In my 20 years as an eLearning designer/developer, I’ve experienced the ever-changing selection of development tools, rapidly advancing technology standards, as well as the never-ending appearance of new learning theories. Through all these, I’ve come to rely on some constants which transcend all of these. You’ll notice that many of these tips reference the entertainment industry. Keeping these in mind might make your eLearning project a box office success.
Aim small, miss small! – Learning Goals
“Aim small, miss small!” From the movie The Patriot, this is the advice Benjamin Martin gives to his young son as he’s about to fire at invading soldiers using his one-shot musket. If you want to hit the target, you must zero in on a singular goal and stay close to it if you want to hit the mark. If you present too many topics, or try to reach too varied an audience, you’ll be in danger of missing all of your targets. Your focused approach will produce a focused result from your learners.
Life with the boring parts taken out – Refining Content
“Movies are life with the boring parts taken out.” This sentiment is attributed to Alfred Hitchcock. A movie is engaging not because it says more, but because it says less, but does so in an effective manner. Above all, our learning should be effective. There’s a skill in refining content so that each screen matters and moves the learning forward. Our task as digital educators is to trim the fat so we can concentrate on the meat of the course.
Special Effects - Presentation
Special effects help punctuate. This includes animations, transitions, sounds, etc. They are as much a part of the content as the images and text on the screen, but they work to their greatest effect when used sparingly and artfully. Enough said!
I loved the book, but hated the movie – Adapting Content
Folks receive Academy Awards for screenplays adapted from best-selling books. There’s a lesson to be learned here. The process of preparing learning content is not merely a one-to-one transfer of information. The experience of reading a book is very different from the experience of watching a movie. Likewise, eLearning uses a delivery medium as divergent from manuals and standup training as movies are separate from the books which inspired them. Course material must be adapted, interpreted, and reimagined for a computer screen and a click-happy audience.
Aren’t they the group that wore mullets? – Fads and Trends
Mullets! I have just described the hair style of nearly every pop act of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Some of these acts found success and longevity while others can only be identified by their heads. Was this a fad or a trend? Although it’s not always easy to discern at the time, we must be choosey when we implement a new learning style, technology, or even a color scheme. A fad is more fleeting, while a trend is more sustainable and adaptable. The key is in knowing how each or either of these might best accomplish your short or long term learning goals.
He done it! He had the motif! – Themes and Motifs
Themes and motifs seem the logical solution to cure the problem of boring “eLearning” and if handled properly, are a great way to create a relatable environment to house eLearning content. Skinning your course with a light superhero theme, or presenting your four key points using the four seasons of the year may work perfectly. Be careful, however, just how deeply you entwine your content within a theme or motif. For instance, if you invest in a 4 season theme and suddenly a 5th topic is added, much time can be wasted trying to solve the mystery of the tangling motif.
I hope these tips help you discern your learning goals, and distill and present learning content to your audience.