10 Tips For Powerful Writing In eLearning

You've got beautiful graphics and whizzy interactive eLearning. But what about the words? Don't forget about the power of words in your eLearning solutions. This article looks at why words are the best thing we have to make eLearning that bit more excellent.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

6 Tried And Tested Ways To Capture Your Learners’ Attention In An Animated Video

Are interested in using animated videos for your eLearning projects? You want your learners to keep watching, right? Then use these tried and tested approaches to capture your learners attention in the first 10 seconds.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

5 Ways To Transform Distance Learning Content

How To Transform Distance Learning Content 

Isn’t it amazing how old distance learning is? According to some articles it’s been used to teach students for over 200 years! In the old days, students applied for a course with a university or other educational organization. They’d be posted their text-based distance learning course materials and maybe get some tutor support by mail and/or phone (when the phone was invented, of course).

In recent years, many organizations may have extended their distance learning offering to provide more support by email and/or discussion boards. A learning platform may have arrived where more text heavy materials were added.

But... and here is the big BUT. This is where some organizations remain stuck. Whether in paper format or online in PDF format, text heavy materials are given to students to wade through. In this day and age how effectively can students learn from this text heavy approach? Do distance learning organizations feel they have no choice but to adopt this approach because of the vast curriculum that has to be delivered?

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. The choice of learning technologies is endless. So the possibilities of creating digital learning content are also endless meaning organizations do have choices. Many choices.

A distance learning course is the perfect learning product for using eLearning. There will be a specific curriculum which needs to be taught, so a large pool of content already exists. It’s not about starting from scratch. It’s about thinking creatively about how distance learning content is designed.

Here are five suggestions on how to transform distance learning content into engaging digital learning content – all of which I have used or come across being used effectively.

  1. Give case studies an interactive scenario make over.
    Case studies are often used in distance learning content to illustrate a theoretical perspective of a topic and give students questions to solve around the case. A suggested model answer is usually provided so students can compare it with their own answer. Transform these case studies into an interactive scenario. Make students the protagonist in the scenario giving them the opportunity to make decisions or apply concepts as they would in the real world. Build in feedback around the decisions a student has made, choices they have selected. After completing the scenario, students can then discuss it with other students to share their experience.
  2. Covert examples into a story.
    Expand on key examples used in course materials and convert them into a visual story. For example, in a recent animation project for a university I worked on, a key project management framework has five steps. In the course materials, each step has a different industry example explaining how the step can be applied. In the real world, students would be applying the framework from one perspective i.e. one industry example. With this in mind, one industry example was used for all steps and a story created telling students how the whole framework was used. The animation is a bite-sized piece of digital content; is audio driven, highly visual and has no student interaction as such. However, because of the media used, the animation allows students to step back from all the text heavy materials and learn about the topic from a different perspective. Using different approaches to teach, creates those “Aha” moments when a student says “I finally get it”. This animated approach also benefited the teaching faculty hugely.  As subject matter experts, they were urged to think differently about the way they teach particular topics.
  3. Design show and tell content.
    The foundation for a subject like Accounting is built on numerical concepts and principles. Trying to learn the numerical concepts purely from text narrative can be challenging. Students struggling with these concepts may need to be shown in detail how to apply formulas and interpret numbers. Design worked through solutions which demonstrate how to solve such numerical problems step by step. Present the data, show formulas being applied, explain where numbers come from and illustrate the business impact of results. There are many software tools which you can use to create this kind of solution for distance learning delivery – such as whiteboard tutorial software, screen recording tools.  This approach can be used for many subjects.
  4. Develop interactive exam practice questions.
    For distance learning programs which are assessed by examination, students will typically go through past papers and model answers. Develop interactive resources around past exam questions which guide students through the key stages in answering questions. They can compare their answer to a model answer and see examples of different levels of answers; some low graded answers and some best practice answers. Provide hints and tips on answering exam questions for specific subjects and topics.
  5. Go 100% digital with all content.
    This is the bravest and boldest option. It means saying goodbye to most, if not all, paper based / text heavy materials and rethinking your course content strategy. It means investing in a future which is aligned to the ever growing digital world. It means embracing the many possibilities of learning technologies and delivering education for the next generation of distance learners. The College of Estate Management took this brave and bold step in 2014 and won the 2015 Bronze eLearning Award for Best online distance learning program.

