The Painstaking Art of Developing Successful Learning

Creating eLearning is nothing less than making a Swiss Watch.

While the learner experiences a good curriculum design with intuitive and real-life scenarios, just like the owner of the watch who just sees the hands tick and the calendar move, only an instructional designer/ watch-maker understands what it takes to run it flawlessly.

There are a million moving pieces in an eLearning, which if missed or not put together correctly can result in an unsuccessful training. Here are some of the key pieces that an instructional designer must include to make training successful.

1. KISS (Keep it Short and Simple)

For an SME even the tiniest detail is as important as it gets. But an Instructional Designer must think through the Cognitive Load. It is here where the nice to have chaff is sorted from the need to have wheat. This helps the learner remember the key takeaways without losing focus.

The thumb-rule of content delivery is to break the content into small logical chunks that get to the meat in few minutes and wrap it up before it gets too lengthy. Such chunking not only saves learners time but helps in linking relevant information for better long term recall.

2. Make Learning Fun

During my early days as an Instructional Designer I was tasked to develop an eLearning course on monotonous content such as Banking Regulations, and my mentor had only one instruction for me. Make it Fun!

Since then, I took this as my primary resolution for all the courses that I developed.

eLearning can be fun, and engaging.

If an Instructional Designer blames the content for boring courses, it means he needs to work more on the content. Whether it is Soft Skills training, Information Security, or KYC Documentation, they all can be fun or engaging, if not both.

But what if the content doesn’t lend itself to humor? Well, then we can use relevant real-life examples to connect the content to the learner.

3. Show the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me)

When I log-on to my Netflix and click on a recommended series, I make sure to watch the trailer. Just to make sure that the genre kindles my interest. If it creates curiosity in me I continue to binge-watch it. The same applies to learning. People learn only if it resonates with their learning requirement.

We can tap this behavior to our advantage by catching the attention with WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). Remember the first of Gagne’s Nine Principles? GAIN ATTENTION

“Every training needs a hook.” (my mentor told me once). This can be a story, an interesting fact, or the specific benefit the course will hand out to its learners. This hook shows that your course is worth the learner’s time. After that, it’s just about keeping your course mapped to the learning objectives.

Real life scenarios and examples can also be a great way to connect with the learner. When people are put into situations that they can relate to, they get curious to go a step further to look for the answer.

Scenario-based learning is a great way to deliver such relevant content.

4. Match the learning style to Target Audience

Let’s go a little deeper rather just scratching the surface. I always enjoy reading comics rather than reading a novel. And the lit nerds around me roll their eyes just to say that they don’t count it as “Reading” (I feel sorry for them :D). But if a visual treat is interesting enough to catch a child’s attention, it can very well be used for gaining attention in an adult learning.

Not that I am supporting the comic style per se. I just want to say that illustrations and infographics impact more than just plain text. Developing theme-based illustrations with parameters such as graphics, color scheme, writing style, and narrative tone that align to company’s organizational culture and preferences go a long way in delivering better recall.

5. Engage the Learner often

Tell me and I forget.

Teach me and I remember.

Involve me and I learn.

– Benjamin Franklin

Our mind works in mysterious ways. What feels curious and interesting for some time becomes a passive experience a moment later. That’s because our mind adapts to the excitement and looks for something new by numbing the existing experience. No matter how exciting the animation is the learners will lose interest in this one-way flow of information and eventually stop learning. Unless we make the learning a conversation and the information flows two-way. When we involve the learners to cognitively interact with small actions such as drag and drop, we deepen their understanding and enhance their retention.

6. Involve the Stakeholder

Typically your client and the learner are two different entities. Take Corporate Training for example. The management that decides to develop training is different from the audience (trainees). It is important to involve client feedback right from the courseware design stage, through the design and development stage until the final deployment. Communicating the project status clearly ensures a higher degree of success. Such transparency in communication eliminates the scope creeps and the risks of things going sideways.

7. Proper Project Management

I strongly recommend using a Project Management tool for overall project management.

Creating task lists, allocating the resources and presenting the schedule to the client and the stakeholders ensure mutual agreement for the tasks, their review cycles, delivery timelines, and final sign-off.

These were just a handful of the things that are critical to making your eLearning run as flawless as a Swiss Watch.

This post was originally published on Hornbill FX blog.

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