eLearning is one of the most valuable training tools available to corporations today. It saves money compared to traditional training, it increases engagement and it improves learning outcomes. Not to mention, it also reduces instruction time dramatically. But eLearning does come with some challenges. As most course interactions involve only the learner and the materials it becomes the responsibility of the materials themselves to shape a learner’s experience, which increases the need for excellent design.
Here are a few tips for designing an effective self-paced eLearning course:
1. Provide a foundation to customize.
The personalization aspect of eLearning is a major benefit. Users can access the materials from anywhere at any time, allowing them massive flexibility. But they must have some sort of established foundation upon which to customize their own learning experience, lest they flounder. Provide a plan for the self-paced course that includes goals, timelines and the activities they’ll need to complete in order to achieve the learning objectives of the course. This will provide them with structure and accountability so they can pace themselves accordingly.
2. Create a supportive community.
Social interaction can greatly enhance learning outcomes of self-paced courses. It helps to alleviate the loneliness and isolation that is a common drawback of such programs. Online forums, social media groups, and even video conferencing software are effective tools to help establish community among learners and between learners and instructors. It gives them a place to share challenges, ask questions and receive ongoing support. This type of community can be the difference between successful outcomes and disengagement.
Self-paced learners need to be able to access the learning materials with ease. The course must run smoothly on any platform and be a positive user experience on any device. Consider the course layout, the navigation, concise instructions for the activities required to complete the course and a FAQ section with tutorials, eLearning videos and online resources and support. The design must be user friendly or engagement will surely decline.
4. Integrate the concept of microlearning.
Typically speaking, self-paced eLearners have opted for such a course because of time constraints, therefore, for the best outcomes, content needs to be easily digestible. And time and time again, microlearning proves itself an effective tool for improving digestibility of any type of content. The content itself, and the formatting should be as concise as possible, delivered in bite-sized chunks without any excess, unnecessary information. The design should reflect the same idea, avoiding large chunks of text, and using highlights, bullet, subheaders, and italic and bold fonts to clearly project information.
5. Assess progress in an ongoing manner.
Another common challenge in self-paced eLearning is gauging learner progress. Since there is limited contact between instructors and learners, observing behavior and evaluating performance can be tricky. There are reporting tools built into most LMS solutions that help in this regard. Allowing facilitators to view who has completed sections, showing how long learners take to complete them and how successful they are at absorbing the information. And aside from these tools you can build ongoing assessments into the course content itself. You can test or quiz learners before and after each lesson.
Self-paced eLearning courses are meant to increase engagement and improve learning outcomes, but good design is key. Providing a foundation for your learners, giving them ongoing support through an online community, presenting clear and concise design and content and allowing for ongoing assessment are all important aspects to getting the most out of these types of programs.
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Instructional designers are asked to provide many areas of