Language, Authenticity, Feelings, And Design

Learning Design Experiences, Language, Feelings
Julia Tim/
Summary: The language and the tone of eLearning design have an impact on how the learner feels and experiences the content. Using inclusive language and dialogue-based scenarios that are set in realistic situations, we can better support learning.

eLearning Design Principle #1. Design For Your Friends

Have you ever felt removed from the legal jargon in a compliance eLearning course? Does your safety eLearning experience leave you cold or unaffected? What is your relationship with the "voice" of the eLearning narrative like? Distant? Familiar? Does the narrative speak to you or at you? Does it coach you along the way while you’re alone at your laptop?

Dialogue Between The Learner And The eLearning Design 

Since dialogue is one of the most powerful instruments in learning, we include it in the eLearning design. This can be done by using inclusive pronouns ("what do you think?"), spoken language expressions ("that’s right!") or simply telling the story from the learner’s point of view ("imagine you are…"). We empathize with the members of the target audience so that we don’t sound naïve where factual is appropriate, humorous where trust is needed, or pretentious where honesty is called for.

Explorations In Authentic Environments

Involving the learner in the situation through language and authentic landscapes make for compelling learning experiences. Having the learner observe and figure things out rather than lecturing them about "facts" shows appreciation for the time they are willing to spend with the material. For instance, we can fill a room with files they have to explore to solve a case scenario, let’s say to learn about the company's HR strategy. Whenever there’s an opportunity to give the learner a chance to take notes, write ideas and bullet points down, let them! Learning designers shouldn’t be afraid of having different learning outcomes and aim for a single "correct" answer in a multiple-choice format. This is not how people process information.

It's The Way You Make Them Feel

It’s not what you say, but how you say it that matters. People remember how the messages make them feel. Do we hide behind scientific objectivity or come close to the world of experiences of the learner with spoken narratives? Take, for example, a scenario where the learner is thrown in the middle of a crisis where a hacker has shut down an IT system, and the learner’s task is to save the company from an imminent data breach by solving various challenges within 20 minutes. The suspense element calls for immediate action and places the learner in an emotionally charged end result if they don’t follow data security procedures. Compare this to a click-on experience of dos and don’ts of IT security training. We know which one would put us to sleep.

Production Instead Of Recognition

Best eLearning experiences offer us an opportunity to create our own learning products. Instead of surfing the content, we can have the learner dive deeper to produce their own videos, images, graphs, tables, or other manifestations of their understanding of the material. Production usually leads to effective learning. Let’s get rid of the idea that someone has to be at the other end "checking" the answers. We can design in a way that supports effective feedback practices.

Personal Choices

We are all more interested in ourselves and our inner goals than the person sitting next to us. We have our preferences and dislikes. Learning design should tap into this. Whenever the learner's personal interests and ideas coincide with the learning content, there's a bigger likelihood for design success. For example, designing activities that see the learner creating personal plans, journals, reflections, or evaluations increases commitment to learning and, thereby, the likelihood to learn for the long term.

My Kind Of Guide For A Learning Design Experience

Learning alone is hard. That’s why it’s important to interact with the learner in a personal, emotional, and inclusive manner. We want to be their coaches, their guides, their travel partners. We want to take them on a journey where they are allowed to feel, explore, and make errors in a safe environment. This is where language comes into play, as do the words we choose that can either include or exclude. We want our learners to feel empowered, exhilarated, and, in the end, confident. If our design allows them to bake muffins, check their kids’ homework, and watch the news at the same time, we’re not there yet.

We design bespoke digital solutions and believe that when learning theory marries design principles and technology, success is born.

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