7 Tips To Fact Checking eLearning Courses: A Practical Guide For eLearning Professionals

The eLearning Professionals Guide To Fact Checking eLearning Courses

As eLearning professionals, we are charged with the responsibility of providing our audience with verified information that they can count on. After all, if they commit incorrect knowledge to memory this can lead to a myriad of unforeseen complications in the future. This is why it is essential to fact check every piece of online content in your eLearning course. Here are some tips that can help you ensure that every eLearning scenario, online presentation, and text block is based on facts instead of fiction.

  1. Compile a list of go-to resources.
    You probably have already a few go-to sites and other information sources that you use to research your eLearning content. However, you may want to create a list and expand upon it as you move forward, concentrating on fact checking references. To take it a step further, divide the list into different categories based on subject matter or editing steps. For instance, you can have a few sites that center on grammar checking and others that pertain to scientific fact sources.
  2. Check questionable spelling with multiple sources.
    Inevitably, every eLearning professional is going to encounter a word that causes some problems. This is usually due to the fact that it has multiple spelling variations. For example, it may be spelled one way on a news site and another on an encyclopedia page. When this occurs, you may have to resort to checking the spelling using a variety of different sources. Another good rule of thumb is to use Google to do your spell checking for you. Just type the word into the search engine and see how many results show up. If another version of the spelling yields significantly higher results, chances are that’s the correct one. When all else fails, enlist the aid of another eLearning professional to help you make your final decision.
  3. Get creative when it comes to search engine usage.
    Speaking of search engines, they can also become an invaluable fact checking tool, especially if you take a more creative approach. This is because of the algorithm that many search engines utilize, particularly Google. If you use a variety of different word combinations and sub-topics you have the power to collect a wealth of information. For example, rather than just typing in “mammalian biology”, you can opt for “animal classification” in order to fact check your eLearning course about species identification. Broaden your search to find the information you need without having to peruse the web at random.
  4. Be sure to research opposing viewpoints.
    If you are dealing with a complex or controversial subject, then you may want to research alternative viewpoints in order to cover both sides of the story. This can also help to ensure that you get all of your facts straight, instead of relying on just one of the perspectives. Researching opposing viewpoints can also give you the chance to put your information into context and avoid inaccurate or uninformed assumptions. Another advantage of covering both angles of the story is not offending any members of your audience, especially those who believe the eLearning course may be biased.
  5. Triple check all directly quoted facts.
    You should definitely fact check any and all quoted facts that you’ve gathered from third-party sources, even if those sources are completely reliable and credible. You also need to be certain that you are correctly attributing the content and that you have the rights to quote the information in the first place. When in doubt, leave it out. This will help you avoid having to remove the quote from your eLearning course, instead of discovering that it is factually unsupported later on. Triple checking your facts now may be time consuming, but it will help you avoid a great deal of stress and modification of the eLearning course later on.
  6. Pay close attention to simplified technical content.
    In some cases you may have to simplify technical or scientific subject matter that may be too complicated or complex. The primary purpose of this is to make it easier to comprehend for your audience. However, make sure that you don’t complicate matters even more by including errors or vague statements. For example, if you have to paraphrase a complex idea, ensure that you’ve covered all the basic points and that it is accurate and clear.
  7. Always ask the Subject Matter Expert.
    This is, by far, one of the best ways to fact check your eLearning course. The Subject Matter Expert is experienced and has a great deal of information about the topic. Therefore, they should be your go-to resource for knowledge. If you are not sure about a particular fact, then just ask them to clarify and elaborate on the subject. They can also give you an idea about other resources you can rely on, as well as additional facts that may be necessary. You may even want to have them look over the eLearning course during the editing process so that they can identify any errors you have missed and clear up any confusion.

