Best practices for designing an effective eLearning experience
The focus of learning is changing from on-site trainings and classroom teaching to digital learning, which inevitably makes learning experiences different to what people are used to. The flexibility of online learning gives learners more freedom and responsibility over their studies. Often the teacher or trainer is not present when the learning takes place. Thus, it is crucial to ensure that the learning experience is motivating, engaging, and well conducted.
Tips for success
As Albert Einstein said, "Learning is experience. Everything else is just information". Your learning environment is not only for transferring information, but giving the learner a feeling of understanding and sense of control. Below you can find five tips that I recommend considering when designing a digital learning experience.
1. Be clear and intuitive
People don't want or have the time to get lost in a tricky and messy learning environment. Therefore, the learning environment should be designed so that the learner knows exactly where to go next, based on what he or she came to search for. One of the pros of online learning is the flexibility and independency of time and space. Thus, avoid forcing your learner to go through massive elearning lessons. Instead, split up the content into smaller parts and enable the options of pausing the lesson and continuing later. Also, consider informing learners in advance about how much time it will take to complete the studies and what are the learning objectives of each lesson.
2. Motivate and engage
The learner's attention is easily lost if the learning material is not engaging. Visualization, such as videos and pictures, can be used to emphasize and clarify the most important points and make the content more appealing. Still, a nice visual style and fancy animations won't keep learners' attention for long, if the content itself does not do the trick. Consider using questions and building scenarios, which relate to real-life. This makes it worthwhile spending time in the learning environment. In addition, enable the option of providing feedback and rewarding learners with good feedback and certificates for progressing and completing learning goals.
3. Keep learners in mind
Think about how you would communicate with learners if you would be teaching or training in a classroom setting. Would you use lot of jargon and point out scientific facts, or would you use humor, ask questions, and tell stories? Think about how you can maximize your target group's learning. What are the learners like? What kind of material or tasks might they find useful? For example, a software developer who comes to the environment to learn about new platform or technology expects to get a basic idea of it, but at the same time he or she wants to start using the technology as soon as possible. On the other hand, in some organizations all employees might need to be aware of certain industry related regulations. In this case, using questions to test if the new regulations were understood correctly might enhance the learning. Keep in mind, that even when people are obligated to enter the learning environment due to compliance requirements or in order to receive their yearly bonus, they are still expecting to learn something.
Different people have different learning needs. Therefore, think about designing learning paths, from which users can decide which studies to complete. Moreover, you can offer more than one way to achieve the learning goals. Learners should be able to reach the same end result from reading a document and returning an assignment about the same subject. This is also a good way of supporting and encouraging people to think about how they actually learn, since some people prefer, for example, reading over listening. Also, it's a good idea to let learners choose in which order they wish to learn. Some learners might be interested in going deeper into the subject, and some might want to test themselves first.
5. Make learning trackable
Learners like to get feedback about their actions and efforts in the learning environment. Learning record standards, such as Experience API (xAPI) and Learning Record Store (LRS), can be used to track users' activities in the learning environment. This enables giving feedback and rewarding not only for the right answers, but also from being active, commenting on discussion boards, and even contributing to the learning material itself. Moreover, the xAPI information can be used to release teachers and learning designers from checking manually who has done what and help them improve the material and courses.
To sum up
When all these points are considered in comparison to traditional classroom teaching, it can be seen that learning online does not make it that different after all. These are the same principles which should be taken into consideration when designing courses and learning situation. Therefore, digitalization can be seen as an opportunity for organizations when it provides flexibility and savings when people can decide and schedule their most productive and convenient time for learning.