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Making eLearning content come alive

Making eLearning content come alive All eLearning requires content of some kind, right? But what content, how much of it, how presented, how used? Is content ‘king’ or more ‘queen’? Answers to all these questions lie in the hands of instructional designers. Here, Judith Christian-Carter provides some tips for making eLearning content come alive. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an eBook! How can I tell? Because it’s made up of numerous pages, consisting of just text and some pictures, and all I have to do it to click on ‘Next’ to go to the next page! Is it interesting, did it grab my imagination, did I learn anything? No, sadly, is my answer to all three questions! Unfortunately, there is still far too much eLearning out there that consists of very little but page turning. Learners may get the occasional opportunity to answer a question or interact with the content, but essentially all the content is pushed at them, page after page, in a totally linear manner, and it’s both boring and mind-numbing. But it doesn’t need to be like this, even when working to a tight budget. All it needs is to take steps to make your content come alive. Some would argue that ‘content is king’, whilst others say that ‘context is king’. The distinction is an important one because, depending on your perspective, your eLearning design will reflect one of two different approaches and outcomes. The first will be content dominated, as this is deemed to be all important. The second will be context dominated, where content is put into context, such as the learner’s job/role, workplace performance needs and so on, as it is the context that drives the eLearning design and not the content. By always keeping the ‘context is king’ perspective, you will play your part in helping to save the world from boring eLearning! However, there are also some other factors that you need to keep at the forefront of your mind. What else? First, you need to decide how you are going to handle the content that you have been given or selected. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Have you got a complete picture of who your learners are, what their learning needs are and what the eLearning is intended to achieve?
  • Is every single piece of content necessary/required in terms of learning outcomes? If not ditch it.
  • How can you ‘chunk’ the content into small, digestible parts?
  • How can you let learners pull the content they need or want? Also, resist any demands by developers to lock-down the navigation, thereby forcing all learners to work through every screen in a linear fashion!
  • Are there any difficult, abstract concepts to understand? If so, how can you simplify and ‘scaffold’* them to help learners grasp them? *Using existing knowledge to build new ideas and concepts.
  • What can you do to make the content engaging and relevant? Can you set the scene with a story, give them an activity or a task or exercise to do, use a case study or a scenario?
  • If there are known workplace performance gaps, then how can you present related content is such a way that learners can not only embrace it easily but, even more importantly, apply it?
  • How and when can you provide opportunities to learners to check what they have learned? Learners progress faster when they are given credit for success and further assistance for a lack of it! Feedback is key.

Second, there is the overriding need to understand and keep in the forefront of your mind just how adults learn. How adults learn If your eLearning is for adults, then remember that generally speaking they: need to know why they need to learn something, ie what’s in it for me need to learn experientially, ie by learning from experience approach learning as problem-solving by focusing on current, existing problems rather than abstract concepts that are no relevance to them learn best when the topic or subject is of immediate value to their life/work/real world problems. In addition, adults also want control over their learning and they learn best by doing, eg by undertaking appropriate activities. Meaningful learning Learning without understanding has no meaning, as it’s just rote and based solely on facts. If you take all possible steps to make your eLearning content come alive then it will be meaningful.

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