How To Use Bullets In eLearning
While some say that bullets don’t belong in eLearning, others create online courses that seem to consist entirely of bullet point lists. However, a truly effective, and digestible, eLearning experience lies somewhere in the middle. Use too many bullets and the key ideas get lost in the shuffle, while not using enough may lead to cognitive overload. Here are some helpful tips on how to use bullets in your next eLearning course:
- Stick to a single format.
Keep your bullet point formatting consistent throughout the entire list. If your first bullet is a short phrase without punctuation, then all of the other bullets should follow the same rule. Generally speaking, full sentences should end with a period, while fragments do not require any punctuation. Whenever possible, use under ten words for each bullet point, as it provides learners with snippets of information without overwhelming them.
- Include a subheading in each bullet point.
If your bullets are going to include sentences instead of short phrases, add a subheading to highlight the key idea. Write a brief headline and bold or italicize it in order to draw the learner’s attention. Otherwise, your learners aren’t able to get the information they need quickly by simply scanning the bullet point list, which defeats the purpose of using bullet points in the first place.
- Follow the Three-Line Law.
Keep your bullet point content to three lines or under. If you need any more room than that, you may want to consider breaking the list down into two or three different bullet lists to prevent cognitive overload. For example, if you realize that one of your bullets is turning out to be a paragraph long, then it may be time to give that idea its very own bullet point list. In addition, it’s best to keep your lists to 5 items or under. Keep in mind that bullets in eLearning are supposed to highlight the key takeaways, so that learners can get a grasp of the concept in a fraction of time. If you include 10 bullets, then they simply won’t absorb and remember every point.
- Each bullet stands alone.
Every bullet point starts fresh, which means that it should not contain transition words, such as firstly, lastly, etc. If you would prefer to put them in a certain order, then you may want to opt for a numbered list or just stick to the standard paragraph format. Bullet points in eLearning should also be semicolon free, as there is no need to link them together. The fact that they are all contained within the same bullet point list automatically creates an association.
- Stories and walkthroughs are not bullet-worthy.
There is some eLearning content that is simply not intended for bullet points. Stories, detailed walkthroughs, and emotionally-centered eLearning content are prime examples. If you are trying to convey a particular feeling, stick with a paragraph-based story. If you need to provide a step-by-step tutorial, go with a numbered list. Concrete facts, such as characteristics or traits, are ideally suited for bullet points, as well as more complex concepts that can be broken down into brief ideas or thoughts.
- Bookend bullet lists with the key takeaways.
It’s a proven fact that the human brain tends to remember items that are first and last on a list. When they are skimming the first item on the list their attention is still fresh. They are interested in learning more about the topic. Then their attention gradually gets pulled in other directions as they come to the middle of the list. Upon reaching the end, they shift their focus back onto the content and prepare to dive into the rest of the eLearning course. For this very reason, put the most important takeaways at the start and end of your bullet lists. If there are key ideas that they absolutely need to absorb before the end of the eLearning course, then make sure to make them the bullet bookends.
- Bullets can be beautiful.
Who says that bullet points have to stick to the traditional format? If you want to make your bullet lists more attention grabbing and visually pleasing, get creative and add icons, images, and interactive buttons to your bullet lists. Here are just a few of the ways you can make bullets beautiful:
- Choose an appropriate image that represents each bullet point, then use it in lieu of a black circle. For example, if the first item on your list of “edibles to avoid” is fried or processed food, include an image of donuts or French fries. There are a variety of royalty free photo and clipart sites where you can find the perfect image.
- Opt for an empty box that your learners can check once they’ve read the item. This makes it more interactive and allows them to keep track of what they’ve already learned. You can also leave space under the item so that they can jot down their own notes or observations.
- Spread your bullet list out over the page or integrate it into a stunning infographic to boost learner immersion and make it more engaging. Your learners are more likely to remember the items on the list if they are presented in full color, complete with a themed background and border.
The needs of your learners and the learning objectives are the two most essential elements to consider when using bullets in eLearning. Use these tips to boost knowledge retention and simplify subject matter. Remember, content delivery is just as important as eLearning content development.
Also interested in learning other ways to increase the effectiveness of your eLearning course? The article 6 Tips To Improve eLearning Course Navigation highlights top tips to significantly improve your eLearning course navigation.