Who Stole My eLearning Audience?

10 Tips To Create Effective Online Content And Keep Your eLearning Audience Engaged

Online learners need rapid engagement and easy wins to grab and keep their attention. Online learning “games”, far from being lightweight, are the devices that attract attention, engage learners, and give them knowledge before they even realize they are learning.

Collected from all over the world and many colleagues, I have distilled the following set of points to start the thought process for those wanting to deliver learning online; they don't have to do it all themselves, but if they understand what is required, then the conversation I have with them to start building their content is much easier for all of us:

  1. Set clear outcomes.
    Define the end objective first and test every element against it as you create each unit. If it doesn't feed the outcome, leave it out.
  2. Boring online content makes boring online learning.
    Look critically at what you want to deliver before you start developing online content. Get the content right before you start working out the delivery details. Online learners are not excited by your journals, links, and other sites. They want to do something, click a mouse, try a game.
  3. Avoid information overload.
    Find creative ways to place the course content in a context that is relevant to the learner. Knowledge needs to be provided before it can be learnt and it cannot be tested until it has been learnt; but it can be provided and learnt creatively. You don't have to share everything you know in every unit.
  4. Make it visually appealing.
    People are attracted to things that look interesting. Consider a visual theme that is interesting, relevant to the content, and immerses the learner in the topic.
  5. What they want, when they want.
    Create an environment where the learner can do their own research. Instead of a series of click-and-read screens, give the learner a problem to solve. Then provide all of the information that you would normally have pushed by creating access to additional resources. As the learner attempts to solve the problem, they will find the information they need.
  6. Less can be more.
    Online learning units are most effective in a form that takes no more 15-20 minutes for the learner to complete. Online learners will work at their own pace and in their own order. Anything that takes longer than 15 seconds to download is likely to be dismissed.
  7. Vary the content.
    Too much of any one thing is just as boring as too much text. Breaking-up content into smaller combined chunks will allow for a better learning experience. Give your eLearning audience challenges and tasks, but make sure there are always clues and answers readily available.
  8. Engage early and hold on.
    Online learners must be engaged quickly with information that talks directly to them – not always the same as what we want to tell them first. There is a fine line between being too simple (one question wonders – no revisits) and too complex (making one activity do too much – lose the thread).  Online learners will revisit engaging material regularly to refresh and “play again”.
  9. Humor is good!
    By virtue of the medium, online learning tends to work best when it comes across more playfully and with humor; where the learner is in on the joke through being engaged and involved. Talk to the build team about the fun bits they can add.
  10. There is a place for novelty.
    What might seem novel the first time can quickly become annoying. Don’t overdo the use of transitions, text effects, and other visual or aural distractions. Your build team will help you with this.

I acknowledge and thank anyone who thinks they may have influenced my thinking with this list.

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