Fact checking your eLearning course thoroughly helps to avoid time-consuming modifications later on and increases the credibility of your eLearning content. Keep in mind that an eLearning course riddled with incorrect information can diminish the overall effectiveness of the eLearning experience.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

5 Tips To Choose And Use Style Guides In eLearning

Style Guides In eLearning: What eLearning Professionals Should Know

From Chicago to AP, there are a variety of different style guides that are widely used by writers, students, and eLearning content developers. However, finding the right guide for your eLearning course can be a daunting task, as it is a choice that is greatly affected by personal preferences and the subject matter. Even after selecting the ideal style guide, utilizing its guidelines may be a challenge. Here are some tips to help you identify which guide is best for your eLearning project and utilize it to create polished and effective eLearning course content.

Most Popular Style Guides

  • MLA.
    This is one of the most common style guides, especially for academic, foreign language, and humanity publications.  It’s been around since the 1980s and is widely used in universities across the United States.
  • Chicago.
    This is the must-have manual for history, religion, and philosophy topics. The Chicago Manual of Style is also known as Turabian, and share many similarities with the AP style. It is one of the most versatile style guides, as well, which makes it ideal for all-around studies.
  • AP.
    The Associated Press Stylebook, or AP, is popular in the journalism and public broadcasting sector. While the Chicago style features numbers and separate references, the AP style features a condensed version of these items. For example, eLearning content developers can simply mention the attribution in the text, itself, instead of providing a lengthy reference list at the end of the text.
  • Bluebook.
    If you’re creating a law-centric eLearning course, then you will definitely want to consider the Bluebook style guide, as it offers recommendations for legal citations. It is typically not used outside of the court system, however.
  • APA.
    The APA was introduced by the American Psychological Association, and is ideally suited for business and medical topics. This style is often found in medical journals and instructional aids.

5 Tips To Choose And Use Style Guides In eLearning

  1. Research your audience before making your decision.
    Due to the fact that every style guide centers on a specific industry or niche, it is essential to research your target audience to determine which is best for their specific needs. For example, using the Bluebook style might be ideal for legal learners, while the MLA style guide is best for those who are studying humanities. The prior knowledge of your online learners is also essential, as you need to know their personal experience levels and whether or not they are familiar with industry specific jargon.
  2. Make sure every member of your eLearning team is on the same page.
    A style guide is only truly effective if every member of your eLearning development team is on board. This also means that they should take the time to research the guide and ensure that they know all of the ins and outs. At its core, a style guide is simply a set of standards and recommendations, and it is completely up to your eLearning team how to use them. You should also get feedback from your eLearning team to see if they have any opinions or suggestions for the style guides they prefer.
  3. Be consistent when using references.
    The primary purpose of using style guide is to adhere to a particular set of standards, which adds cohesiveness and consistency to the content of your eLearning course. As such, you should stick to the style guide when citing your references. If you are going to be citing references at the end and simply including a numeral in-text, then you must so throughout the eLearning course. Also, steer clear of words like “he/she” or “that/this”, and instead be very clear about who or what you are referencing to.
  4. Style guides must align with your goals.
    In addition to your audience and subject matter, it’s imperative that you consider your personal preferences and goals when choosing a style guide. If you don’t particularly care for the Chicago style of referencing, then you may want to opt for the AP style guide, for example. You should also keep your writing and eLearning course objectives in mind. Creating medical eLearning course content that is more professional in nature, such as those that teach complex processes or theories, may require the APA style guide. On the other hand, if you are writing a casual online course that deals with more basic concepts, you may want to opt for the Chicago or AP style guide.
  5. Take time to learn the basic guidelines.
    To use the style guide most effectively, it’s wise to study the guidelines as much as possible and jot down notes on important points. However, it’s almost unfeasible to remember each and every item in the manual as every style guide has a myriad of “rules” and recommendations to follow. Thus, you may want to have the guide on hand when you are creating your eLearning course so that you can use it as quick reference. When you reach a point where you are a bit unsure about how to cite a reference, punctuate a sentence, or include a quote, you can simply look at the style guide to get your answer.

