One of the major benefits of eLearning is flexibility.
Whether it’s video, images, or gamification, you have a variety of choices when it comes to teaching tools, and you can even mix and match to fit your needs.
If you’re new to eLearning, you may wonder which strategies will be the most effective for your audience. Would they gain the most from short videos? Infographics? How about online games?
For those that want to explore the varying methods eLearning can offer, you’re in luck. Here are a few strategies for you to consider when putting together your eLearning course.
There are essentially three different ways you can put eLearning into practice: through text, through interactive elements, and through simulation. Each delivery method comes with its own benefits.
Text driven eLearning can involve readable text like an article or ebook, but it can also include images. The point of text-driven learning is to share simple information quickly and efficiently with very little (if any) interaction. PowerPoint slides, articles, blogs, or infographics fall into this category.
So, what type of coursework best suits this style of learning? Typically, goal-oriented or performance-based learning fits this style best, like compliance training.
If a lot of information needs to be taught in a short period of time, or learners are required to be tested on how much information they’ve retained from the course, then text-driven learning can be a good option.
Interactive learning is similar to text-driven learning with the exception that there’s more emphasis placed on interactive elements. There is a greater use of visual aids, like clickable graphics, charts, and diagrams that are more interactive in nature.
Video can also be used in this category as well as more socially oriented options like forums, team projects, or other sharable group experiences. This type of learning works best for course material requiring more response or reaction.
If your coursework requires some level of feedback on behalf of your users, then interactive options will work toward that goal.
Simulation eLearning takes interactive to the next level, and relies on a much broader level of media, like video, audio, and gamification.
Quizzes, role-play, and tests work well in simulated learning structures. The goal of simulation is to portray complex concepts with an added layer of interaction that says, “Now you try.”
If your learning materials require hands-on interaction or the ability to make decisions quickly, then simulation can be the perfect choice to help learners retain information in real time.
So which style is right for your audience? Once you have an idea of the types of eLearning available to you, you must determine whether or not the people taking your course will benefit from your chosen medium.
Everyone learns differently, and some styles will work better than others depending on those different learning styles. This is where the tricky part comes: you will have to determine what the predominant audience is in your group.
There are a few different styles of learners you will need to watch out for:
- Confident Learners – Confident learners can become frustrated easily if things move too slowly or lack clear objectives. They thrive with more heavily interactive styles.
- Emotional Learners – These learners are influenced by emotional experiences and may do well in interactive courses that allow them to connect on an emotional level with peers or with the material directly. Simulation can also be a great choice as it can put them in “real world” scenarios that can trigger different responses.
- Integrated Learners – Like emotional learners, integrated learners enjoy peer-to-peer interaction but they also want to accomplish something without needing to be micromanaged. Text-driven styles or self-directed learning can be a great option for this type.
- Unmotivated Learners – These learners are looking for the fastest (and easiest way) through your coursework. Text-driven styles can work if information is presented in a straightforward way. Multi-media learning like videos and audio can also help this type stay on track.
- Dependent Learners – Dependent learners need more help than others and may feel insecure about their answers. They thrive in simulations that provide measurable achievements for the work they’ve done, especially if they can see their results quickly or have the opportunity to correct mistakes.
Of course, every course will have a variety of learners, and you won’t be able to cater to all of them. In general, you should be able to identify the major learning style of the group by doing some audience research.
It’s best to meet with, interview, and observe the group before starting your course, or create a simple survey that allows you to assess learning styles before selecting your medium.
Goal or Purpose
The final thing you want to consider before selecting a delivery style is the course’s ultimate purpose. The overall goal of your course will help you figure out which of your learners will move through the course faster than others, as well as which learning style is ultimately best.
Most eLearning courses are designed for two reasons:
- To provide information
- To improve or change performance
If the goal of your course is simply to enlighten your learners to new policies, software, tools, or procedures, you may find that a text-driven style with less interaction will help them learn that information with little resistance.
Text-driven courses have no built-in expectations of changed performance, so there’s little pressure to “get it right” the first time. They can take their time, learn what they need, and move on.
If, however, your goal is to help improve safety on the job, or to implement new skills in the workplace, you may consider more interactive elements that provide step-by-step instructions. How-to videos, worksheets, or quizzes can be helpful in these situations.
If your ultimate goal is to train your learners to solve problems quickly or to fulfill management positions, consider using simulation elements that will help them process and apply what they’re learning in real time. In this case, coursework is focused on helping learners understand the “why” and not just the “what” or “how.”
Once you have a goal in mind, it’s easier to determine the style of learning that will help reach that goal as effortlessly as possible.
Choosing the correct learning style for your course may ultimately come down to trial and error, but you can help the process by understanding a few crucial components before you build your course.
First, make sure you understand the different styles of eLearning available to you. Text-driven eLearning will help you communicate large amounts of information quickly, but it won’t leave much room for response or retention if you don’t have a focused audience, for example.
Next, assess your audience for their dominant learning styles. If you have a group of motivated but social learners, interactive learning styles will work best. Unmotivated learners may change their tune with gamification or other simulated exercises.
Last, identify the main purpose or goal of your coursework. Do you simply want to share new information? Is there risk if your learners don’t retain all of the information? If your learners are required to come away from your course experts at a new concept or skill, consider more in-depth and interactive styles of learning.
Remember that whichever style you choose, you can always change it later or add or remove elements for various audiences. That’s the beauty in eLearning’s flexibility.