. By drawing on the learners’ current knowledge or experience, you are orienting them to the new topic and making the course more personal.

This example is from our Equal Employment Opportunity course. Near the start of the course, I asked learners to think about two questions: “What does EEO mean to you?” and “Have you (or someone you know) ever been discriminated against in a workplace?”.  I inserted a green box for the questions with the title ‘Reflection’. The same green box format appears several times in the course and asks the learner different questions for reflection. This is a good way to acknowledge their experience and by doing so, show them respect.

PRINCIPLE 3: Adults are goal oriented

Adult learners need to have a goal to work towards when undertaking online learning. Some adult learners undertake online training by choice. They already have a goal, for example to change careers or get a promotion. Other learners do an online course because their boss has told them they have to. In both cases, adult learners like to know how they will benefit from doing the course. In the first few screens they should be able to answer the question “How will doing the course make my job/life easier?”

As eLearning designers, we need to convince the learner that the course will be worth their while. Although clear learning objectives are a start, there is more that we can do. For example you could open the course with a scenario that they could realistically face in their workplace. Then ask “Would you know what to do in this situation?”. The idea here is to identify a gap in their knowledge which helps to motivate the learner to fill the gap. In other words, do the course!

As adult learners practice new skills, they need feedback about how they are progressing toward their goals. The timing of feedback is important: immediate feedback facilitates learning the most. The longer the interval between performance and feedback, the less likely it is that feedback will have a positive effect on learning. In eLearning we can provide feedback to an adult learner immediately after a skill has been performed. Using a tool like Articulate Storyline , its easy to provide feedback by question or at a deeper level by each individual response

It is also important to acknowledge goal completion; for example ‘Congratulations you passed the test’ or ‘Well done – you have completed Section One of the course’. Another option is to use gaming elements by awarding badges. This kind of encouragement gives the learner a sense of completion and satisfaction.

Principle 4: Adults are relevancy oriented

Adult learners are usually time-poor. Whether they are undertaking the course at work, on the train, or at home, typically there are dozens of other things they could be doing with their time. So it is important not to waste their time with unnecessary information or irrelevant screens.

When I am selecting course content, I ask myself “Will this help the learner achieve the course objectives?”. If the answer is yes, then it is included. If the answer is no, then I leave it out. Sometimes it is helpful to print out the course objectives and keep them next to the keyboard or on the wall in front of you.  By keeping the course objectives at the forefront, you are more likely to keep on track with the most relevant course content.

In addition, adult learners want to see the relevance of what they are learning to their own experience. Always choose images that you think the learners will be able to identify with. For example if you are designing a course about Workplace Bullying for the mining sector, choose images of miners, mine sites and other environments that the learners will be familiar with.

Case studies also need to be relevant to the learners’ experiences. In some cases you might have to talk to a Subject Matter Expert (SME) to gather ideas for realistic workplace scenarios. The more you can relate the content to the everyday experiences of the learner, the more likely they are to see the relevance of the course and engage with the learning experience.

Principle 5: Adults are practical

Adult learners like to apply newly-acquired knowledge in practical ways. They prefer to be active participants in the learning experience. That’s why there should be plenty of interactivity in eLearning courses. Quizzes, surveys, challenges, discussions, research projects – all of these practical activities help to facilitate learning.

The desire for interactivity is not much different from child learners—however there is one important difference: adults need to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills in their working life. In other words, they are undergoing training that will help them in practical ways to perform their jobs more effectively.

What does this mean for eLearning designers? It means you should write in a very clear, precise and direct way. Instructions must be crystal clear so learners can easily follow them. Avoid overly formal language that will only alienate the learners. Follow the principles of plain english.

It means the course should include plenty of practical advice that learners can implement immediately. Tips are an excellent way to do this. By sprinkling several practical tips throughout the course, it breaks up the content and brings the focus to a very practical level. I suggest using a Quick Tip throughout the course.  It brightens up the course, by breaking up content and allows learners to follow expert advice.

Principle 6: Adult learners like to be respected

I think this last principle actually sums up all the six adult learning principles. Put yourself in the shoes of the learner, take care in your eLearning design, ask questions about their own knowledge and experience. Things to consider to avoid disrespecting your adult learners include restricting the navigation, repetition of warning messages, narrating on screen text word for word, poor graphic design.

‘Respect your learner’ is an excellent mantra for any teacher, trainer or course designer.

If you’re want to learn more about using adult learning principles in eLearning then consider our Certified Articulate Training and eLearning Design Essentials course.

learning styles

Learning Styles in eLearning

Learning design is all about designing the right learning for the right audience, catering for different learning styles and maximising the opportunities for effective learning.

Effective learning design helps create engagement, and leads to emotional and intellectual connection with content to build practical, valuable skills which can be immediately applied in relevant situations.

A learning style describes the way that you, as an individual, prefer to learn. There are many models that claim to analyse individual learning preferences. Some take into account your personality, others your emotions. A popular one, the Honey and Mumford Learning styles inventory, is based on the way you approach new learning experiences.

Peter Honey and Alan Mumford developed their learning styles system as a variation on the Kolb Learning Cycle model.  For example, when buying a new gadget do you?

  • read the manual
  • try pushing all the buttons to see what happens
  • find someone to explain to you how it works
  • watch others using it.

Although many people exhibit clear preferences for one of these styles most have a combination of two or more. The benefit for those supporting learning of knowing learners’ preferred styles is that learning experiences can be tailored to maximise their impact.

