You’ve taken the time to assess your content, learners, and overall system requirements. The next step is to understand how to build and deliver e-learning content. In regard to converting existing content, the task is not as simple as dumping pages into an online learning management system or content builder application. The conversion takes careful planning and adherence to some general standards on content. The creation of new content is somewhat easier – as long as you know the standards. Let’s discuss content and delivery.
E-learning content, as we’ve seen previously, is a completely different concept than traditional learning material. First, online content should be brief and must not wander. “Wandering” content is somewhat more acceptable in traditional learning materials, because typically participants take the written materials with them as references. In online learning, the participant is going to learn what content is directed their way and they are probably not going to take anything with them. You can develop content in a brief format by trying to keep each frame to 70 words or less. With this guide, you can also be sure that your content is to the point, that is, in the realm of “need to know” versus “nice to know”. Training managers and instructional designers must exercise quite a bit of editorial license to prepare traditional materials for transfer to e-learning platforms.
The content must be learner-directed, as well. Think about a traditional textbook, with “pop outs”, tables, exhibits, and references. In e-learning, you can turn appropriate “extras” into a bit of an adventure for the participants. For example, your content can say, “for more information about X, click here”. When the participant clicks, you can show a “pop up” or callout with more information. That information will make a special impact in the learner’s mind, so use this type of learner-directed concept wisely.
Along the lines of learner-direction, e-learning content should be interactive. Have you ever seen an online course that was simply like turning the pages of a virtual book? Learners can read handouts that are emailed just as easily as logging into your learning management system, so create a way for the learner to interact every few frames. This interaction may be as simple as a review question, a callout, or a quick interactive exercise. In more sophisticated delivery systems, the interaction could be a collaboration with other learners, a video, or even a tutorial or simulation. The idea is to keep your learner’s interest by asking them to interact every few minutes.
One of the final things to keep in mind on e-learning content is that modules should ideally be thirty minutes or less. You already know how hard it is to keep an adult learner’s attention in the classroom for more than an hour at a time, especially when those learners have jobs, e-mails to answer, and goals to satisfy. Don’t make the assumption that an e-learning audience is captive. Keep content brief, learner directed, and interactive.
What special guidelines apply to e-learning delivery? In addition to the usual adult learning principles, such as applicability and timeliness, e-learning content should be the “need to know” content. A fun course is great as long as the content serves a purpose. The quickest way to fail your e-learning program is to use it as a catch-all. Learners will begin to question why they are taking their valuable time to complete courses that make no difference in their jobs.
In addition, e-learning content delivery should be accessible. Don’t make it too hard for learners to sign in, take a course, and have a grade recorded. Along those lines, the accessibility of programs is a great place to begin questioning a possible vendor. The content should be “book-markable”, that is, the learner should be able to exit the course and go right back to where they left off. Your courses should always begin with a set of instructions on how to use the course, how to advance, how to go back, and how to bookmark. Make this section something that the learner can opt-out of, but have it available anyway.
When you start creating and transferring content for your e-learning programs, keep these guidelines in mind in order to make the experience a good one for all of your learners.