Although there are many style guides, doing your research and finding the one that is right for your needs can make a significant difference. If necessary, create your own style guide that features guidelines from existing manuals. Just make sure that you develop a detailed list of punctuation, formatting, referencing, and grammar recommendations for your eLearning team to follow.

While choosing the right style guide is essential, knowing how to proofread and edit your eLearning course is of the upmost importance. Read the article 7 Tips For Proofreading And Editing Your eLearning Course to learn about 7 top tips that can help you further polish and perfect your eLearning course.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Top 8 Tips For Proofreading Effectively Your eLearning Course

How To Proofread Effectively Your eLearning Course

Let’s be perfectly honest; proofreading isn’t the most enjoyable thing in the world. You’ve spent so much time with your eLearning course at this point that looking over it yet again may just push you over the edge. However, it is a necessary part of eLearning design and development process. The good news is that there are ways to speed up the proofreading process and make it more efficient.

  1. Create the ideal proofreading ambiance.
    Find a quiet spot, free of any distractions, and set the right proofreading mood. The point is to put yourself in the right frame of mind so that you are able to spot the mistakes and polish your eLearning course to perfection. Resist the urge to check your email or peruse social media sites. Also, take frequent breaks so that you don’t wear yourself out.
  2. Be on the lookout for common mistakes.
    We all have little quirks that seem to crop up when we create eLearning content. Maybe you have a problem with tenses, or those pesky commas always get in your way. Whatever the case may be, be aware of the mistakes you commonly make and be on the lookout for them when you want to proofread your eLearning course. You may also want to keep a running list of recurring errors that you can use for future eLearning courses. For example, if you there are five improper usages of plurals, then you can pay careful attention to the plural words the next time around.
  3. Read the eLearning content aloud.
    Read the eLearning content out loud to catch any mistakes you may have missed when skimming the text. When we say words aloud we are able to find “stumbling blocks”, such as typos and punctuation errors. If you are reading a sentence and it seems long winded, you know that a comma is probably in order. It can also help you ensure that the flow of your eLearning course is on-point. For example, a sentence that seems perfectly fine when you’re silently reading the eLearning course may sound completely unnatural when you read it out loud.
  4. Let it simmer.
    Step away from the eLearning course for a day, if possible, then come back to it and do your final proofread. This gives you the opportunity to get some distance from the materials, so that you can look at with fresh eyes and are less likely to remember every word you’ve written. If a full day is not feasible, then at least let it simmer for an hour or two so that you can regroup.
  5. Begin at the end.
    Start at the end of the eLearning course and work your way backward when proofreading. Doing so essentially tricks your brain into thinking that it’s new content, as you are reading through the eLearning course in the reverse order in which it was written. This gives you the ability to catch more errors by catching your mind off guard. For example, your brain might automatically correct a typo if you read through the eLearning course from the beginning, but it may detect it when moving backward.
  6. Don’t trust the spellchecker.
    Unfortunately, the spellchecker is not to be trusted. It can, on occasion, miss typos or simply overlook words that are spelled correctly but used improperly. For instance, your finger might slip when you’re trying to spell “loud”, resulting in “load”. The spellchecker won’t catch this when you do your final edits, but it will still take away from the overall quality of your eLearning course. Go through the eLearning content with fine-toothed comb to catch errors with the most effective spellchecking tool at your disposal; your brain.
  7. Enlist the aid of a fresh set of eyes.
    No matter how long you let the eLearning course sit before proofreading, it is still your eLearning course and you are still familiar with every line of text. This is why it’s essential to have a friend or colleague proofread it for you. It’s all new to them, which means that they will be able to catch the errors that your mind skipped right over. As an added bonus, they can also let you know if there are any items you should omit or include to make the eLearning course more effective.
  8. The dictionary is your friend.
    There are plenty of online dictionaries that you can use to proofread your eLearning course. Or, if you prefer to look your words up the old-fashioned way, have an actual dictionary at-the-ready. If there’s a word that is questionable, look it up to verify that you’re using it in the right context. You can also see if there are other words that might fit into the eLearning content more snugly. A thesaurus is another invaluable tool for proofreaders, especially if you want to add some vocabulary variety to your eLearning course and avoid repetition.

