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Things to keep in mind when designing short and effective e-learning modules

Working in a corporate environment means being constantly subjected to change. All markets have become unbelievably dynamic and developments happen so fast that it is increasingly challenging to keep up with them.

L&D departments do their best to come up with rapid solutions and on-demand micro-learning has become increasingly popular since it can be accessed at any time and on a number of devices.

Still, busy schedules, dwindling attention spans and the need for learning to be as little disruption as possible to the work process calls for even more condensed and meaningful modules.

Facts about the adult learner

There are several aspects pertaining to adult learners that need to be considered. First of all, they need to know why they should put in the effort to acquire new skills and information. It’s best if they are seeking that knowledge themselves instead of being simply enrolled in courses that are deemed necessary by others.

All content needs to be relevant and it’s crucial that it can be used immediately to fix a problem or a pain point they’ve been experiencing.

It’s also important to take into consideration that when it comes to adults, they already have some experience and any new module should build on that instead of being repetitive.

Organization is compulsory

Just because something has to be designed and deployed fast, doesn’t mean it should be done without a plan. Objectives need to be very specific and clear before coming up with a strategy. Only once this framework is set up, the actual design ought to begin.

Storyboarding is a very effective way of making sure that the course takes the right direction and the learners are not confused by too many concepts.

Read more: Designing storyboards for online courses – the sure way of getting everybody on board

One screen should convey only one idea as this helps direct focus on what is truly relevant and greatly aids retention. This way of doing things also avoids overwhelming the user with too many visuals.

The content should be on a need to know basis

With limited time and pushing deadlines, e-learning needs to be exactly what the user needs and consume as little of their resources as possible. This is why several questions should be asked before declaring the content suited for deployment.

  • Is all the information useful? If there is something you find that does not have immediate applicability, remove it from the course.
  • Is the content clear and accurate? For the first part you can use a test group made up of colleagues or even targeted employees while for the second it is best to ask for help from a SME.
  • Is the level of difficulty aligned with the audience? If the information is too basic and already covered, the course won’t be effective. If, on the other hand, learners would require prerequisites they don’t have, it will make the learning process longer and more difficult.

It’s best to trim and rewrite

As I have mentioned before, a short time is not an excuse for a sloppy job. Concise information requires re-reading and rephrasing. Formality and wordiness don’t have a place in microlearning as the tone should be natural and unpretentious.

Catchy lines are highly advisable as is to vary sentence length (between fifteen and twenty words) in order to grab and maintain attention. It’s also good to be on the lookout for phrases that can be condensed in fewer words as well as for modifiers that don’t convey meaning but make the text seem denser – these should be eliminated.

An image is worth a thousand words

We live in a visual era and instructional designers should certainly take advantage of this in the construction of courses. A lot of times concepts can be explained a lot clearer with the use of pictures. These are also more easily remembered as they have the power to engage and make a lasting impression.

Video is also a great medium for delivering impactful information and infographics are known to be preferred by the modern internet user as they can organize and show numerous facts in a way that makes instant sense and sticks with the viewer.

Read more: 4 Reasons to use video for business training [Infographic]

More small chunks work better than one big one

If after you have done all that is mentioned above and the module is still longer and denser than desired, the best course of action is to break it up into several smaller units. It’s not always possible to contain all relevant information with such coercive time restriction so the optimal solution is to design spaced learning interventions that may work as a whole or as individual morsels of knowledge.

However, make sure that they are in no way repetitive and that it is abundantly clear what their order should be in – for those that are linked together.

Closing thoughts

A lot of times it proves trickier to build a short module than an extensive one. This is, however, what the busy corporate learning world needs to finding the right tools and the best ways to deliver short and efficient training on demand is compulsory.

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