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Great eLearning demands more from creators, and does more for learners

Tom Moore - iAM Learning
2020-05-29

In the beginning, eLearning courses were longwinded, text-heavy and hard to digest. They weren’t designed with the user in mind (you know, the people actually taking courses), and didn’t always offer the best learning outcomes.

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As with all successful digital products and services, eLearning has developed and improved with time. Nowadays, successful courses incorporate a masterful blend of design, UX and psychology to deliver lasting outcomes and real professional development for learners.

“But what about the ones that don’t do this?”

eLearning is just like any other product or service on the market; if it isn’t doing what a user needs, it isn’t good enough. Perhaps that sounds harsh but hiding from progress won’t help anyone.

For modern learners, it isn’t enough to reel off facts and figures, drone on for hours with dull PowerPoint slides, and then expect users to thank you for the experience. To deliver eLearning content that works, you need to have it all - high production values, engaging content, interesting scripts, snappy delivery and extensive, ongoing research into learning behaviour.

“Isn’t it enough just to give them the facts and tell them to remember?”

Absolutely not. For a start, that approach is really, really boring. But - beyond simply making courses more enjoyable - understanding the way people perceive, process and recall information is essential for providing training that sticks.

When designing effective content for eLearning courses, you need to consider learner experience, behaviour, cognitive process and other factors. This should include real thought about various factors including typography, use of colour, tone of voice/point of view, emphasis and more.

Typography

For many, typography is an afterthought (if a thought at all), but this can have an enormous impact on the success of a course. Keep your audience in mind when choosing a typeface - after all, they’re the ones who need to read and retain this information.

The simplicity and readability of a sans-serif font ensures the bulk of your content is clear and easy to read. Think Futura, Helvetica, Calibri and Verdana.

Conversely, a serif font will include little flourishes and decorative details that draw the eye and work really well for titles and/or CTAs. Examples of serif fonts include Georgia, Palatino, Times New Roman and Baskerville.

NOTE: Sans serif fonts tend to be easier for dyslexic people to read and understand. Find out more about this by visiting https://www.dyslexic.com/fonts/

Emphasis

Putting emphasis on certain words or phrases using different font size, weight, colour or italics will help you to highlight critical information and is a great way to draw attention to any calls to action (CTAs).

Colour 

The colours you use in your course are more important than simply making it look pretty. There is a wealth of information about colour symbolism out there and, unfortunately, much of this includes more opinion than fact. There is no denying however that many colours come with common associations and emotional triggers. A few examples to consider include;

Blue:  Associated with calmness, stability, integrity and trust (that’s why so many banks use it)

Green: Widely associated with health, nature, safety and calm

Black: This can feel foreboding, but also sophisticated, elegant and powerful depending on context

Purple: Inspires thoughts of luxury, royalty, wisdom and opulence

Red: Danger, violence and aggression can come to mind but also power, energy and passion

Orange: Associations include creativity, joy and success

Yellow: Invokes thoughts of happiness, sunshine, confidence and optimism

Pink: Love, compassion, sympathy and beauty are common associations

NOTE: Be sure to consider your learner’s background when selecting colours for your course. For example, some westerners perceive red as angry or dangerous while, in Chinese culture, this is a popular colour that symbolises luck, joy and happiness.

Narrative perspective

First Person - I, We

Second Person - You

Third Person - He, She, They 

The narrative perspective you choose when writing your script (first, second or third person) will have a major impact on learning outcomes. For example, using the second person perspective puts the learner at the centre of the action. It focuses the reader’s attention by making them feel like they are being addressed personally. 

Serial position effect

Unless you have an eidetic memory, you probably don’t remember everything you have ever read or been told. Nobody does. We do, however, tend to recall the first and last parts of a story, list or lesson. This psychological phenomenon is known as the serial position effect or, separately, as the primacy effect and recency effect. 

If you take advantage of this tendency, you will help learners to recall critical information long after your course has been completed. The best way to do this is with a summary at the beginning and end of a course, along with a few strategically placed recap quizzes throughout.

 

TLDR 

There is much to think about when designing an eLearning course, and considerations about both user experience and behaviour will go beyond the items covered here. It's all about engaging learners and creating an experience they enjoy, understand and remember. If you keep this objective in the front of your mind as you design and build your course, you will be on your way to making something truly great.

About the author

Tom Moore is the Chief Operating Officer for iAM Learning, the bitesize animated eLearning library. He's a leader, parent and expert storyteller. Tom is passionate about leaving the learning landscape better than when he found it. He was an integral player at Learning Heroes, SAP and two of the UK's largest transformation programmes. iAM Learning is his latest adventure!

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The iAM Learning library features high-end animation, likeable characters and captivating stories that make even the most serious subjects appealing and unforgettable. You can access the library free for seven days with a no-obligation free trial.

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