The Six Golden Rules for Using Graphics in E-Learning

We are all forced daily to trundle through reams of written content to get to the information we want. We have learned to quickly scan text, pick out the points of interest and ignore the rest. Today we’ll tell you how you can use graphics to highlight which information is most important for your learners and to help them to memorise it.

Why are graphics so great?

Graphics are amazing because they can easily summarise huge amounts of written information in a small space, not to mention in a memorable and aesthetically pleasing way! The rise of the infographic and the popularity of memes are just small indicators of the potential in graphics to capture learners’ attention and act as a platform for our bright ideas and learning materials.

It would be a shame for the instructional designer to put together killer learning content, for the web development team to create a robust and multi-functional platform to deliver the content on and then to fail to think through how the content will appear to users visually. Without great UX design and appealing graphics, learners will simply switch off. So we’ve created six golden rules for using graphics in E-Learning:

Six Golden Rules for Using Graphics in E-Learning

This infographic is available to download here.

1)    Graphics should simplify learning content, not complicate it.

2)    Choose graphics that will be memorable and make learning content memorable.

3)    Consistency in style is key to creating beautifully designed E-Learning.

4)    If graphics aren’t self-explanatory, be sure to include a caption or explanation.

5)    Avoid including graphics just for the sake of it – they should add to the learning, not distract from it.

6)    Always use high quality graphics.

 

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

 

Loud and Clear – Four Questions to ask before using audio in your E-Learning

'Loud and Clear - Four Questions to ask before using audio in your E-Learning' and a picture of a speaker

Not all E-Learning programmes need to have audio, but it can help learners and create interest, if used well. This blog forms the first of a two part series which will highlight the different questions you should ask before using audio in your E-Learning and the different ways to incorporate it.

There are a number of practical questions you can ask yourself before you think about using audio. These will not only help you decide if you need audio but also how you might manage the recording and updating of it.

1. What technology do your target audience use?

 Is it likely that your target audience:

    • Have speakers or headphones in which to hear the audio?

 You can of course add audio transcripts for those that don’t have speakers or headphones, but it would be unnecessary providing audio if the majority of your learners don’t have them.

    • Have sufficient bandwidth to cope with a larger file size?

 Audio increases the file size of your E-Learning and it can significantly slow down loading times.

 

2.    What are your budget limitations and timescales?

Consider if you are willing to:

    • Invest in good quality audio.

This can be as simple as investing in a good quality microphone, and investing some more on soundproofing equipment. But don’t compromise on your audio. According to Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass at Stanford University, audio quality matters a lot so online learners are unforgiving when it’s recorded badly. If you are in doubt about the quality of your audio, have it recorded professionally.

    • Take the time to add audio to your programme and sync it up with onscreen text.

 This can take some time, especially if your text builds onscreen. Be prepared to add your audio at the end once all of your text is finalised and agreed, otherwise your audio will be out of date very quickly.

    • Provide and update an audio transcript.

 An audio transcript will help users with hearing difficulties read the audio at their own pace. If you add audio, make sure you are prepared to add this and update it when you make any changes to your content.

 

3.    Will your programme require any updates and if so, how often?

If you anticipate that you will make a lot of updates to your content over time, consider if you are willing to record new audio each time you make the changes. This is why deciding on the approach to audio is especially important from the onset – if you choose to record all of your onscreen text, are you prepared to record all of this content if you make even minor updates to your content?

 

4.    What is the nature of your content?

The subject(s) you will be covering will of course help you decide how much audio you will use in your programme. We’ll cover this in our next blog where we’ll explore the different approaches for the use of audio.

 

About Maresa

Maresa Molloy, Instructional Designer at Aurion Learning

 

Maresa is an Instructional Designer at Aurion Learning. She is also an avid fan of hill-walking and would love to be stuck in a lift with Andy Murray!

In her role as Instructional Designer, Maresa is responsible for working closely with Aurion client Subject Matter Experts and the in-house e-learning development team in the design and production of online and work-based learning materials for a range of programmes.

 

 

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

 

Gamification of E-Learning in 2015

Image of a trophy and gamification icons, accompanied by the name of the blog article.

The use of game mechanics to increase learners’ motivation is not a new concept, but this year gamification is set to come of age, moving away from being viewed as a gimmick to becoming a real contender as one of the key techniques used to motivate and engage learners. We can all expect to see gamification become more practical, more integrated, more fun and more common so we want to share why it’s so exciting!

In our predictions of the top digital learning trends for 2015, we noted an influx in the use of gamification in E-Learning and we were far from the only ones. A report by Ambient Insight placed the annual global growth rate for game-based learning at 8.3% and predicted that revenues would amount to a massive $2.3 billion by 2017.

Why is gamification so effective?

Keller’s Model of Motivational Design outlines four strategies for motivating learners:

  1. Attention
  2. Relevance
  3. Confidence
  4. Satisfaction

Gamification is brilliant because it incorporates all four of these tactics to draw in and engross learners. The use of gaming narratives, mechanics and graphics will draw the attention of learners whilst the application of knowledge will reinforce the relevance of learning materials. Learners will have their confidence boosted by the progress they witness during their learning adventures and E-Learning which incorporates rewards and recognition will create a great sense of learner satisfaction.

