Future-proofing eLearning Courses

A few months ago, when the Covid-19 wave peaked, my son’s school sent us an online survey. The survey required us to mention the preferred mode of schooling – opt for online classes or continue the offline, in-person classes.

As a parent, I was very skeptical about sending my unvaccinated son to school. A sneeze here and a cough there can get our minds spiraling. I was certain that my son’s views echoed mine. When asked, he said “I’d like to attend in-person classes. You know Amma, I’ve realized classroom sessions are more engaging and interesting. It is easier to get zoned out while attending online classes.” I found this surprising because he is not an outdoorsy person.  He had transitioned pretty well to online classes and was enjoying the classes and the freedom that came with them. Or so, I thought! 

As a learning designer, this hit me hard. It made me realize that it is not enough for eLearning courses to be conceptually adept and crisp.  There’s a lot more to it. It needs to be interesting and impactful as well.  How do we design courses to suit ever-changing learning needs?

Make the course engaging

The best way to make an eLearning course stand out and shine brightly, obviously apart from providing world-class content, is to make the course engaging. And, here are some pointers for doing just that. 

  • Unleash the storyteller in you – Well-woven and relevant stories attract learners young and old alike. 
  • Set clear objectives  – Setting course-level and individual topic-level objectives act as guard rails and help you stay on track.
  • Create compelling scripts – Good scripts have the power to keep the messaging crisp and concise. Keep the scripts conversational; use active voice, strong verbs, and short sentences to make learning more impactful. 
  • Use the visual element intelligently – Add imagery, videos, or other relevant visual elements to break the monotony and increase learner engagement.

Bring in interactivity

It is easier to get spaced out while being a passive listener. Another way to boost learner engagement is to create opportunities for interaction. There are several ways to add interactive elements to your eLearning course. Here are some.

Gamification

Use the gaming experience to add a fun element to your eLearning course. With the right mix of challenges, rewards, and performance-based level advancements, games are a sure-shot way to engage and motivate your learners.

Quizzes and assessments

Quizzes and assessments at regular intervals of your course not only bring in the interactivity element but also help in evaluating learners’ progress. Remember to design quizzes that would nudge the learners to think. Do not restrict to multiple-choice questions only. Introduce scenario-based questions, and audio/video clips to make them more interesting.

Branching scenarios

Another way to bring interactivity to your content is using branching scenarios. Branching scenarios introduce alternate learning paths depending on the actions taken by the learners.

They make your course unique and engaging. They act as great evaluation tools to assess the learners’ decision-making ability as well. 

Yes, branching scenarios increase the design complexity and introduce non-linearity to your eLearning course. Designing and developing branching scenarios are often overwhelming and time-consuming. But, the outcomes are worth the effort. An eLearning course using branching scenarios will have multiple decision points. A decision point is a stage in your eLearning course where the learner is required to take an action. Always plan an ideal learning path that the learners would undertake if they make the best choice at every decision point. Design multiple alternate learning paths depending on the learners’ choices. 

Here are some tips for writing branching scenarios.

  • Always begin with the end in mind
  • Be very specific about the learners’ behaviors
  • Work closely with the subject matter expert (SME) to elucidate specific behaviors
  • Create an outline
  • Identify  mistakes and their consequences
  • Identify and sequence  decision points
  • And finally, write the scenarios

Use  up-and-coming technologies 

If you are thinking of providing an out-of-the-box learning experience, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, and augmented and virtual reality can come in handy.  From simulating scenarios that are otherwise difficult to create, creating visual overlays, or providing 360-degree visuals that provide an immersive learning experience, to tapping machine learning capabilities to serve content based on learner behavior, or using predictive analytics to identify content that has poor engagement, the possibilities are endless. Remember, to implement this firstly your Learning Management System(LMS) should have machine learning and predictive analytics capabilities. And second, technical expertise is required to implement augmented reality and virtual reality capabilities.

Design courses that can adapt!

Tailor learning programs to match the skills, needs, and interests of individual learners. One size does not always fit all! But, does this require bespoke technologies and algorithms to assess learners’ needs? Yes, there are specialized algorithms, but adaptive learning can be introduced in simpler ways also. The following are a few ways of implementing adaptive learning in your course.

Create alternate learning paths by adding optional content

You can have a main learning path that provides material suitable for all learners. However, steer interested learners off the main path to additional content that can be added as Tooltips, More buttons, and such. These detours can help interested learners to know more about the topic.

Assign learning material based on  learners’ roles

More often than not, a person’s learning needs will be largely determined by their roles and responsibilities. For example, consider a CXO and a network architect signing up for a cybersecurity course. The desired course outcome for these learners, however, is not the same. With adaptive learning, this problem can be easily solved. All it requires is to determine the roles and responsibilities of the learner and create a custom learning path accordingly. 

Assign learning material based on learners’ understanding/performance

Another way to incorporate adaptive learning is to add periodic assessments and assign the learning path algorithmically. Based on the results of the assessment, the learner can either skip a particular module or be provided with supplementary learning material. 

Many authoring tools support the implementation of adaptive learning. However, the placement of assessments in the course, the scoring, and subsequent detour in the learning process must be with utmost caution.

With distractions aplenty for the learners – adults and children alike – designing eLearning courses is a challenge indeed. Well, use these secret elements wisely in the alchemy of designing future-proof e-learning courses. 

All the best!

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