Saturday, December 05, 2009

A few musings on Elearning Design Principles

I'm going to have to ask you to pardon me for not making this a typical visual post. I'm using the Bangalore Airport internet, which is excruciatingly slow, so I hope you understand. My friend Krishnan has been pestering me to come up with a few guidelines for producing elearning. The fact is that I'm not an expert to come up with such a list, but I can speak from my experience as a not-so-great instructional designer and a consumer of some such content. I want to point out that there are other resources that I'm aggregating from and some of the best, practical tips I've found are from: Of course, there are some other great resources on the web as well. Google should be able to help you find a lot more in this area. I've written a few posts as well, on elearning and for instructional designers, which you may also find useful.

Here's some of the wisdom I've been able to distil down from these sources.

General Guiding Principles

Instructional Design Principles

  • People don't have the time or the patience for long drawn courses. Think of dividing your huge course into little coursels (like morsels), each of which focus on "how-to" do something. That way even if people look at your learning during a 10 minute break, they'll get something out of it. Also, if they search for "How to ____", they're more likely to find the learning they need. Tom Kulhman has written about coursels here and I've written about them too in this post.
  • Use the Star Trek Model for simulation design
  • Consider multiple modes to deploy the learning. Remember, we're in the age of social media, synchronous learning and enterprise 2.0. I daresay its foolish to try and do everything from within your elearning.
  • Follow an action mapping approach. I can't emphasise this enough, but I'll let Cathy Moore do the talking.
  • Last but certainly not the least, don't forget to leverage your SME to develop your elearning. Using a Powerpoint deck to source materials for your elearning is a cardinal error of elearning. Nothing substitutes collaborating with a person who knows the subject well.
  • Write in plain English please. No one understands gobbledygook.

Multimedia Usage Principles

    Some of the multimedia principles Ruth Clark mentions from Richard Mayer's research, is really useful in case of elearning. Here's Cammy's recap of Ruth's session from DevLearn 2009.
  • Use audio judiciously in elearning. Please, please, please avoid narrating exactly the same thing that users see on screen. There's considerable debate in elearning circles about the use of audio in elearning. I look to wise people such as Cammy Bean, Tom Kulhmann or Cathy Moore for best practices.
  • Use Skype or your SME's to record for your courses if possible. Sometimes rough around the edges is better.
  • Use powerful, full screen images instead of those in separate frames of their own. Here are the various places you can find images from. The Presentation Zen blog is a great resource for ideas on presenting information visually.
  • Use videos when you can, especially to depict emotional impact or to teach soft skills or to quickly demonstrate a task through a screencast. Remember too much video and on-screen conversation or talking heads can bore the hell out of people. Think "authenticity" and try a guerilla style with your videos.

I've tried my best to try and share some of my thoughts without being too prescriptive about each implementation detail. What ideas do you have? Please comment and let me know. Thanks!


eLearning said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing the lists. I just love practicing eLearning in different ways.

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