As the famous Dr. Seuss once said, “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads”. Take the time to proofread your eLearning course now, so that your learners can get the most out of their eLearning experience later.

Ready to give your eLearning course one last glance before you click that “publish” button? Before you do, read the article Post-Course Evaluation: 15 Aspects That eLearning Professionals Need To Check to find out about the 15 things you need to check during the post-course evaluation of your eLearning course.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Make It Clear: Writing Tips for e-Learning

Keep your online training content clear with these writing tips for e-Learning

Don’t hide the main idea.
Examine each sentence, paragraph and list to make sure the main idea is right at the beginning. You don’t want to make your learner wait until the end to get the main idea. Most learners won’t wait—they’ll get bored or confused, and they’ll skip ahead or miss what you’re trying to teach.

  • Here’s an example of a sentence with the main idea buried at the end: A beautiful and fascinating animal in the ocean that has tiny tube feet to help it move along and is related to sand dollars is a starfish. In that sentence, “A starfish” is the main idea, but it’s buried at the end.
  • However, this next sentence is upfront with the main idea. Your learners will appreciate this one much more: A starfish is a beautiful and fascinating animal in the ocean that is related to sand dollars and has tiny tube feet to help it move along. See—much clearer!

Keep it simple.

  • Simple words
    When you’re teaching a new concept or idea, simple words will help you express your message clearly. How do you know if a word is simple or complex? A good general rule is that simple words usually have fewer syllables and are shorter than complex words. A complex word is anything that will force your learner to pause in the course and consider this puzzling word or look up the definition—both are distractions from learning. Simple words create clarity.
  • Simple sentences
    Add more simple sentences (rather than compound or complex) to improve clarity in your e-Learning writing. This is a good strategy for when you’re explaining an especially complicated idea.

    • A simple sentence has one clause. Example: Shrimp are crustaceans.
    • Compound and complex sentences join multiple clauses together. Compound example: Shrimp are crustaceans, and they can swim forward or backward. Complex example: Because of their abdominal swimmerets and fanlike tails, shrimp can swim forward and backward.

Simple sentences work similarly to content chunking. Both break up large, possibly overwhelming amounts of information into small, more manageable chunks. Caution: don’t make ALL your sentences simple ones in an effort to create clarity. That would make your content sound very choppy, which could be distracting to your learner. Be strategic, and add simple sentences to your content when you want to improve clarity.

Be concrete, not abstract.
Don’t use tons of abstract jargon in your e-Learning course. Abstract words don’t provide additional value to your course, and your learners will hate taking it. Here are examples of jargon you should avoid writing:

  • “Boil the ocean” – Perhaps this refers to the ridiculous amount of time it would take to boil all the water in an ocean. You’re better off just being clear and saying “waste time.”
  • “Pearl diving contest” – This is actually an “incentive program to increase sales” and has nothing to do with wetsuits.
  • “Paddle on both sides” – Unless your learners are canoeing on their lunch breaks, you should just tell them to “apply maximum effort” to a task.

Apply these writing tips for e-Learning to help you write course content that's clear and effective. When you’re communicating clearly to your learners, you’re succeeding!

Like this post? Check out this one too: 6 Quick Tips for Proofreading Your e-Learning Course.

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This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

7 Tips for Proofreading and Editing Your eLearning Course

Proofreading and Editing Your eLearning Course

Let's face it, editing eLearning courses can be a pain, not to mention the fact it is absolutely necessary. Without a thorough round of proofreading, chances are the finished eLearning deliverable just isn't going to be an accurate representation of your talent or expertise. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to make the process less time consuming and more productive, so that you can turn in top notch eLearning deliverables every time.

