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 can all 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 that you can in your post course evaluations then ok; however other times we may just be repeating a presentation method which is creates boredom for your learners.
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:
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.
Keep in mind who your learners are.
You should understand this before you even start designing. 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 are 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.
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.
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.
3. 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.
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 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?
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.
7. 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!