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Learning & Development Blog

Storytelling In eLearning

Year One: 3 Lessons Learned For Creating Engaging eLearning

I’ve been doing instructional design work for a little over a year, immersed happily in the world of drag-and-drops and click-and-reveals. Teaching someone how to do something in person is one thing, but online learning is an entirely different animal. As a Creative Technologist, my role is, well, to use technology creatively, primarily within eLearning development.

There are many ingredients for success in eLearning development and one of the most important is to start with solid instructional design. I get that the idea of good design is a broad topic with thousands of opinions, but I’m focused on how to create engaging eLearning that is both visually appealing and emotionally inviting. The following are three lessons I've learned in year one to ensure your employees will stayed tuned.

Storytelling Isn't Just For Kids

We all love good stories and the people who tell them. Storytellers teach, entertain, stir emotions, and navigate us through the twists and turns of life, ultimately even influencing our behavior. Isn’t behavior change what eLearning is all about? Storytelling can greatly influence the design and flow of a course.

In her article the Power of Storytelling in eLearning, Jennifer Neibert dives into detail, explaining how stories can be a useful tool to help us convey content within the appropriate context.

In fact, stories can be a useful tool to help us convey content in the appropriate context, which can go a long way in explaining all those shades of gray in the spectrum between white and black.

Good learning teaches users much like the lessons found in a story, revealing details and plot points, slowly, not all at once. Telling a story all at once provides no meaning or relevance for the listener, and learners can become quickly overwhelmed with an overload of information up front. Slowly revealing learning objectives allows learners to understand information and concepts just as someone slowly discovers the characters and conflict in a story. Giving the learners bite-sized chunks to chew on makes for a more satisfying result.

Creating engaging eLearning

Less Clutter, More Meaning

Text, photos, and graphics are great and necessary tools for learning development, but the “when” and “how” to use them are key points to consider. Filling projects with cool, flashy graphics and animations can sure look cool and fun, but do they aid the learning process? Do learners come away with some action or behavior changed?

In his article 10 Tips To Improve Your Visual Design Skills For Non-Designers, Christopher Pappas states that by following the "less is more" approach, a learner can focus on important information without distraction. How much text are you adding? We live in a tweet-only-140-characters world. Entire slides covered with text has never engaged anyone. Make sure what you add has meaning and relevance to the learning goal.

Don’t forget to follow the "less is more" mantra. Effective design is clear cut and balanced, to help viewers focus on important information.

The same can be said for interactivity. Interaction for the sake of interaction can be fluff and wastes the learners time. The end result of an interaction should be a learner having gained skills to do something new.

Quick Tips For Solid Design

  1. Many will debate, but I advise using san serif fonts for web use. They’re easier to read.
  2. Generally, I would recommend using no more than 4 fonts. The same goes for colors.
  3. Rule of 6-7 lines per eLearning slide. We’ve all seen those presentations or eLearning courses with text everywhere. Humans do not like these.
  4. No more than 39 words per eLearning slide.

These are just few design principles I’ve discovered so far in the world of eLearning development. Yes, many of the design principles here have already been discussed and continue to be, but we need to remember and practice them. What are your thoughts on good design in eLearning?

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Neibert, Jennifer. 2014, November 10. The Power of Storytelling in eLearning.  Retreived from https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1566/the-power-of-storytelling-in-elearning

Pappas, Christopher. 2015, September 21. 10 Tips To Improve Your Visual Design Skills For Non-Designers. Retreived from https://elearningindustry.com/10-tips-improve-visual-design-skills-non-designers