How To Improve Visual Design In Digital Learning

While living in a digital age, the role high-quality visuals play in our daily lives is often underestimated. Think about it, high-quality visuals are used everywhere, from social media to advertisements, website UI and UX, games, apps, videos, and the list goes on.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Rethinking E-Learning Templates

e-learning template

E-learning templates can be a bit challenging. On one hand, they speed up production. And then on the other they may introduce constraints in the learning experience design.

An e-learning course screen has a specific structure. It’s usually rectangular and contains text and imagery. The text and imagery are laid out on the screen and is constrained by up, down, left and right placement. Of course, the possibilities for layouts can be endless, but there are probably just a few dozen layouts that make sense for e-learning courses.

Here are a couple of recent posts where we discussed the anatomy of e-learning templates and how to get the most value out of templates.

E-learning Template Value

Templates work for repetitive processes because they can be used over and over again. For example, most courses have some sort of simple list of learning objectives. While the course content may change, those course screens are usually consistent.

E-learning Template Constraints

Courses consist of content that is contextual. And from a learning experience, that contextual content has specific teaching requirements. For example, if I teach how to use software, then the screens are dependent on screenshots. And if I teach how to interact with a customer, the visual context is best represented in a manner similar to how you may interact with the customer.

I may find some good general layouts for simple content, but as soon as I have to work with specific content, I find that there’s a lot of tweaking and adjustments made to the templates that may mean I save more time just starting from scratch.

E-Learning Template Hybrids

I like to separate my templates into three parts and find the most value in using templates in the first and third.

  • Entering the course
  • Course content
  • Exiting the course

Most courses have the same or similar starting points with welcome screens, instructions, objectives, sections, etc. And they also have similar exit points such as summary screens, next steps, and exit instructions.

Those two parts, the entering and exiting of courses, are perfect for templates. The templates are easy to insert, update, and contextualize. The middle part that deals with the actual course content is different.

Course content templates are great for simple text layouts. They break down as the content design becomes more specific. That’s fine, just use templates for the beginning and end and for simple text. But don’t waste time trying to force content into a template. Or worse, don’t create a template and force the course authors to make the content comply with a template.

Templates are great for e-learning. However, they exist to save time. Keeping templates for easy-to-repeat screens makes sense. Forcing content to fit templates probably doesn’t. But that’s OK. Just use the template screens where you need them and start with blank screens where they need customization. Don’t waste time fitting a square peg into a round hole.


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Free Interactive Game User Interfaces for E-Learning

free game ui header

There’s a lot to say about gamified e-learning. I’ve shared some ideas in previous posts with links to some examples, free templates, production ideas, and recommended books.

One thing that seems to be a common challenge for many e-learning developers is crafting the right visuals for a gamified experience. Even though gamification and games aren’t the same thing, often I look for game user interfaces (GUI) to provide some simple visual ideas. They offer a visual design that is cohesive and includes a lot of common objects, such as content holders, progress indicators, badges, and buttons.

Many stock image sites sell GUIs. Below is a screenshot from Deposit Photos. If you have a subscription to one of these services, you’re all set.

game user interfaces GUI

If you’re not in a position to buy a GUI, here are a few free options. You can also search some of these sites for additional free GUIs. I’m sure you’ll find more that the few I share.

Even if you can’t use the free GUI, it’s worth spending some time reviewing what types of assets and content buckets they offer. That may give you some ideas for your own interfaces. Keep in mind, most of these free downloads require other tools to open and edit the files.

Free Game UI: Jungle Game

free game ui jungle game

Craftpix.net has a lot of free game image resources. They do require a free account to download the GUI.

Free Game UI: Cartoon Game 1

Graphic Burger is another site that shares a lot of free stock assets. I like this GUI and use it in one of my workshops where we learn to work with variables.

free game ui mobile game

Free Game UI: Cartoon Game 2

free game ui cartoon game

DesignShock often shares free resources. You do have to look at the license agreement to make sure they resources can be used for commercial work.

If you use any of these types of interfaces, I’d love to see what you’ve done. Feel free to share the links in the comments section.


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2020

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Free Illustrations Perfect for Rise 360 Courses

free illustrations

Rise 360 is a great application to create e-learning. It’s form-based so it’s easy to use. Pull all of your instructional content together. Then go into Rise 360, select from dozens of various content blocks, and add your content.

Super easy. No programming required and because of the way it works, it doesn’t require any design work.

But what do you do if you want some graphics or illustrations to go with your Rise 360 courses?

Check out these open source illustrations from unDraw.co. They look nice and they’re free to use for commercial projects. You can download PNG or SVG versions of the illustrations.

free illustrations

Here’s why I think these free illustrations work well with Rise 360.

  • In Rise 360, you set a core accent color.

free illustrations for Rise 360

  • In unDraw, you set an accent color.

free illustrations for unDraw

  • Use the same accent colors for the Rise 360 course and the unDraw illustrations and they look like they belong together.
  • The illustrations are editable if you use an SVG editor. And because they’re open source you can customize them to your hearts desire.

Here’s an example where I matched the accent color in Rise 360 with the free illustrations from unDraw.

free illustration example

If you need some quick, easy-to-use free illustrations to complement your Rise 360 courses, then give these a try.


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

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Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

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Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 

What Makes an E-Learning Template

e-learning template header

I get lots of questions about e-learning templates. Recently, I shared some tips on how to get the most value out of a template, which I’ll build on today.

Templates make sense to speed up production and create some visual consistency. They don’t make sense if you’re doing a lot of editing and tweaking. At some point, it becomes easier to build from scratch rather than modify templates.

