In eLearning, creating relevant and meaningful experiences for your target audience has always been the best way to capture learners. On the contrary, if your learners have no interest in your course, the information you have sent will convey very little value and success...
We often hear a lot about creating engaging and compelling courses; and we get to know a bunch of tips on building interactive learning experiences and all of that. That's also part of the equation of course, but if you want to create engaging courses you should start considering one main factor: relevance. This means creating compelling courses that speak directly to your audience.
Much experience through trials of eLearning has identified the best way to teach students is to focus on the relevance of course material; too much theory that extends beyond the tasks they will actually be responsible for confusing the situation, or at the very least, retarding the utility of the course. When time is a premium - which it always is - the best eLearning courses make sure that the instruction that follows is directly applicable to the subsequent tasks.
Moreover, studies reveal that relevance is by far the most reported successful motivator when taking an eLearning training session. Basically, when content is meaningful to the audience they become interested in learning and completing a course.
So how do we create relevant courses? Without cutting any corners and remaining fully relevant to the intended task, successful eLearning implementation is largely dependent on just a handful of guiding strategies.
Here are six ingredients that you might consider to help you build relevant eLearning courses that will get your learners actively engaged:
Always focus on creating clear course objectives:
The conveyance of clear course objectives is not only an excellent starting point; it's also a necessary one. Because the purpose of successful eLearning implementation tends more toward the practical than the theoretical, there shouldn't be lengthy, roundabout paths taken to reach the pertinent material. At every step of the way, an eye should be given to how the upcoming content directly affects the student, as pertains to the task they will be able to execute with this new-found knowledge. If learners aren't sure where they're heading or don't find sense on what they're doing since the beginning, they will probably will be unresponsive to the course.
There's also a more personal reason for clarifying course objectives, which extends to every student to a varying degree: it helps to set a tangible goal, like a finish line to a runner. For many students, knowing this beforehand makes the eLearning journey more rewarding, with less attendant anxiety.
Ever wondered how quickly people make judgments about a course? Most learners probably decide within the first few slides if the course is worth taking. Tell them why they should care and what you'll be discussing in the course. Make them want to complete it.
It can be surprisingly easy, when trying to create an eLearning course, to forget that the course should be for the student and not the teacher. Learner-centric approach seems to be at the forefront of effective instruction in eLearning courses. The first step to this approach is to understand how the learning takes place and how will the learners use the material.
It should be flexible without compromising the major points of instruction, and the interface should be user-friendly - even graphically pleasing, as this has been shown to be preferred by students. However, no matter what cosmetic addition is placed with it, successful eLearning implementation is dependent on a steady and relentless progression toward the ultimate goal.
Here are a few tips to help you create learner-centric courses:
Adult learners want the maximum control possible over their learning environment. Therefore, allow them to control their own pace and select the content they want to learn. This will let them select only the information they need at any given time, progressing at their own pace, ensuring a quick learning experience and actually spending time only on material they have not yet mastered. Give students choices and opportunities to make real-world decisions. Add questions that engage them by including ones that make learners reflect on how they can implement the knowledge they've just acquired.
Make your content actionable:
The best eLearning courses give the user a sense of how to apply the information. It doesn't humiliate learners by telling them what to do, but rather respects them and provides them with assurance that they know best how to use the material and apply it to real world situations. When you create your courses, give learners tips on applying what you are presenting them. Many times, just writing well about a topic will spark some ideas for learners.
There should be a direct "input/output" correlation with what they're being taught; which means whatever they learn should be put to use in the job upon completion of the course. This starting principle actually helps the design of the course; the modules should be tailored to instruct the student precisely how to use the given information, after clear explanations have been given about what is expected of them.
Respect the audience:
Let your audience know why it's important to take a particular course. Avoid a cynical or condescending tone and honor the learners.
Simple and appealing design creates meaning:
Tailoring an eLearning course to be instructive - without overburdening the student - can be a challenging task, and usually requires trial-runs with a multitude of test subjects to assess the strategies that work best. The method of trying to cram as much information as possible almost never works, even in a university setting; much less so for successful eLearning implementation. Focus less on dumping information on the learner and more on what information they need to do their daily tasks. One of the best practices you can apply is to eliminate fluff-this means nothing on the screen should be there just to "decorate". Everything you include should contribute to the meaning of the course's content. Moreover, every piece of content should focus on meeting the objectives... if it doesn't then it's not necessary to include it. It's challenging and takes work, but it makes for a significantly better course. There is nothing better than a brief, to-the-point course that is at the same time filled with valuable information.
As well, eLearning courses that have an attractive and professional look are more credible and relevant to the leaner. If your budget isn't big or your design team is reduced, you can use authoring tools like SHIFT which provide a lot of ready-to-go templates, with a variety of designs and options, making it easy to rely on those for the design part of the course. What you want is elegant, fast, simple design.
Addressing motivation head on!
Lastly, there's the essential attribute of motivation, which should be built into the eLearning course design. A motivated learner is one who will learn, therefore its key you identify what motivates them and create courses addressing those points. Goalposts and/or games can be incorporated into the structure of the course, in order to both encourage and engage the student. Research has shown that games do this very well, opening up the mind to instruction by forcing it to think about solutions. eLearning courses that incorporate the student/employee's interests into the structure are always more successful than their counterparts.