Pick Any One or More of These Things to Make the eLearning Disaster of Your Dreams
What makes for bad eLearning? Like a lot of things, you may not be able to describe it but you know it when you see it. Yet it is definable. There are very specific things that can (and often do) greatly diminish the effectiveness of a course. It IS very possible, in fact easy, to create your own eLearning disaster.
Let’s take a tongue-in-cheek look some of the techniques that can lead to bad eLearning. If you read this and find yourself guilty, don’t take it to heart. Much of this has changed over the years as technology and learning theory has changed. What was once considered great is now considered less than ideal.
Don’t worry. If facetiousness and sarcasm are not your thing we present the reality response as well for each item.
Making an eLearning Disaster
Make It a Page Turner
Nothing makes for engaging and inspiring online learning more than creating an electronic book! All the learner has to do is read and then click the button to go to the next page. Learners are excited!
Seriously, the challenge of the “page turner” is whether it is effective at meeting the goal. Instructional Designers refer to this typically as a Level One Interaction. It simply conveys information. And if that is the only purpose, then this is appropriate. In the vast majority of cases, however, simply conveying information is NOT the only goal. Do your learners love to just read? Buy them a book and save money and not create an eLearning disaster.
Don’t Bother with a Plan
If you make plans it’s hard to be flexible in this agile world. It’s much easier to just “let it flow” as it comes. Let’s be in the moment.
Productivity Coach Paul J. Meyer said “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, INTELLIGENT PLANNING (emphasis ours), and focused effort.”
Without setting learning goals, developing a structure, and then storyboarding the course it will be virtually impossible to ensure that the learning can actually occur.
Ignore Setting Learning Objectives
What they should learn is inherent in the information we present. We’ll know when they have successfully learned something when they complete the course and start to work.
Establishing Learning Objectives is one of the critical “first steps” in designing a course and making sure that learning actually occurs. It gives us something to measure. If you go on a diet how do you know if you have lost weight? When you step on a scale, right? How do you know when you have lost enough weight? When you reach a specific weight target. By writing the learning objectives at the beginning it’s easier to know when the learning accomplishes what is intended.
Randomize Screen Elements
Once they have launched the course, it’s really not necessary to put the course title up there all the time. And if we provide page numbers then they will only spend their time counting pages. While we are at it, let’s not worry about the placement of the navigation panel. As long as it shows up somewhere on every screen, that’s all the matters. After all, someone once said, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds!”
The actual quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson is that “A FOOLISH consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” His point was that sticking to something simply because it’s always been done that way without knowing why is a foolish venture.
But we have evidence on our side that building a consistent interface in our eLearning is not foolish. Rather it is wise. It has to do with learner expectations. When the learner first launches the course they scan the screen. In that brief moment, their mind actually tries to memorize the screen layout.
That first screen, then, establishes expectations in the learner’s mind for where they can easily find what they need. A changing screen becomes a distraction to the learner, making it more difficult for them to learn what we wanted them to learn.
Fill the screen up
Make sure that there are no empty spaces on the screen. If there is white space then it gives the impression that there is not enough.
Crowding the screen leads to information overload. Clutter creates chaos, which distracts from the learning experience. Studies have shown that cluttered screens actually impedes cognitive processes. In other words, it will keep them from learning.
The fonts in the course don’t really matter, so it’s better to go with an artistic look that fits the theme. As many as we need. After all, the look is the most important thing.
Readability is the most critical factor in font choice. From the very early years of the World Wide Web usability studies have been conducted to determine how to optimize the screen for consumption. The Web Style Guide emphasizes that Sans Serif typefaces, like Arial and particularly Verdana, are more easily readable in electronic media like an eLearning course. Lack of readability leads to eLearning disaster.
Does that mean to never use anything else other than Verdana? No, but don’t use anything other than a standard, sans serif font for your body text. Your body text should ALWAYS be the same font face.
Choose Ketchup and Mustard
Go for really eye catching colors on screen. Make it stand out. You know, like how all those flashy commercials and advertisements get our attention with bright colors. Maybe mustard text on a red (like ketchup) background. Wouldn’t that work great! That’ll get their attention!
Readability is the major factor here in color choice. Consistency with organization branding factors in here as well, but not at the expense of readability. All those usability studies we talked about earlier; well they looked at color choices as well. For readability, black text on a white background is optimal. Admittedly, it’s also boring. So if you don’t want that, what do you choose?
Dark text on a light background is next best. For example, pure blue or navy blue on white or cream or even pale yellow (not bright yellow). Ketchup and mustard absolutely does not cut it!