Learners today have so many competing priorities, that it makes the task of instructional designers even more challenging. Not only do course designers need to ensure they have top-quality content to share with their learners, but they must do everything possible to make sure that content is appropriately received and “consumed”.
Here are five unique ways that you can adopt to supercharge your eLearning courses.
- Breakaway from text
Although we all learn differently, pictorial mnemonic-based training is a far more effective way to foster learning than traditional text-based approaches. That’s because our brains are hard-wired for (biased towards!) learning through pictures and images.
One of the points that illustrates this was made by 40-year veteran author, educator, and corporate trainer Sharon L. Brown in her powerful book Using Brain Science to Make Training Stick. Brown makes the point that “Images trump words!”. By using pictures and images in your eLearning content, you’ll tap the science of long-term memory, which has an almost unlimited capacity to understand and retain complex learning concepts.
Pictorial mnemonic-based training:
- Helps learners grasp complex concepts more easily than words and phrases
- Ensures that learners aren’t faced with “information overload” – because the (colorful) images and sketches are visually less “punitive” than long sentences and extensive paragraphs
- Creates a better “first impression” of the topics being discussed, which then leads to learners retaining the content longer
In one of their blog posts, the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) confirms that: “One way trainers can boost learner engagement and increase learner retention is to use more images and fewer words to teach participants”.
By encouraging your learners to create personalized metaphors for the topics being taught, your pictorial-based training will foster better comprehension and more effective transfer of knowledge into the workplace.
- Increased use of Infographics
It’s true that pictures paint a thousand words. But the use of infographics is even more powerful than pretty pictures. That’s because this tool combines both text and images to deliver commanding educational content.
Infographics, as the name suggests, combines information with graphics. Instead of using separate graphical content in your courses, annotated with text-based slides, the use of Infographics will transform how your learners learn and interact with your courses.
The thing about infographics is that it can turn monotonous slide-based information into easy-to-understand learning content. The above is an example of how the World Health Organization (WHO) has made use of Infographics to convey facts surrounding a complex (and controversial) issue of climate change. By inter-mingling key facts into a canvas of colorful graphics, you’ll bring your eLearning content to life.
The use of animated Infographics can further help to add clarity to complex learning concepts, while at the same time keeping learners fully engaged with the content being presented.
- Amp up your interface
One of the most widely used features of any eLearning course is its interface. Learners will get their first impression about what’s in store for them as soon as they see the doorway to the rest of the course – your interface.
A poorly designed interface:
- Makes it difficult for learners to find what they are looking for
- Presents navigation challenges to your learners
- Is more inclined to cause learners to lose interest in the course
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a well-structured text-based interface. But if you really want to supercharge your eLearning course, try building a more graphical interface for your learners. By simply using some graphical renditions, the example to the right immediately brightens up the entire interface.
You could add a bit more “zing” to your courses by using images and icons, to the interface, that are more intuitive to the course content presented.
For instance, the above GUI for Paper, an app designed for the iPad environment, offers users a highly intuitive way to navigate to segments of the tool that provide access to specific features – like Drawing, Sketching or Coloring.
- Use videos to break the monotony
No one likes to have themselves exposed to an endless stream of text, pictures and images – no matter how artfully designed or skillfully illustrated or written. Pretty soon, monotony will set in and your learners will tune out – especially if the subject matter is overly technical in nature.
One way to overcome that is to embed short videos into your eLearning courses. The trick, however, is to either create your own videos or use 3rd-party content from authoritative sources.
For instance, if this is a course on Excel, what more authoritative source to tap than the creators of Excel – Microsoft – to get your video from? Not only will you break the monotony, but it will also add credibility to your course.
- Gamify and engage
The best thing to ensure your learners sit up and take note of what you are teaching them (even better than engaging videos!) is the use of interactive elements in your training.
Gamification and simulations are excellent ways to engage with distance learners while at the same time giving them opportunities to practice the skills you are teaching them.
A great example of this is Lifesaver, a revolutionary approach to teaching CPR through interactivity and scenario-based approach.
Putting it all together
Clearly, you can’t use all these approaches in every course that you develop. Some eLearning content might lend itself to interactive gaming, while others might be better conducted using voice, video or infographics. When putting your eLearning courses together, you need to, therefore, assess which tools (or combination of them) are the most effective to use.
And finally, whether you are producing video content, images, graphics or pictures – quality matters! There’s nothing like a blurry infographic or a grainy video to tune your audience off. Even if sourcing high-quality content means you have to hire professionals or pay a premium, it’s worth it at the end.
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