The e-learning content development industry is extremely competitive. Enough firms have the technical skill and resources to design learning solutions to cater to various kinds of client briefs. In such a scenario, where do you, as a e-learning content designer, come in? What are you doing that will attract the attention of a client; what is your USP? Right off the bat, two things are possible.
One, you offer specialised learning solutions to a niche clientele. However, this may mean alienating many clients and this can be detrimental to your practice, especially if yours is a new business. The second option is to offer clients innovative and effectively e-learning designed programs. Try as one might, the truth remains that creating brand new content for each client is both impractical and impossible. However, presentation and accessibility makes a big difference.
Content that is thoughtfully presented, in an easy to consume, engaging format is always better received than the same thing, if it is poorly designed. Here are some e-learning design essentials that one must keep in mind when creating learning content.
- Keep training content short and simple: Keeping it simple is the key to e-learning design. You cannot expect learners to benefit from an hours-long course in a single sitting. A program must be broken into manageable pieces that will impact the learner. There are multiple ways to do this. Material can be uploaded onto an LMS, it can be broken into chapters within a module, or it can be uploaded online. Learners have the freedom to explore content at their own pace, and within a certain logical framework, access material in the order they see fit. Acknowledge that learners are bringing their own knowledge to the training. Learning content must facilitate, never patronise.
- Layouts must be cognizant of how people read: Remember that what looks good in theory simply may not work in practice. Typically, people read from left to right, and follow a z-shaped ‘scan pattern.’ Utilise this space effectively to design lessons which flow logically. Remember, chunks of text are inefficient, and more often, convey nothing at all. Retain the users interest with a sensibly-designed layout.
- Maintain layout consistency: The little things matter. Do not frustrate readers with inconsistencies in layout. These are seen as poor design, rather than innovation. Retain recurring elements like buttons, headers, etc on the same side on every page. Find a font type, size and colour, and stick to it.
- Emphasis on structure: Instructors must begin designing a program only after learning objectives have been identified. Content must be organised such that a logical sequence of chapters and lessons is maintained. For a learner, nothing is more frustrating than a poorly organised course.
- Design applicable content: Clients rarely require e-learning programs for theoretical learning. Designers ought to keep in mind that finally, the learning program must equip learners with skills to perform a practical, real-world task. Learning content must incorporate many assessments that test the real-world, practical application of a lesson that is learnt.
In addition to this, instructional designers must keep in mind that content needs to be relatable and interactive. Esoteric, academic content can be daunting for a learner who already has a challenge ahead of her. The trick is to facilitate learners rather than to impress them with your knowledge of a subject.
Remember, if your learner is frustrated, bored or cowed down by the content you have designed, you’ve lost them. As a facilitator, your challenge is to teach a skill effectively. Keeping in mind certain essential e-learning design principles will ensure that the content you create benefits your learner.