Activists: Their philosophy is: ‘I’ll try anything once’.

People who prefer the Experience stage of Kolb’s cycle, ‘Activists’, enjoy involving themselves fully and without bias in new experiences. They enjoy the here and now and are happy to be dominated by immediate experiences. They are open-minded, not sceptical, and this tends to make them enthusiastic about anything new.

Strengths

  • flexible and open minded
  • happy to have a go
  • happy to be exposed to new situations
  • optimistic about anything new and therefore unlikely to resist change
Warnings

  • tendency to take the immediately obvious action without thinking
  • often take unnecessary risks
  • rush into action without sufficient preparation
  • get bored with implementation/ consolidation

 

Activists in eLearning

There needs to be plenty to look at and with video and audio segments as well as animation, activists won’t get bored.  The experience isn’t passive, activist learners will be clicking around exploring conversations and taking quizzes and exercises as they work through the material, giving them the opportunities they need to discover new experiences and place themselves at the centre of their learning.

eLearning also helps activists to guard against their weaknesses. By trying out new ideas in the safe environment offered by a well designed eLearning framework they can learn about the risks inherent in situations, and discover the benefits of planning and preparation.

 

Reflectors: When they act, it is part of a wide picture which includes the past as well as the present and others’ observations as well as their own.

People who prefer the ‘Review’ stage of Kolb’s cycle, Reflectors, like to sit back to ponder experiences and observe them from many different perspectives. They are thoughtful people who like to consider all possible angles and implications before making a move. They prefer to take a back seat in meetings and discussions. They enjoy observing action. They listen to others and get the drift of the discussion before making their own points. They tend to adopt a low profile and have a slightly distant, tolerant, unruffled air about them.

Strengths

  • thorough and methodical
  • thoughtful
  • good at listening to others assimilating information
  • rarely jump to conclusions

 

Warnings

  • tendency to hold back from direct participation
  • slow to make up their minds and reach a decision
  • tendency to be too cautious and not take enough risks
  • not-assertive, they are not particularly forthcoming and lack ‘small talk’

 

Reflectors in eLearning

Reflectors can take information on board in bite-sized chunks or work through larger sections before taking a break. This allows learners to think about what they’ve discovered, looking for examples in their own lives, and forming their own views before returning to the Module. There’s no rush, and having a system that remembers how far the learner has got so they can return directly to the last topic they studied is beneficial. A Learning Journal facility allows learners to jot down notes as they go along, which they can return to later.

eLearning can help reflectors to make the most of their learning style, building confidence in their skills and knowledge at their own pace, allowing them to take more informed decisions independently.

 

Theorists: They prefer to maximise certainty and feel uncomfortable with subjective judgements, lateral thinking and anything flippant.

People who prefer the ‘Conclude’ stage of Kolb’s cycle, Theorists, adapt and integrate observations into complex but logically sound theories. They think problems through in a vertical, step-by-step logical way. They assimilate disparate facts into coherent theories. They tend to be perfectionists who won’t rest easy until things are tidy and fit into a rational scheme. They like to analyse and synthesize. They are keen on basic assumptions, principles, theories, models and systems thinking. Their philosophy prizes rationality and logic. This is their ‘mental set’ and they rigidly reject anything that doesn’t fit with it.

Strengths

  • logical ‘vertical’ thinking
  • rational and objective
  • good at asking probing questions
  • disciplined approach
Warnings

  • restricted in lateral thinking
  • low tolerance for uncertainty, disorder and ambiguity
  • intolerant of anything subjective or intuitive
  • full of ‘shoulds, oughts and musts’

 

Theorists in eLearning

eLearning needs to have modules with clear concepts and theories which can be tested and remembered. Where additional research may help theorists to gain additional knowledge, reading lists should be included to assist theorists to explore concepts in greater detail. Key thinkers on each topic can be identified so that learners can anchor their knowledge to academic research. By including models, acronyms, and clear logical concepts well designed eLearning gives theorists the structure and clarity they need. Warnings can be included to identify the limitations of theories and their application in the real world, helping theorists to build their knowledge whilst maintaining their ability to take a contingency approach.

 

Pragmatists: Their philosophy is: ‘There is always a better way’ and ‘If it works it’s good’.

People who prefer the ‘Apply’ stage of Kolb’s cycle, Pragmatists, are keen on trying out ideas, theories and techniques to see if they work in practice. They positively search out new ideas and take the first opportunity to experiment with applications. They are the sort of people who return from management courses brimming with new ideas that they want to try out in practice.

They like to get on with things and act quickly and confidently on ideas that attract them. They tend to be impatient with ruminating and open-ended discussions. They are essentially practical down-to-earth people who like making practical decisions and solving problems. They respond to problems and opportunities ‘as a challenge’.

Strengths

  • keen to test things in practice
  • practical, down to earth, realistic
  • business-like get straight to the point
  • technique oriented
Warnings

  • tendency to reject anything without an obvious application
  • not very interested in theory or basic principles

 

Pragmatists in eLearning

For pragmatists, the content should be arranged in clear, easily identifiable modules designed to deal with everyday challenges. Within each module the material can be accessed at an element level, allowing pragmatists to access the sections they need to address the issues they are facing now. Practical examples of how to apply new knowledge are included, along with handy downloadable forms and checklists to enable easy application.

Exercises allow pragmatists to take the concepts and profile themselves and their teams against them, and strategies for dealing with individual situations are included to keep the learning real. By including case studies and anecdotes well designed eLearning enables pragmatists to better retain and apply information about concepts.

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