Top Ten Tips for Online Training Design
As a member of an e-learning development team, your primary goal should be to design effective training experiences for your learners. Consider these online design tips to make your training instructionally sound and valuable to your audience.
1. Use Clear and Logical Navigation
Learners should be able to navigate through your e-learning with ease. Consider these principles of screen layout that help with navigation:
- Place screen objects (such as buttons and links) together in a logical order based on frequency of use.
- Place buttons where the learner's eye can easily find them.
- Give buttons clear symbols or labels.
2. Allow the Learner to Control Screen Information
Adults like to control their learning experiences. Part of this control involves allowing them to determine how much they want to see on the screen at a time. Keep the following tips in mind to provide this control:
- Allow the learner to control the gradual building of information onto the screen.
- Learners should be able to see the whole e-learning screen without the need to use scrollbars.
- Keep on-screen text to a minimum, with sufficient space surrounding it to aid readability.
3. Allow Learners to Access Additional Complex Information
Your audience's knowledge level of what you are teaching is usually quite diverse, so it's difficult to determine how much information to provide to bridge this gap. To accommodate advanced learners, allow access to more detailed information in pop-up windows, rollover explanations or links to supplementary documents.
You can also write helpful articles and then distribute it to your contacts, company newsletter and networking groups. You will not just impress your audience with your knowledge but also with your creativity and enthusiasm.
4. Provide an Adequate Number of Examples
Relevant examples of learning points, both for demonstration and practice purposes, provide real life opportunities for learners to acquire skills and expertise. Make sure your examples avoid:
- Overloading learner memory by being too complicated.
- Boring the learner by requiring excessive repetition.
5. Enable Learners to Interact with Course Elements
Interactions motivate learners and enhance the learning experience. Multimedia packages can deliver highly interactive learning, but to be effective, the interactions need to be relevant and appropriate to the instructional purpose. Consider these rules of thumb for using interaction:
- When new material is being learned, interaction involving choices or decisions should be kept to a minimum.
- Interaction should be employed when learners wish to "try out" the principle they are learning.
- Hints and help options are important resources for exploratory, interactive learning.
6. Avoid Split Attention with Screen Designs
Split attention occurs when a learner has to hold something in working memory while searching for a matching component to complete the mental picture. Split attention can occur whenever two or more sources of information are presented separately on a screen and the learner must mentally integrate them together to make sense out of the material. A classic example is a diagram in one area of the screen and the explanatory text in another area.
Consider using techniques such as pointers, marquees and callout captions to lead the learner's eye to important or supporting information for your graphics.
7. Use Multimedia Appropriately
Multimedia training offers a wide range of resources and effects to enhance the learning experience; however, you should weigh the benefits against the context of the learning environment and the available resources. For example:
- Sound can enhance learning and create exciting interactions, but if the training is to be accessed in a workplace environment, the use of sound may disturb co-workers. Interaction should be employed when learners wish to "try out" the principle they are learning.
- Insufficient bandwidth and slow downloads may turn a "bells and whistles" course into tiresomely slow delivery that turns learners off.
Multimedia resources are most effective when they reflect the needs of the learners and the resources available.
8. Avoid Redundant Information
The most common version of redundancy with e-learning design is repeating sound (such as audio narration) with text presented on the screen. Effective "mixed mode" design presents graphics visually and provides abbreviated onscreen text that briefly summarizes what the narrator is saying.
9. Reject Linear Thinking; Abandon Linear Design
A highly structured, top down approach to instructional design does not address the needs and preferences of most adult learners. While it's perfectly acceptable to suggest a path through a course, learners like to have some control over what they learn and when they learn it.
10. Respect the Learner
To give your learners the respect they deserve, avoid content and feedback that is instructionally insignificant, annoying or degrading. Don't set learners up to fail a task in an effort to teach them a lesson. Also, be sure to accommodate slower readers by allowing information to display for an adequate amount of time.