In the digital age, learners have various forms of information and entertainment competing for their attention. The challenge of the educator is to deliver their information in the most relevant and gripping way.

What will be different in 2015?

Gamification will be:

  • More practical – digital learning creators have often confused gamification with the introduction of badges and reward systems. These superficial styles of gamifying E-Learning can complement more sophisticated game mechanics but most learners are not placated by trivial rewards. Instead, in 2015, we predict the employment of gamification techniques that really motivate learners. Expect to see more simulation, animations and narrative based games.

 

  • More integrated – it isn’t necessary to create a whole new virtual world to gamify your E-Learning and motivate learners. The most successful gamification efforts are those that create interactivity for learners in simple and effective ways. If you want to adopt gamification without having to invest huge amounts of time and resources, consider using puzzles, scenarios and short, fun games regularly throughout your E-Learning.

 

  • More fun – the exciting emergence of new technologies and innovations within the gaming industry is spilling over into the gamification of E-Learning. New technologies that create the potential for virtual and augmented reality mean that games have become more realistic and life like. Whilst few organisations will immediately be able to implement these technologies in 2015, the adoption of sharper graphics and high definition displays will bring games to life for learners and create more fun!

 

  • More common – as we noted before, gamification is growing. Mike Liebhold,  senior researcher and distinguished fellow at The Institute for the Future captures the driving force behind this growth perfectly when he says, “The development of ‘serious games’ applied productively to a wide scope of human activities will accelerate simply because playing is more fun than working.”

 

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

8 Ideas for Exceptional E-Learning Interactivity

An image of a man's mind with a light bulb in the middle and ideas flowing from it, accompanied by the title, "8 Ideas for Exceptional E-Learning Interactivity"

Interactivity is what differentiates dull and drab E-Learning from learning that provokes questions, draws in learners and captures information in a memorable way. If you want to create E-Learning that strikes a chord with learners and transforms learning from being a chore into something enjoyable, we’ve gathered eight ideas for exceptional E-Learning interactivity:

1.    Gamify your learning content

The gamification of learning is a trend that is on the rise. By introducing game mechanics to your E-Learning content, you can increase learner engagement and motivation.

2.    Tell a story

Storytelling has been a learning style long before the introduction of technology. By sharing either illustrative or real life stories with learners, it’s possible to relate your E-Learning to everyday life as well as entertain learners. You can create and share your own digital story for free using our own storytelling tool storee.

3.    Pose questions that require more than yes or no answers

Although they make great tools for assessing knowledge and understanding, it can be tempting for learners to race through multiple choice questionnaires. By incorporating open ended questions learners will receive the opportunity to consider what they have learnt and put it into their own words.

4.    Create discussion spaces for learners to interact

The emergence and widespread adoption of social media means that people are generally more willing to connect and search for meaning using online communities. Social learning offers learners the opportunity to extend learning outside the walls of the classroom and your E-Learning module.

5.    Include beautiful multimedia

Modern, well designed pictures, videos, interactive charts and quizzes will suggest to learners that the content you’re teaching them is up-to-date and topical.

6.    Translate your E-Learning into real world exercises

To successfully motivate learners, it’s vital to link the new information you’re providing them with to their day-to-day life. Real world exercises will prompt learners to consider the legitimacy and relevancy of your E-Learning.

7.    Build problem based scenarios as part of your assessments

Problem based scenarios present a perfect opportunity to encourage learners to grapple with difficult issues and to raise questions about the application of their new knowledge.

8.    Personalise modules by including learners’ names

Small gestures can go a long way. By using learners’ names and other personalised information you can put learners at ease and make them feel like the content was created uniquely for them.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

Want to be top in the class when creating assessments?

Want to be top in the class when creating assessments?

There are few words that provoke as strong of a reaction amongst young and old alike as when an instructor says, “I’m going to test you on that.” However, the way that many students and instructors view assessments is flawed. By identifying these flaws, you can stand to take the stress out of assessments for you and your students.

There are two main types of assessments:

1. Formative Assessments

The aim of a formative assessment is to monitor student learning. It allows instructors to identify knowledge gaps and amend their teaching accordingly. Formative assessments benefit students because they are able to identify their weaknesses and compensate accordingly. By nature they don’t create pressure or stress for students or instructors as they are merely a way of measuring and communicating understanding.

2. Summative Assessments

Often taking place at the end of a period of learning or a learning event, summative assessments measure student learning against a specific benchmark. There is often pressure on both students and instructors as the result is generally a pass or fail.

Assessments are a fantastic way of evaluating competency and understanding so we’ve made a list of five principles to remember next time you’re including assessments in your E-Learning course:

1. Assessments are just another teaching tool.

Regular assessments throughout an extended period of learning act as a diagnostic or problem-shooting measure. To fully utilise this function, it is essential that students understand that the goal is not to appear as if they have learnt and understood. Instead, the assessment is a conversation between student and teacher allowing them to identify areas that need more work and attention.

