How to create educational content your learners will love

John Sherman

There are a number of reasons why an elearning course might fail. You might have chosen a poor user interface that your learners find difficult to navigate, for example. Or you might have chosen the wrong development team and the presentation of your content just doesn’t hit it’s mark. Maybe there was a communication breakdown between management and your learners that you failed to identify before you created your course and the topic isn’t as relevant as you imagined before. Here’s the problem: even if you get all of these elements correct, your content still might fail to gain traction if it’s not engaging enough for the learner.


In fact, this might be the #1 challenge that educators are faced with today. If you want to create elearning courses and content that are engaging (and have a real impact on your learners), then you need to take into account a few critical points.

To help you make sure you’re on the right path, here are a few guidelines to creating educational content that your learners will love:

1: Take the time to truly understand your audience

Far too many organizations develop content without taking the time to discover what their learners really want and will respond to. Before you start creating your content, it’s important to interview members of your target demographic and find out what they like and dislike when studying online. Find out what they’re most interested in and what they have liked in previous classes they’ve taken.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind when you’re creating your content that not all of your learners will be arriving at your course with the same amount of experience or knowledge of the subject. This means you’ll likely need to tailor the material to fit the needs of a broader audience

2: Include multimedia

According to a recent study funded by Microsoft, the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. That’s over a 30% drop! Studies suggest that this dramatic shift began taking place around the time smartphones entered the mass market, so the trend is likely to continue. This presents educators with a challenge: how can we keep our audience focused long enough to actually learn the material?

Multimedia helps solve this problem. By adding resources like audio clips, videos and interactive quizzes, you can shift the delivery and pacing of your material with enough frequency that each segment comes across as both novel and interesting. Keep things exciting and you won’t have a problem holding your learner’s attention.

3: Speak their language

If your material reads like an academic journal entry then your audience simply won’t be motivated enough to work through the materials. The best educational content is relatable to the learner and written in a way that they can easily access it.

For some audiences this might mean you need to write in a more conversational tone. Others might be looking for narrators and industry jargon they can relate to. Either way, it’s very critical to consider the right tone, style and language you use before you begin producing your content.

4: Add a social element to your content

Humans are social animals and our instinct to share goes back thousands of years. Educators who understand this instinct can dramatically improve the learning experience for their audience. Some course designers, for example, have found that creating a private forum is an effective away to keep their learners engaged.

Others make use of platforms like Facebook and Google+ to encourage the exchange of ideas and experiences. Google+ is a particularly effective platform because you can take advantage of the hangouts feature to host webinars and conferences for your learners.

5: Use stories

Telling a story is one of the best ways to keep someone’s attention and guarantee that your message “sticks” in their memory. According to a 2006 study by researchers in Spain, listening to stories actively stimulates multiple parts of our brain that aren’t normally engaged by simply processing written words.

By stimulating these areas—like the sensory and motor cortexes—your learners will be more likely to be fully focused on the content and their ability to recall the information will improve as well.

Creating elearning content is not as simple as putting together a PowerPoint presentation with a few stock images and calling it a day. If you want your learners to actually enjoy the process of learning and if you also want them to be more likely to recall and utilize the information that you provide, then your job is to provide content that will keep them engaged from beginning to end. Keep your learners in mind and follow the tips above as you create your content—if you do this then you shouldn’t have a problem keeping them interested in the material


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