A few posts back we've talked about the two requirements for instructional designers / e-learning developers: a good working know-how of physical tools and abstract tools. For the sake of this post, we'll focus on a critical abstract tool for our profession: creative design.
Creative design can be further divided into a lot of different categories; but for our purposes, let's stick with e/m-learning module design. Here are five helpful tips on how to improve your e-learning design, visually.
This is a basic concept of design - meaning that you should not try to squeeze in all elements in a very tight space. Doing so might confuse your audience as to what's happening on a slide; thus, they might get distracted and miss out on the module's important learning points. Simplify your design by sticking to a certain color theme (usually the branding of your organization or client), and stick to just 3-5 elements per slide. White backgrounds are best.
2. Controls should be Intuitive
By intuitive, we mean that the elements on your module should be easy to use and understand. Users should be able to know exactly what to do; especially when given a task to complete. These tasks can vary from easy tasks like pressing the 'Next' button to more complex ones such as dragging and dropping elements. The best way to execute this design-wise is to incorporate subtle audio clues (ex. 'sound bites,') or visual cues such as instructions or highlights when assigning a task to the learner.
3. Hand the Control over to the Audience
Automatic transitions of slides should always be avoided because it loses the interactivity of the module; thus, defeating the very purpose of e-learning. One of the things that make e-learning very successful is that it allows the learner to interact with the environment; thus increasing learner interest - even retention. Without controls such as clicking on buttons or images, the user might as well just watch a video. The challenge here is to be creative and put in a mix of different interactions in your module.
4. Avoid Long Sequences
Just to reiterate the point above, avoid long sequences because, yes - they take away the interactivity. The key here is timing your slides just right so that the transitions in the lesson are more attuned to your target audience's pace. Moreover, avoid long texts or captions/speech from the characters. The ideal text/caption should be read in more or less 5 seconds. If you need to add more, you need to be creative in inserting an interaction so that the next sequence can triggered by the user- thus avoiding a lull in the session.
5. Don't Forget to Use Humor
Imagine yourself taking an e-learning course about company policies for about an hour. It can get really dragging and dry. Insert APPROPRIATE (and I'm emphasizing APPROPRIATE here!) humor during the session to lighten the mood; but also remember to do so sparingly. Furthermore, when I say humor, I'm not referring to jokes, anecdotes, or quips; but rather I'm referring to something more visual. One way to do this would be to change a character's expressions. One module I did before was that every time a learner chooses an incorrect answer, a big drop of sweat forms on the character's brow - matched with a pained expression on the character's face. That's just an example - be creative!
So, that's it! I hope these 5 tips can help you improve the design of your e/m-learning module.
If you have more tips that you'd like to share with us and the community, please don't hesitate to share them on the comments section below: