Creating online course materials for your staff or students? You might want to invest some time in improving your writing skills, to make sure you’re communicating and engaging well with your audience.
Well-written content is critical to the success of any eLearning project. No matter how fancy or cool your graphics are, without clear, concise content you’ll struggle to connect with an audience.
When writing the content for your online courses, you’ll need to use language that conveys clear messages to your learners and encourages them to engage with the materials. If your target audience can’t connect with the words on screen, you’ll lose them. In fact, you might not even reel them in to begin with.
Here are some tips to help you improve your writing skills for eLearning courses. You'll find yourself creating online courses that are far more effective and successful in no time.
Pam Jones, Director of Eight Interactive, has been creating global eLearning content for over sixteen years and believes “words are the best thing we have to make eLearning that bit more excellent.”
“By its very nature, eLearning and its design is centered around technology. It’s technology that makes it possible after all. But it’s easy to get carried away with whizz bang graphics and forget the power of words to get an eLearning message across,” explains Jones.
She recommends first taking the time to come up with a good title for your online course, as this is an important step in having learners connect and engage with your content. Titles should speak directly to the learner about what your course will offer or how it will improve a particular aspect of their lives.
Give your course a title that solves your target audience’s immediate pain point. Jones suggests “How To Create Attention Grabbing eLearning Course Titles” as an example of a course title that identifies a need. Think about the need your learners have – what do they want to learn today. Then turn that need into a clear title.
When writing content for your eLearning course, you want to break the information down into easily digestible chunks for your learners.
A study found that 79% of people reading online will merely scan or skim content looking for particular phrases or words. Only 16% read every word. Presenting your content in big long slabs of text will only turn learners away, so make sure your learning materials can be easily skim read on the screen.
To do this, divide your content into independent topics and sections, allowing your audience to find relevant information quickly – even if they are skimming over pages.
Deliver your content in small, bite-sized chunks, with a maximum of five bullet points per page. Use short, concise sentences – long sentences force students to slow down and focus their attention on wording, versus learning. So try to keep your sentences to around 20-30 words for online course materials.
It’s not just your course title that needs to be clear and direct. You want to keep this running through the entire course, with language that’s clear, simple and easy to read. This will help learners focus on the content, absorbing and retaining knowledge quickly and easily.
As we said above, no matter how fancy or cool your graphics are, they can’t hide or make up for poorly written content. Words are our most powerful tool - so we should learn how to use them well. Write your content as though you’re sitting down with each learner and talking directly to them. Flowery, overly-embellished writing and academic tones don’t translate well to eLearning materials.
Once you’ve finished writing, check and re-check your content. Are your course materials free of spelling mistakes, typos and grammatical errors? Is your language clear and concise? Have you written your content in a consistent and appropriate tone for your audience?
While you’re working on improving your writing skills, have someone else look over your course content before publishing. Ask them for feedback on the flow of your language and the clarity of your content. They may also pick up on any outstanding typos and errors that you’ve overlooked.
Like most professions, the learning industry is full of jargon and buzzwords. We love our microlearning, mLearning, and blended learning. Not to mention all the acronyms – LMS, MOOCs, APIs, SCORM, BYOD… you get the picture!
When you’re inside the eLearning bubble, it can be easy to forget that other people don’t necessarily use or come across these words in their everyday language. But these people are your audience. Your learners. So it’s important to tone down the jargon and buzzwords if you want to connect and engage with them.
Subject matter experts often present information in a way that’s too technical for a general audience. When writing your content, keep a constant check on using technical language and try to use ‘plain English’ terms as much as possible.
As you continue to improve your writing skills, you'll find that your eLearning courses become more effective and engaging with learners.
Want more tips for creating online courses?
Our handy eLearning course design checklist will help you feel more confident in your design process, with plenty of useful information on graphics, multimedia, accessibility and fonts.