  1. Be aware of the mistakes you commonly make.
    Each of us has our strong points. However, there are also weaknesses that we possess which can lead to recurrent mistakes in our eLearning courses. For example, if spelling isn't necessarily our strong suit, we may find that there are a variety of spelling mistakes throughout our content. This is why it's important to be aware of the mistakes you commonly make, so that you can be on the lookout for them as you proofread and edit your eLearning course. While it's important to focus on all aspects of your eLearning course when you're preparing it for submission, it's always worthwhile to pay extra close attention to the areas that may need a bit more polishing.
  2. Remember that proofreading involves multiple steps not just one quick read.
    In order to find all errors and make sure your writing is concise and clear, you're going to need to proofread it multiple times. In fact, you may want to break the process up into smaller editing and proofreading sessions, so that you don't become overwhelmed by the task and don't miss crucial mistakes. It may be wise to set aside time in your schedule for different parts of the eLearning course. For example, you can devote an hour on Monday to editing the first module, and then another hour on Wednesday to the second. This will give you the opportunity to take your time, while still increasing your eLearning productivity. Keep in mind that it's a process that can't be rushed, but is well worth all of the time and effort you put in.
  3. Trim down lengthy sentences to make them concise.
    As you go through your eLearning course, pay careful attention to not only what it is written, but also how it's been presented. Remember that cognitive overload is typically an issue if you are dealing with lengthy blocks of text. So, keep things short and simple. If you notice any run-on sentences that may cause learner confusion, then trim them down. If there is an abundance of information that you need to cover, use bullet points to make it more digestible.
  4. Read the content aloud.
    While you are proofreading your eLearning course, you'll probably want to read it aloud at least once. Something may look good on the screen, but you may discover that it's confusing or ambiguous when you read it aloud. You may even want to try recording yourself reading it and then play it back while you scan the text. This can help you to ensure that the content flows well and that the pace is smooth.
  5. Don't rely on spell check to catch all of the errors.
    In a perfect world, the spell and grammar checking tools would catch every error in your eLearning course. However, since this isn't the case, you'll want to go over your entire eLearning course thoroughly in order to catch any errors that these tools have missed. While this can be time consuming, it can also make a world of difference in the quality of your finished eLearning deliverable. If you don't have the time to do this step yourself, then you may want to delegate the task or even hire an editor to go through it with a fine-toothed comb to fix any remaining spelling and grammar mistakes.
  6. Set the project aside before giving it one last read.
    You need to put some distance between you and the eLearning course itself, especially if you've been working on it for quite some time. So, it's often best to set it aside for a day or two before giving it one final proofread. This will allow you to look at it with fresh eyes and catch any errors that you may have missed during previous readings. Also, if at all possible, try to get someone else to proofread it as well. It's difficult to be objective about work that you've created, and letting someone else proofread it may help you to strengthen weak points and catch errors that you tend to make on a regular basis.
  7. Don't wait until the day of the deadline.
    For those who have a tendency to wait until the last minute to edit, this last tip for editing your eLearning course may prove to be quite challenging. If you wait until the day of the deadline to do your editing and proofreading, chances are that you're going to miss errors and, more importantly, have to deal with unnecessary stress and worry. Try to get the vast majority of your editing done at least a couple days in advance. Then, you can take your time looking over it one last time before you send it off. Also, if you find that you don't have extra time to spare on the day of the deadline, you can have the peace of mind of knowing that all of your editing has already been taken care of.

Taking the time to proofread and edit your eLearning course can help to ensure that it offers the most value to your audience and surpasses the expectations of your clients. Just remember that your portfolio is only as strong as your least polished project, so always be sure to check, then double check, every aspect of your eLearning course before its submission.

Knowing which mistakes to look out for can help you to make the proofreading process even less stressful and more productive. The article Writing Mistakes to Look for When Proofreading Your e-Learning Course highlights 8 common writing mistakes that you'll want to be aware of when proofreading your next eLearning deliverable.

In addition, in the article Ultimate eLearning Course Design Checklist you will find a comprehensive "must-have" eLearning checklist for your eLearning projects?

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.