When someone first starts to build an e-learning course, one of the first things I recommend is determining the colors they’ll use. And from there, create a template and assign the theme colors.
The benefits to theme colors is that they allow consistent use of colors throughout the course; and if one needs to change, it can be changed once, and that change is applied wherever the color is used.
The next recommendation is to determine how to use theme colors. This is often confusing because, you get six theme colors and five derivatives per color. However, there’s no rhyme or reason in terms of how they should be used. They’re just six boxes that can be filled with colors. You can use those boxes anyway you like.
But that’s not how you should use them.
I recommend that you define a theme color structure and then use them consistently. This way, every time you build a course the theme colors are set up the same and you can easily swap them out when needed.
How to Set Up Theme Colors
Here are a few ideas that may work:
You get six theme colors. But you don’t really need to use all six.
Define how you do want to use the colors, whether it’s six or four or two.
Use theme colors consistently in all templates you create.
Courses usually have a main color and an accent color. If you only used two colors, you’d have twelve to use because of the iterations. That may be all you need.
Most courses have some positive and negative feedback color, usually green and red. Use two of the theme colors for positive and negative feedback.
Here is one way you could define your theme colors:
Accent 1: base color. Usually this is your core brand color.
Accent 2: accent color. Most brands have an accent color. If you don’t have one, you can use a color theme site to create one. I typically will select a complementary color of the base color.
Accent 3: open. Why create a color you don’t need?
Accent 4: open.
Accent 5: positive color. Green pulled from the base color’s palette. Use this for quiz feedback or icons to show a good decision.
Accent 6: negative color. Red pulled from the base color’s palette. Use this for quiz feedback or icons to show a wrong decision.
For the two open colors, I may look through my organization’s web site and marketing collateral and see if there are other secondary colors used that I could add to the palette. Most of the times, two colors are all I need.
If every course is built with consistent use of theme colors, they can be swapped in seconds. This is a critical part of building and re-using interactions and templates. It’s a little more work upfront (which should be done anyway). But in the long-term it offers some time-saving benefits.
In a recent post we looked at boring course content. I am not convinced that there is any boring content. I do think there are bored people.
Today we’ll look at how to deal with the bored people when building e-learning courses.
E-Learning Courses Should Be Relevant and Meaningful
There’s a lot to learn about instructional design with all the theories and models. But when it comes down to it, the key ingredient is that the course has meaning to the person who takes it. If you read this blog enough, you’ll see that repeatedly.
One of the challenges to this is that many courses have little to do with the learner or their needs. A lot of compliance and annual training falls into that category. The goal isn’t learning per se. Instead, it’s to track exposure. In that setting, it’s difficult to cater courses to relevant activities because the content tends to be general and not specific to function. And the goal is an end-of-year completion report.
Assuming you do have control over the course structure, framing the content in a meaningful way is important.
I always say, “Throw them in the pool.”
Put the learners in the place where they need to know and use the course content. Don’t focus on the information, focus on the desired action. And then build a course around those activities where they can both learn by doing and demonstrate their understanding.
Skip the Course and Focus on Leading Questions
Do we really need a “course” to teach? Why not frame the content around relevant questions and then present the answers (hopefully desired actions) to them?
You could create a traditional FAQ type structure of questions with answers. It forces you to frame the content into a more meaningful context and not just focus on presenting information.
Another way to deal with a question and answer structure is to build simple scenarios. No need to overbuild the course. They don’t need to be big elaborate media creations. They can be simple questions with a few real-world choices that lead to answers.
Keep the Learning Where the Learning Happens
A great e-learning course may take a few hours for the learner to complete. But a work week is at least forty hours. And depending on the task, proficiency requires more than a couple of hours of practice. Probably at least a couple of weeks.
Where is most of the learning going to happen? In your e-learning course? Or will it happen in their daily interactions with real people, making real decisions?
A good e-learning course is just part of the training solution. Blend the online activity with real-world activities. I like to use the online course to ensure consistent and timely delivery of the core content. And then create training activities in the real world.
An easy thing is to create a list of tasks that require proficiency. Then determine how they practice them and get feedback. I like to use learning journals and peer coaches. Regardless of how you do it, the learning happens mostly outside of the online course, thus it’s good to consider that when building the learning experience.
