8 tips to make eLearning interesting Separate Your Content from Presentation- This is a popular technique among programmers and web developers, but, from what I have seen, has not completely caught on yet with eLearning developers. Separating your content — in essence the material you want the learner to absorb– from the presentation platform makes your learning more portable and maintainable. For example, if you have your content in an XML formatted document, you can easily use the exact same learning content again in another format– iPhone learning, CD-ROM or some other distribution format. Embedding your learning material in graphics or Flash files simply makes your material harder to maintain and reuse.
Use a Central Metaphor or Theme- Related your learning material to something the learner already knows about makes the learning more interesting. I have seen excellent examples of eLearning material presented as a news broadcast, a comedian on stage, or even as navigating an international airport. Using a central theme or metaphor simply makes your eLearning production more entertaining and more easily absorbed by learners.
Hire a Graphic Designer- I attended an eLearning conference earlier this year and the first session I went to was on Graphic Design in eLearning. The opening Powerpoint slide for the session was so poorly designed that it undermined anything the speaker said during the hour-long session! There are many, many graphic designers out there and, often, due to the amount of competition, they work at inexpensive hourly rates. If you are visually illiterate– hire a designer! Graphic design can be the difference between eLearning that’s successful and eLearning that’s BLAH!
Don’t Be Boring- I have my Twitter client search for tweets about eLearning. The most common thing I see from participants in eLearning is comments that the eLearning is BORING. Now I understand that boredom is relative, and we all have different tolerances for technical material, however, there is no excuse to be boring. In the classroom I make every effort to bring complex technical material to life. You should be doing the same thing for your learning audiences. I think one of the main reasons that eLearning audiences get bored so quickly and easily is that the applicable context for what they are learning is not demonstrated. Knowing how the material will apply to the learners’ life or job is an important factor in keep their attention.
Don’t Use Powerpoint- For the love of God! No Powerpoint– or at least no abusive Powerpoint. Your audience can read. Showing a Powerpoint and reading it to them is not effective eLearning. It’s a crutch for people who don’t know what they’re doing. ”They saw the Powerpoint– They’re trained,” is an all too common thought process in eLearning. Powerpoint is no different from any other written medium. You might as well hand them photocopies of your presentation written in Word. Powerpoint is easier for the eLearning Developer because (a) They don’t have to have much skill to use it and (b) It’s quick. Don’t be lazy. Don’t use Powerpoint. It’s simply not effective.
Look at the Work of Others- When I was first learning web design in the mid 90’s the best thing I did was to look at the work of others. There were people out there doing high quality, engaging web sites. I was creating long streams of text based crap. By examining the work of other web designers and developers, I was able to develop the skills to create a high quality, well-designed web site. When I say look at the work of others, I should really say EXAMINE the work of others. Go through it carefully. Spending time with their navigation… Look at their learning metaphors… Understand their mix of audio, video and animation… Then go apply the techniques you like to your own work.
Learn The Flash Platform- The Flash platform consists of Adobe Flash and Flex. It is a platform neutral method of creating eLearning assets that will work on Mac, PC, Linux, some Mobile and soon, the Apple iPhone. Learning Flash and it’s scripting language Actionscript, can make you a powerful force in the world of eLearning as you’ll be able to develop learning interactions that include animation, video, audio and just about everything else you can think of. The best eLearning I have seen has made extensive use of Flash and yours should too!
Become a Photoshop Master- It’s all about the visuals. No learner wants to read, but if they can learn from quality visuals, and you can learn to create them, you’ll be well on your way to creating quality eLearning. Photoshop is the primary image development and processing tool use by eLearning developers. Becoming well versed in the Photoshop will help you create engaging visuals thatwill hold your learners interest throughout the course