One Final Thought 

Organizations offering distance learning programs need to change their game… and quickly. If they’re not already here now, the next generation of distance learners will be here very soon. They will not have the time or motivation to go through those text-heavy materials. They will demand variety of media in their learning and more importantly will be used to learning digitally.

Make sure your distance learning organization is ready for them.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

How To Avoid 5 Horror Stories Of eLearning Design

5 Horror Stories Of eLearning Design And How To Avoid Them 

Like many of us involved in creating eLearning, I’ve seen and heard many horror stories which would make any designer scream with fright. In the run up to Halloween, here are five ghostly eLearning design situations I’ve come across, with some tricks on how to avoid them.

  1. Narrating all screen text.
    This is the one of the scariest eLearning design principles of all. To make matters worse, there was no option to switch off the audio. If you go down this road, you’ll kill the learning experience for sure. Reading and listening to the same information creates a cognitive overload; making it difficult to process the learning messages. We all read at different speeds and if a learner reads faster or slower than the narration, then you’ll lose them. More importantly, writing an audio script which will be listened to is completely different to writing onscreen text, which learners will read. Audio script writing should be more informal and conversational. Therefore, recording the onscreen text word for word just does not work. It’s making me shiver just thinking about it.

    • Trick: Decide on the purpose of using audio narration in your eLearning. For example, if you’re telling a story, narrate the script with powerful images; like a movie trailer. Or narrate a short introductory message at the start of a topic and then leave learners to read the rest. At the very least, give the option to switch the audio off.
  2. Content which has been dug out from the internet.
    It was frightening when I heard a colleague was given a bunch of links and was asked to use them to design an eLearning course. Fear not readers, he did not use the information; but had a conversation with the client. Whilst the internet is an invaluable source of information, it shouldn’t be used as a unique content source. Even if the content is for internal use, copyright laws will haunt you for sure.

    • Trick: It’s an obvious trick, but use a Subject Matter Expert (SME) during the eLearning design phase. They’re given the hat of Subject Matter Expert because their knowledge and experience has made them an authority in their field. Typically, the Subject Matter Expert will work with the Instructional Designer to identify the learning goals, give content ideas (some may even write draft content), and review storyboards.
  3. No instructions on screen.
    Shocked by this story? So was I when I came across it. Providing no screen instructions because you think that learners will figure it out is horrifying. It might be obvious to some learners what they need to do, but not to others.

    • Trick: Even in a world where we’re used to finding our way through online content, make clear what you want the learner to do when they arrive at a screen. Whether it’s to choose, select, tap, read, reflect, drag, or simply click, include clear instructions. At the heart of creating eLearning is the Instructional Design process, so as well as designing everything else, make sure you design the instructions themselves.
  4. An eLearning version of a workbook.
    A workbook for use in the classroom is created word for word into an eLearning course just in case learners cannot make the classroom training. This eLearning design approach is ineffective on so many levels: Ineffective for the learners; it’ll no doubt create ineffective design; ineffective on the budget and generally a waste of time.

    • Trick: First, ask yourself some fundamental questions. For example, why should there be an eLearning version of the workbook? What’s the purpose? Why are learners not attending the classroom training? What is the value of providing the same solution in two formats? Spend time deciding if you need both. If you do, give each a unique role in the overall learning. Would a blended approach of core knowledge in the workbook and eLearning scenario work?
  5. Is there any context out there?
    Imagine having to read copious amounts of facts and information, screen after screen, with no context around the content. Learners are given no indication of how the information applies to them or how they’ll use the information. Terrifying, right? Context is what gives any learning meaning and relevance.

    • Trick: Using scenarios, common problems, conversations or situations learners regularly come across all help to create context. As well as text, remember to add context in all the media assets that will used in the eLearning. For example, images of the environment where context might take place; the tone in any voiceover; body language of characters used in images. This will ensure the context represents real life as much as possible.

What are your eLearning horror stories and tricks to avoid them?

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.