Remember, the course is a means to an end. The goal isn’t to take a course. The goal is that the course enables some practical learning which produces some measurable results.
One of the top questions about e-learning is how to make boring course content more engaging and interactive. Considering the state of many e-learning courses, it’s a good question. But I’m not sure it’s the right question.
Is Course Content Boring?
I’m not sure the issue is that the content itself is boring as much as the content is meaningless and irrelevant to what the person needs.
I do a lot of small home projects. Not being the most skilled, I spend a lot of time watching videos and reading articles online to learn what I need to do. As can be expected, the quality of the content varies. However, I don’t view the content as boring.
There is a lot of content not tailored to my specific needs. But that’s OK. I can quickly move on from that. I’m not locked into another twenty minutes of something that is completely meaningless.
What is Boring Course?
There are boring courses. Much of it is regulatory or compliance training. We’re not going to get rid of it. It’s unavoidable in the world of e-learning. It’s not that the content itself is boring. Instead, it’s a bunch of information mostly disconnected from the learner’s world.
Another source of boring content is that the course learning objectives are framed around the delivery of the content and not the actions related to it. We present a lot of information, but we don’t show how to apply the information in any meaningful way.
At the crux of it all is that the course content is irrelevant to the learner’s day or job. Thus, it’s meaningless.
I don’t have a job where I’m getting bribed. Yet I’m taking ethics training on not getting bribed. Boring! Put me in a job where I get bribed and then give me training to convince me it’s not worth it.
Ich kann diesen Report (37 S.) von Coursera hier gerade nur kurz würdigen. Ich habe gelesen, wie die AutorInnen „Qualität“ definieren: a) engagement (metric: completion rates), satisfaction (metric: good reviews), skill development (metric: test scores), career impact (as reported on surveys). In den folgenden Kapiteln wird dann detailliert auf die einzelnen Komponenten eingegangen. Das Ganze mündet in wenig überraschenden Empfehlungen: kurze Videos (10 Minuten), überschaubare Kurslängen (4 Wochen), möglichst viele praxisorientierte Aktivitäten sowie Unterstützung der Lernenden bei der Anwendung neuer Fähigkeiten. Alan Hickey, Alexandra Urban und Eric Karsten, Coursera, 1. Oktober 2020 (pdf)
Ok…I’m not sure that’s the right title. I’m working on a presentation that covers instructional design challenges and wanted to share a few points to consider about course design and how we need to move past the way many of today’s courses are constructed.
Technology has changed the landscape for today’s course designers
Years ago, someone other than the learner controlled access to content. We were all beholden to the subject matter experts and their walled gardens. We saw this in universities. We saw this in organizations. Subject matter experts owned content and they determined how it was packaged and delivered. Organizations created their learning management systems and determined who had access to what and when. Their quizzes determined who was smart enough.
But a lot of that has changed.
The internet and mobile devices give us access to everything we need to know, and mostly at a point when we need to know it. It doesn’t make us deep experts, but it makes us experts enough.
Need to repair sheetrock gone bad? Find a YouTube video. I won’t be quitting my job to build sheetrock walls, but I can learn to do what I need to do when I need to do it.
If I know something and want to share it. I’ll join a community. I can create a video (or some other asset) and make that available for others who want to learn what I know. The people who want to learn can find what they need when they need it. And they can find some comfort in the personal connection to an expert. They won’t feel sold to or manipulated. It’s a community and not a place worried about optics and spinning the meaning of every word.
Course designers need to embrace a new role
It’s not enough to build a course and upload to a learning management system. This forces all of the content behind a wall. We should start to see our role evolve.
Today’s learner has access to what they need. They can get it when it makes the most sense to them. It’s usually in context. And it’s not overwhelming.
However, they may not always know what they need or how much of it. And they may not know what’s most critical or what’s best for meeting objectives. They may also waste a lot of time on irrelevant content.
This is where we step in. Instead of just being traditional course creators, we should become both curator and connector.
Curating resources helps sort through the noise and package what’s most important to meeting objectives.
Connecting is all about facilitating a learning community and connecting experts with novices. It allows the content to live and breathe. The community has a knack for sorting value.
