From my role as Head of e-Learning, I understand well that all great e-Learning experiences share a few key traits. Conversely, it is always interesting to see how frequently the basics of good e-Learning presentation are missed! There are many in-depth lists of instructional design principles backed up by studies into effective learning, but below is my definitive list of the 10 most commonly ignored or misunderstood e-Learning principles.
1) Left to right, top to bottom
In most languages, people read from left to right, starting at the top of a page and then working their way to the bottom. Each e-Learning screen should work in the same way! Users’ eyes automatically drift top left, and so a diagram or process request that suggests beginning at another point tends to be received with confusion.
2) Spelling and grammar check
One small typo can distract users from the learning and reduce their trust in its effectiveness. In e-Learning with a lot of technical or clinical jargon, even a minor mistake could derail an entire lesson.. Always run a spell check and proofread before publishing your work!
3) Peer review
When you work on a project for any length of time, you may lose sight of the little details as you are already familiar with the content. Therefore, always obtain a peer review prior to distribution, as a colleague may see an error or discrepancy that you have missed. It is particularly useful to select a peer who has no previous knowledge of the content, as this will also highlight whether the course makes sense.
4) White Space
Too much text or imagery on one screen can be daunting. Users will tend to skim read large chunks of text, so keep statements pithy and summarise where possible. Don’t intimidate the user with too much information in one section or paragraph.
Users recognise shapes and patterns throughout an e-Learning module. It is therefore in your interest to use a consistent approach to layout selection. For example, if you always only use bold for an instruction, then the user will automatically take note that an action is required when they see text in bold, and may become confused if this style element is used for a different purpose elsewhere.
6) Educational value in interactions
Interaction is a valuable means of keeping users interested. However, if the interaction itself does not add to the learning or is too complicated, users tend to become frustrated and distracted. A good example is the drag and drop feature, allowing you to convey the relationship between multiple items.
7) Knowledge checks
Checking user understanding reinforces the key messages of each section, and boosts user confidence that they have understood the learning so far.
8) Appropriate use of images
Don’t be tempted to litter the e-Learning with images purely for cosmetic purposes. Only use images that are relevant and add to the course, otherwise you’re creating distraction!
9) Overuse of multimedia
Users cannot process information through multiple streams at once. Text with audio should merely highlight key words and not represent the exact same text on the screen, as users may read faster than they hear. When confronted with text that differs from concurrent audio, users will struggle to process both sets of information. Use of videos to demonstrate actions or provide viewpoints should be used sparingly and in short bursts for maximum impact. (Also, it’s worth noting here that the more multimedia you use, the more data space it takes up.) This can slow down your e-Learning module and leave the user very frustrated.
Users learn in many different ways, so feel free to mix up media throughout the e-Learning – provided there is a consistent flow across the module as a whole. Using different types of interactions, scenarios, case studies and games will help keep users engaged.
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Originally posted by: Nikki Humber in Effective e-Learning