Wednesday, August 20, 2014

4 Ways to Jump Start an eLearning Lesson

By Shelley A. Gable

I’ve heard learners criticize eLearning lessons that have too much “extra” stuff at the beginning.

Think about all the material that some lessons place before the actual content: title slide, copyright and/or confidentiality statements, navigation instructions, learning objectives, etc. It can potentially add up to a lot of extra clicks (that learners may or may not actually pay attention to), which gets the activity off to a somewhat sluggish start.

Next time you create an eLearning lesson, consider placing meaningful content immediately after (or maybe even before) the title slide.

Here are a few approaches to think about…

--1-- Make information that isn’t part of the course content available via buttons. For instance, you might have a “Navigation Help” button that’s always available at the top or bottom of the screen. And a “Confidentiality” button, for example. That way, this information is accessible to learners without setting a bland tone for the lesson.

--2-- Place learning objectives after a compelling story or challenge. Opening the lesson with a story or scenario places learners in a meaningful context and may spark curiosity for what their tasks in the training will be. This presents the objectives as the logical next step in the learning experience, instead of simply being a series of dry statements at the beginning.

--3-- Start with a relevantly designed splash page to inspire interest. When I say splash page, I’m envisioning a short multimedia blurb (shorter than a minute; perhaps under 30 seconds) that begins when a learner launches the lesson. It comes even before a title slide. I’ve seen some organizations use splash pages to display their branding in a high-energy way, but why not design it with visuals and audio that offer a glimpse into the upcoming content?

--4-- Make the title slide multitask. For example, an informal pre-quiz can be an effective way to acknowledge what learners already know about a topic, while also making them aware of what they don’t know, to help prime them for upcoming content. If you create a pre-quiz that is informal and short, you might put it right on the title side. Another approach to leveraging a title slide for content: include a brief introduction to a character that appears in the first story or scenario. Or, include the first couple of lines from that story or scenario, if they’re written in a way that would motivate learners to continue reading. However, a word of caution: careful visual design is crucial with this approach, as a cluttered title slide could overwhelm learners.

What techniques do you use to connect learners to content as promptly as possible in an eLearning lesson?

Have you placed meaningful content before a title slide? Have you placed content on a title slide? Have you tried other approaches?