There will always be a place for formal course design and delivery. Government regulations and the fear of lawsuits will ensure that. However, if learning is really the goal, then how we make content available and help people succeed must be more than just putting together a bunch of online presentations and quizzes. Look at the way you learn things today and where you go to learn them. Find ways to make that part of your instructional design, too.
An attendee asked, “What’s wrong with retrofitting a course?”
Understanding Accessible E-Learning
Imagine a city that already exists full of apartment buildings, skyscrapers, and transit systems. And then the city council implements a law that says there must be a half-acre of park every two square miles.
How will you accomplish that?
You either must tear down what you’ve already built or try to squeeze the bare minimum of acceptable “parkland” into your existing space. Since the parks weren’t an initial consideration, you do what you can to meet minimum guidelines, but you may not meet the aspirational goals of the intent of more parks.
And that’s often the case with e-learning courses that weren’t built with accessibility in mind. The retrofitted courses may appear to meet the minimum requirements but may not offer the best user experience; and they may not actually meet the requirements if all you did after-the-fact was apply accessible features to the original content. And of course, all of that retrofitting costs a lot of extra time and money.
Challenges Retrofitting Accessible E-Learning
There’s a lot that goes into creating an e-learning course like consulting with subject matter experts, writing scripts, developing prototypes, presenting content to stakeholders, and iterating on the prototypes you have created. In the end, you have a published output that everyone has agreed upon.
When you try to retrofit a completed course, it may seem easy and straightforward. But once you begin to uncover how much needs to be undone, redone, and how many people could and should be involved in that process, you’ll find it’s more costly, time-consuming, and downright difficult. This is especially true when you consider the interactive nature of e-learning and how different users access the content.
Therefore, it’s important to consider accessibility as part of the initial production process so that you understand what’s required and build a course that meets everyone’s needs. If you start with accessibility in mind, you’re considering everyone. Everyone will feel included because they are.
One way to speed up production in your e-learning course design is to use themed slides. You can create robust and visually varied templates like the ones you get in Content Library. The templates are a combination of layouts and two themed elements: fonts and colors. However, you don’t need to have a complex template to leverage theme colors.
Theme colors allow you to pre-determine the colors you’ll use in your course’s slides. There are several benefits and reasons when using theme colors.
Make Easy Updates to Theme Colors for E-Learning
Here’s a common scenario: insert an image and then do a color pick of the image to pull a color to use for outlines or shapes in the course. Later someone suggest changing the color. The challenge is going through every slide and making changes where that color was used.
Use theme colors to quickly modify all the objects with that same theme color. This doesn’t require a lot of consistency in terms of how you use the colors. It just means that if you do a color pick, for example, you add that to one of the accent colors so you can apply that accent color through the course.
If you have red shapes and they need to be blue, if you used a theme color to fill the shape all you need to do is change the theme color.
Create a Loaded Palette of Theme Colors for E-Learning
You get six accent colors, and each has five derivatives. You don’t need to have a real strategy when using theme colors. You get six slots. Figure out what six colors you need in your course and then create a palette, so you always have those six available to you.
You can use the colors willy nilly with no consideration to any real structure. The key advantage is having a palette of desired colors on hand.
Develop a Strategy for Theme Colors for E-Learning
Assuming you build a lot of templates and you re-use them, then it makes sense to be strategic about how you use the theme colors. You get six slots. Use them the same way every time you create a theme color. That makes it easy to create a new theme and re-use templates because you know that the theme colors are applied the same way to the same objects.
Determine how you want to use the color slots and then use them that way consistently. This allows you to quickly apply new color themes knowing that the entire template will change, and the colors will make universal changes to the entire course.
Some people are very strategic an organized in how they use theme colors. And some just use them with no sense of structure. They just want a place to load some colors and have quick access. That’s fine, too.
What you want to avoid is using single colors outside the theme that can’t easily or quickly be updated later. Theme colors help prevent that and save time when building courses whether your strategic or just using a palette.
Es geht um das Format: einen Email-Kurs der We Are Open Co-op („We work to spread the culture, processes and benefits of open wherever we can.„). Eigentlich wollte ich ja den Kurs verlinken, dem ich gerade gefolgt bin („what we talk about when we talk about open“), aber ich habe den Einstiegspunkt im Web nicht mehr gefunden. Wahrscheinlich war es ein Link in den Newslettern von Doug Belshaw oder Laura Hilliger, die ich auch sonst nur wärmstens empfehlen kann.
