Top Tips for Writing Engaging eLearning Scripts: A 3-phased, 12-step approach

Writing eLearning skillsPowerful, engaging scripts are the glue that holds eLearning together. It’s true, that the quality of graphics and visual effects matters. But with a “lackluster” script in place, the bells and whistles of 3D images and flashy transition effects won’t entice your audience to come back for more. The challenge for most eLearning scriptwriters is that scripting courses is unlike writing a book or producing an essay. There’s a certain method to eLearning scriptwriting “madness”. Deviate too much from that method, and you’ll end up with scripts that are less than engaging.

The Scriptwriting Process

The secret to producing great eLearning scripts lies in following a tried-and-tested 3-phase approach to any scripting project. At the heart of that approach, is the Planning phase. That’s where you put on your thinking cap and envision what you’re going to do. Then, in the Execution phase, you bring that plan to life by putting your scriptwriting knowledge and skills to good use.

Finally, once completed, in the next phase – the Review and Revise phase – assess your script for errors and omissions, as well as for subject-matter accuracy. Revise inconsistencies and mistakes, and perform additional reviews, if required.  It’s important to remember that these are high-level guidelines and, in some cases – for instance when producing complex or highly technical eLearning course scripts, you may have to move through more than one iteration of reviews and revisions.

Here are twelve tips, spread over each of the three phases, to help you write highly effective and engaging eLearning scripts.

1. THE PLANNING PHASE

1. Know Your Audience

eLearning scripts are a substitute for your voice. So, if you’re about to talk to someone, wouldn’t you like to know everything about them first, before you make your pitch? It’s the same for your scripts:

  • understand whom you’re writing for
  • what level of maturity (knowledge, experience, understanding) do they have about the topic
  • how they speak and communicate
  • what their learning objectives are

Then, use that knowledge in your script-building effort.

2. Organize Yourself

Before you begin writing, get everything you need for the project/task together.  This includes:

  • Tools and technologies
  • Working space
  • Support resources (e.g., eLearning authoring tool experts – in case you need help; Log-in accounts, cloud storage space – if you intend to collaborate with others)
  • Research and materials
  • Access to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
  • Voice actors/talent (if there’s an audio component to your script)

If you are working with a team, organize roles and responsibilities, and work schedules in advance, so everyone knows what to do, when, and how to communicate with each other.

3. Create Your Script Outline

Use the knowledge of your audience, and tap into the expertise of your team and resources, to produce a high-level outline of the script. Without being too detailed, the outline must, at minimum, highlight major topics and ideas you intend to cover in the script. Now is a good time for brainstorming. Remember, the outline is a “living” structure, and will evolve as you build your script. However, planning the script’s structure, and how it will flow, before you commence writing, gives you a visual roadmap of where to put your efforts for maximum impact.

2. THE EXECUTION PHASE

1. Write a Conversation

Write as if you are speaking to a person, and make your audience feel they’re listening to a person – not a Bot or Digital Assistant! Conversational scripting is far more challenging than just putting bullet points together on a slide – but this approach is far more engaging too.

2. Be “relational”

Use your knowledge of the audience, and create scripts that relate to them. For instance, if this is an audience of sales/marketing people, pepper your script with content that relates to their experience and environment.

3. Be Personable

One way to produce engaging eLearning scripts is to sound personable in your tone. Scriptwriters do that by using first- or second-person tone (I, We, You). So, instead of saying “Now, use the Excel RATE formula to calculate…”, say “Why don’t you use Excel’s RATE formula to calculate…”; or “I always use the RATE formula…”. Your script will sound as if you’re speaking from personal experience – you’ll sound authoritative in your subject – and will increase learner engagement.

4. Don’t Get Overly “technical”

The objective of your eLearning script is to educate and teach. Unless this is a highly technical course, stay away from complex techno-speak. This does not mean you should altogether avoid street jargon that your audience understands. For instance, a script for an eLearning course on finance may sound more “relatable” if you said “you’ll receive a better ROI” {return on investment} instead of saying “you’ll make more money”.

5. Be Illustrative and Descriptive

The secret to lively scriptwriting is to include examples, wherever possible, to underscore a point. Instead of saying “Add Cell A and Cell B to get the Total Cost”, say “By adding $12 from Cell A (Price), to $10 from Cell B (Tax), you’ll get a Total Cost of $22”. This approach to eLearning scripting is especially helpful to learners better understand new and complex content.

6. Keep it Short

Finally, like lengthy (rambling!) speeches, lengthy scripts lead to learner disengagement. Scripting best practice about the overall length of a script dictates keeping them between 8 to 10-minutes long. If your topic requires lengthy scripts, add natural breaks between script segments (“Explore on your own…”; “Try this and come back later…”). Before proceeding, write a brief (few seconds) recap script as a segue to the next segment.

 

3. THE REVIEW & REVISE PHASE

1. Proofread and Edit

This step must include both quality and factual reviews, including:

  • content structure and flow
  • consistency of terminology
  • spelling and grammar
  • tense-usage
  • research and information source checks
  • plagiarism checks

There’s nothing more off-putting to learners than to encounter errors in the script. Some of those may just be typos, causing minor irritants. However, sometimes un-edited or validated scripts may lead to inaccurate content.

2. Dry Runs

Once you have the entire course (module, chapter, section) scripted, it’s always a good idea to hold a practice run to see how everything “hangs together”. Use your script outline as a guide to ensure you have all the bases covered. Scripting best practice dictates having more than one set of “practice learners” participate in your dry run.

3. Revise and Review

Ideally, minor edits and revisions don’t require repeating Phase III in its entirety. However, if there are major revisions or edits required, it’s best practice to re-iterate Phase III until you resolve all significant scripting issues.

 

Writing a compelling script that makes eLearning courses effective can be a complex process. If you follow the tips from this post, your scriptwriting would definitely become more clear and engaging. And, if you want to learn more about designing instructionally sound eLearning courses that draw learners attention and improve on the job performance, I invite you to join my complete Instructional Design for ELearning program.

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