Many people mix and match templates, which generates many of the questions I get. Today, I’ll like to share some thoughts on what makes a template and how that impacts mixing and matching.

Most e-learning templates consist of a few core elements:

  • Fonts
  • Colors
  • Layouts
  • Design elements

E-Learning Template Fonts

Most templates consist of a header and body font. If you mix and match templates, you’ll want to make sure they use the same fonts. This works in other tools, as well. For example, if I use a Storyline block in Rise, I want the Storyline content to look like it’s part of Rise. So I’ll incorporate the same template elements. In this case, I want the fonts to match even if they use different means to manage the fonts.

e-learning template font

The same thing if I import PowerPoint slides. They use a header/body template structure, too. When you leverage existing PowerPoint content, switch the template elements to match.

E-Learning Template Color Schemes

Generally you can use as many colors as you want in a course. However, in Storyline (and PowerPoint) you get six colors. And with the five tones, that gives you thirty color swatches. You probably don’t need thirty color choices. I usually recommend two colors: a main color and a complimentary color, and perhaps a third accent color.

e-learning template colors

Regardless, when working with templates and colors, you want to be consistent in how you use them. If the main color is accent one, then do that with all templates. The challenge with already existing templates is that the template designer may have followed a different rule. Thus, when using different templates, you want to get them aligned and using colors the same way. Then, going forward, they’ll all work the way you want.

Rise 360 makes it easy as you get one accent color. However, you can also bring in other colors using the block fills and font colors. But, you’ll still want a plan as to how you’ll use colors.

E-Learning Template Layouts

There are all sorts of ways content can be laid out on the slide. Things can be up, down, left and right; and aligned at different percentages.

The key thing with layouts is that the content placeholders are the same. They don’t need to be in the same position, but they need to be the same in terms of content placeholders. When they start the same, then you can mix and match different templates and apply different looking, but similar, layouts. If they’re not the same, the inheriting template won’t know how to assign the extra content placeholders. This will require extra work to get it aligned.

e-learning template layouts

For example, the layout above has a header and three content placeholders. Applying that layout to a different slide, requires that the other slide has the same core structure of a header and three content placeholders.

Before inserting a layout from one template to the next, make sure they having matching content placeholders. If they don’t, that’s OK. You can modify the template or just know you’ll need to make some adjustments later.

E-Learning Template Design Elements

There are design elements that are unique to the templates. When I mix and match, I try to identify what makes the template visually unique outside of the things mentioned above. Then I add those elements to the other content so they have unifying characteristics.

e-learning template design elements

Here’s an example where I integrated some Storyline content into Rise, which is a completely different type of tool. One of the key elements of the template is the rounded rectangle and pill shape. I integrated some images with those shapes in Rise and the two pieces look like they belong together. You’ll notice I leveraged the colors and fonts to match, as well.

e-learning template serenity rise

Those are the four core elements that make up most templates. Before mix and matching slides from different templates, review how they use fonts, colors, and layouts. And then identify the design elements that make the template unique. Add those to the new slides where appropriate.

What template tips do you have?


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

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Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

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Theories And Models Behind Instructional And Visual Design Strategies

Have you ever wondered why you were advised to use active voice or to follow minimalism? Did you ever think about why you have to follow such guidelines? We intuitively know that these are the right things to do, but it helps to understand the theoretical framework that supports the right things.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

How to Get the Most Value Out of E-Learning Templates

e-learning templates value

E-learning templates are great. They speed up production and deliver a professional and polished look. And there are lots of e-learning templates from which to choose. Articulate 360 offers slides and interactions template for both Storyline 360 and Studio 360 in PowerPoint.

With all that said, there are some challenges with templates and issues I run into when delivering the e-learning workshops.

  • Mix & match templates. The course author wants to mix and match templates. Generally, this is easy enough to do. For the most part it’s a matter of changing theme colors and theme fonts. But this assumes that the person who created the template used the accent colors the same way. If the colors aren’t mapped to the color themes, then they can’t be changed through the themes and need to be changed at the slide level.

e-learning template theme settings

  • Inconsistent slide layouts. In the same sense, it can be a bit tricky when trying to apply the layouts from one template to another if they aren’t mapped to the same type of content and layouts.

e-learning template layouts

  • Different design elements. Templates often have visual design elements (and layouts) that make the template design unique. Thus trying to modify one to another style may create some additional work to get a similar look that defeats the time savings that the template should produce.

e-learning template design

A template is great when it’s mostly a matter of adding new content without a lot of editing. Customization (such as what’s noted above) breaks the concept of the template which is designed to provide something specific and not custom.

As soon as the author needs to customize the template, it often involves deconstructing and reconstructing the layouts and some functionality. This usually requires as much time (sometimes more) as building the screens from scratch. And at that point, the value of the template is lost.

Thus, the big question: how to get the most value out of the template?

Screens are going to be made of text and media (buttons, pictures, shapes, and video). They can be laid out any number of ways: up, down, left, and right. It starts with understanding your content and how it needs to be displayed. Once you know that, you can determine how to add your content to the course and how you want it displayed.

  • Select a single template style. You can always change the colors and fonts to match your brand and course requirements. But you want a single template.
  • Download all of the slides for that template. I usually add them to a side scene and then copy and paste what I want to use. I delete the unused scene right before I publish the course.
  • Modify the theme fonts and colors if needed. Then apply those to your template.
  • If you need a new slide (and want to build it from scratch), use the layouts that are part of the template and not outside of it.

If you understand your content and stick with a single template, you’ll find working with the templates to be easy. If you try to mix and match templates, you may find it’s more work than creating content from scratch.


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

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Coming to Australia and New Zealand. 2020

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.