Aber zurück zur Sache: Email-Kurs heißt im vorliegenden Fall: 7 Mails („7 Habits …“), die einige zusammenfassende Informationen über ein Stichwort bieten. Manchmal gibt es noch Links zum Vertiefen, manchmal sind die Mails aufgeteilt in Rubriken wie „Let’s practice …“ oder „Next up“.
Mir gefällt das Format, weil es da ankommt, wo bei mir die meisten Infos, Newsletter und Alerts zusammenkommen, nämlich im Email-Eingang (aber das ist natürlich eine Generationenfrage …). Und weil das Format flexibel und beliebig erweiterbar ist: Man kann es als Teaser für ein größeres, strategisches Lernthema nutzen, mit weiteren Ressourcen im Netz hinterlegen oder um eine Community erweitern. Je nach Thema und Ressourcen. Doug Belshaw, We Are Open co-op/ Blog, 26. Juni 2020
Templates offer a lot of value and power in your e-learning course design. They help keep things consistent, provide a good starting structure, and they make it easy to swap and replace theme elements.
The main benefit of a template is saving time. But templates come with constraints and when attempting to customize them you may be robbed of the time saved. This is something I see all the time when working with e-learning developers.
To keep things simple, I like to consider templates from two perspectives.
Option 1: The E-Learning Template is Plug and Play
Use a template where the layout and all its features are pre-determined. The goal here is to select a templated screen and expect to make minimal changes. The value of the template is that everything is there and all you need to do is add your content.
All you want is a slide with a specific look and swap out the placeholders for your course content. You don’t want to change layouts, redesign the slide, add new elements, or customize colors.
The core value is that the template is pre-designed and all you do is add content. This is great for quick authoring and for the person who has limited graphic design experience.
Option 2: The E-Learning Template is Customizable
Use a template where all the features are themed. This usually consists of layouts, colors, and fonts. The value of this type of template is that you can easily modify it by making universal changes to the theme elements. And those changes are applied across all the slides in the course.
This second perspective requires a bit more forethought and restraint in using the features. For example, all the text and colors on the slide need to use theme text and colors. Also, all layouts need to be mapped to the same placeholders, otherwise, they’re not interchangeable.
Avoid the Mushy Middle
Think of these two perspectives as two ends of a spectrum. On one end you have the convenience of a pre-built screen that only requires content. Select it and add the content.
On the other is a screen that is built to be modified. It’s not tied to content but the theme elements.
Realistically, you can do both by making a designed slide with themed elements. But…and this is a big but (cue Pee Wee Herman) most of the issues I see when people work with templates is that they want the convenience of plug and play and then they want to customize, too. Inevitably this leads to a lot of time wasted trying to make things work.
So, I usually recommend this. If you use a template you didn’t created, accept the fact that what you select is what you get and all you need to do is add your content. Don’t expect to import it and then begin to make too many edits. At that point you lose the power of what the template gives you.
Create your own templates. Design specific layouts and multiple versions of them. For example, if you build a tabs interaction, design a 3-tab, 4-tab, and 5-tab version. Don’t just design a 3-tab and expect to modify it.
When you build the slide template, only use theme elements.
That means you use create placeholder layouts and use them consistently on the various slides.
Determine your theme colors and only use colors from your theme. And use them consistently.
Set your theme fonts (usually a heading and body). And all text on the screen uses the theme font. You don’t insert that one cute curly font to make your course engaging. One, it isn’t engaging. And two, it’s not a theme font.
Before using a template like that, you determine a new theme font and color scheme. And then insert the slide and apply the new theme elements.
Notice how the first option is just plug and play and the second requires a lot more intention and more production? That’s the big consideration. The template should provide some time-saving guidance. If you need to make a bunch of tweaks or mess things up because you didn’t plan on the theme elements, have you really saved any time? Did the template offer real value?
There you have it: two perspectives on when to use a template. Use it as is for quick authoring with minimal changes. Or use templates where you can make universal changes to the themes and quickly create new looks.