Developing Effective E-learning

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E-learning’s potential is closely tied to the quality of its design. There are a number of considerations that are instrumental to designing and developing effective e-learning. First, know the needs of your learners. Every aspect of the e-learning instruction must be geared to address those specific needs. Make the e-learning experience as usable as possible. E-learning that is difficult to engage will quickly frustrate participants. Give your learners autonomy over their e-learning experience. Increased control has been shown to lead to increased motivation to engage in the learning experience. Frame the instruction within an interesting context. When learners know and appreciate why an e-learning is taking place, they are much more compelled to engage in the e-learning instruction. Finally, effective e-learning provides regular and constructive feedback. Learners want to know where they are in their learning experience. Maximize e-learning’s potential to tell them!

E-learning’s effectiveness relies heavily on the quality of its design.

The first step when designing instructional material is identifying the purpose of the instruction. What should participants take away from the learning experience? Are these outcomes knowledge- or performance-based? How can participants demonstrate mastery of the skills or information at the heart of the lessons’ learning objectives? The answers to these questions will determine the appropriate methods of instruction.

When learners are able to easily use e-learning, they are much more likely to focus on the material being instructed.

Learners typically do not tolerate extensive training before taking an online course. The usability of an e-learning program must keep learners focused on learning, rather than using the learning application. Inability to, for instance, navigate to the next screen easily disrupts flow. Because many Internet users have developed habits of skimming rather than reading material, information in an online course needs to be designed to accommodate how people read online. This means judicious use of highlighting, fonts, and formatting to increase readability. An appropriate balance is needed between boring and flashy in order to capture attention and enhance learning without creating unnecessary distractions.

Remember the user’s experience

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Granting learners greater autonomy has been shown to increase learners’ motivation.

It is often beneficial to free up course navigation and give learners more control over their e-learning experience. Rich learning activities require learners to make choices about what to experience during an e-learning module. This keeps learners actively engaged, rather than passively advancing down a prescribed path. Just be sure that activities are designed around allowing students to practice desired learning outcomes, rather than on the complexity of the materials or tools required for the activity to take place.

An interesting context or scenario can add important meaning to a learning activity.

In situations where student motivation is known to be high, the context will require little explanation. In other contexts, however, students are encouraged and assisted by an interesting scenario that frames the activities. Scenarios are usually provided by a story, role play, or simulation, within which the activity plays a pivotal role in helping students to contextualize content. An interesting scenario will make extensive use of humor, imagination, reward, anticipation, or drama to enhance the activity. It will have topics and themes likely to be relevant and interesting to the target audience. And it will make the learning activity seem like an obvious or necessary thing to undertake.

Effective e-learning design will offer feedback that amplifies the learning and enables students to increase their level of skill and knowledge.

Available feedback strategies include reflective responses to prescribed questions, semi-automated responses by the system to student actions and work, shared comments in online forums and blogs, and personal responses via email and telephone. Effective use of feedback will enable an e-learning design to create dialogue between participants and instructors. Without appropriate use of feedback, e-learning runs the risk of becoming an ineffective broadcast of learning content.