In instructional design, more often than not the devil is in the details. What sets apart a mediocre program from an engaging experience boils down to the little things: A graphic here or an interactive feature there. Therefore, when designing your e-course, it might be the small things that make the biggest difference. Don’t make the mistake of creating a course or speaking with an instructional designer without first considering these need-to-know tips.
Getting to Know You Through Instructional Design
If you tailor your course toward the wrong type of learner, you’ve lost from the get-go. Part of the instructional designer’s purpose is to not only build the experience learners have, but first assess the learner and the subject matter to come up with the most effective delivery method. Sure, videos and multimedia typically offer solid levels of learner engagement, but if your subject matter lends itself better to a flipped classroom model and discussion questions, you could be missing out.
Make sure you understand your learners and their motivation before you begin laying out your course and its components.
When in Doubt, Simplify. Then Simplify Again.
There can be too much of a good thing. Just ask anyone who has taken an eLearning course stuffed with graphics, quizzes, multimedia and other goodies. When designing a course, it’s always better to strive for quality over quantity. As a designer, it’s tempting to pack all of your information and goodies into a course, but doing so can lead to total information overload.
Try this tip: See if each of your chapters or parts could standalone as a five-minute lesson. If it drags on or requires tons of extra instructor input, you might be trying to do too many things at once. Simplify.
Consider Joining Motivation and Instructional Design
All learners have their motivational factors: For some, it’s the ability to take in new information. Unfortunately, for others, it’s the chance to click the “next” button. Consider learner motivation as a way to move them along and promote better engagement. Adding informational value or a performance-based reward to your course helps give learners the extra push the need to keep going. A chapter quiz, a quick game or even a discussion question can help keep learners glued so you don’t lose them.
Test Instructional Design by Testing Your Tests.
Before you push your course out to potential learners, eLearning design isn’t complete until it’s tested… and tested again. While you might think everything is perfect, seeing your subject matter and components in action can alert you to potential issues. Ask colleagues to run thought the course and offer their honest opinions on functionality, engagement and of course, the subject. What seemed like a great feature to you could fall flat for actual learners. eLearning courses should be designed to educate and engage, and the only way to know if you’ll succeed is to test until it’s perfect.
Whether you’re the designer or you’re hiring an instructional designer, it’s up to you to keep your eLearning project on track. While you definitely want to keep the big picture in mind, don’t forget that the little details will make the biggest impact on your learners and their experience.