2. Summative assessment results should be measured against previously decided and specific learning goals.

By setting specific goals defining what learners should know by the end of a period of learning and seeing how these compare to actual results, it’s possible to begin to identify shortcomings and rectify teaching practice for the next time.

3. Regular assessments with good feedback ensure learners’ engagement and success.

As the expert in your subject, your job is to connect your learners with the issues and talking points that will fascinate and intrigue them. Regular assessments encourage learners to dig deep and grapple with these issues themselves. By allowing students to take a back seat role in your class, there is a high chance of them becoming complacent and allowing you to do all of the work. Assessments can help to overcome this.

4. Remind your students that assessments are their best friend.

Learners need to understand that assessments are for their own good and there is therefore no point in hacks, shortcuts or cheating. Learners can attempt to perform and try to make it appear that they know more things than they really do. Last minute cramming for exams rarely equals long term knowledge retention. Typically, the more rushed we are when we take on knowledge is linked to how fast we forget it. By communicating with learners and letting them know that failure is sometimes a good thing, you can change the way they view assessments and learning generally.

5. Assessments should measure knowledge put into action.

Competency is not the amount of information students have in their heads but how they put that information into practice. By allowing learners to demonstrate their newfound abilities, they will be instilled with a sense of achievement.

What do you think is important when creating assessments for your digital learning campaign? We would love to hear what you think! To read more blogs like this, follow @aurionlearning on Twitter.

Best Practice UX Design for E-Learning

UX Design for E-Learning

By incorporating best practice UX design into your E-Learning, you can maximise information retention, learner engagement and learner enjoyment.

UX design specialists tend to know how people use technology but not necessarily how people learn. There are elements of UX design we’ll cover in this blog that are universal and some that apply specifically to E-Learning.

Why is UX design important?

Because of the clever way Apple’s user interfaces are designed, even a toddler who can’t yet read can pick up an iPad, find the game they want to play or take a photo. Apple do things in a way that just makes sense. From the way things are packed and unfold to how their products and software are designed, they create products which simplify processes for the end user and have their enjoyment in mind. That’s why they had a revenue of over 170 billion dollars in 2013. User experience matters.

We all want to create an E-Learning experience that is seamless and intuitive.

By applying our UX design for E-Learning tips, you can simplify processes and delight learners. They won’t have to ask questions about navigation and will be able to do what they want to do, when they want to do it.

To illustrate the importance of UX design in E-Learning, we will use the example of the Sensory Engagement Programme which we developed in partnership with four of the largest support and advocacy organisations for people with sight and hearing loss across the whole of Ireland. The resource aims to raise awareness among service providers of what it is like to be blind, partially sighted, deaf or hard of hearing and using every day services.

As the best designed user experiences are usually the easiest, it was imperative that the user experience on this project was as seamless as possible.

How do people read online?

The introductory page to the Sensory Engagement Programme.

The introductory page to the Sensory Engagement Programme.

  • Researchers from the Nielsen Norman Group undertook research tracking the eye movements of over 300 website users and discovered that people tend to read webpages in an F shape. The findings make an interesting read and the full report is available to download here.
  • In the above image, you can see the welcome page from the Sensory Engagement Programme. As you can see, we have taken the knowledge that online learners read in an F shape into consideration when laying out our content. This means that users are more likely to read the content and will understand what to expect from the rest of the E-Learning resource.
  • The commoditisation of written content in the digital age means that readers scan and spend less time reading than ever before. This means that content needs to make sense immediately, without further explanation. Clear headings, bullet points and concise, meaningful content will ensure that learners will read what you have to say.

UX Design and Flow

An example page from the Sensory Engagement Programme.

An example page from the Sensory Engagement Programme.

Have you considered what happens when learners don’t have a flow or pattern to follow? They simply stop reading.

When designing an E-Learning webpage, the following components are essential for a user interface that simplifies the learning process:

1)    A flow

2)    A call to action

3)    Very little text or else very scannable text

4)    Images that contribute to the information being presented

As you can see from this screenshot of the Sensory Engagement Programme mentioned earlier, we were able to create a flow by minimising the written content on the page and placing a focus on the video. By making the video and the call to action to watch it so prominent, it ensures that learners will prioritise this. The second most prominent flow happening on the page is the flow across the four tabs at the top which allow users to navigate their way through the E-Learning resource.

What happens when it all goes wrong?

As the folks at Icon Finder said, “A User Interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.”

Great UX design is not an additional bonus for an E-Learning programme. Without it, learners will get lost, frustrated, distracted and switch off.

When beginning to develop an E-Learning resource, we suggest sitting around a table with the web developers, designers and instructional designers involved. It’s important for everyone to understand what makes up the key learning content, the layout of content and plan how together you will be able to create an intuitive learner experience.

By incorporating wireframes and storyboarding into your development process and taking UX design into consideration, you can ensure from the get-go that the end user of your E-Learning programme has an experience that will achieve desired learning outcomes and keep them coming back for more.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

What makes a successful MOOC?

A number of multi-coloured hands reaching up to education icons.

MOOCs are the modern day marmite of the digital learning scene. We want to steer clear of all of the clichés that have already been postulated and stick to what we know best. We hope you’ll find our practical, realistic advice on delivering a successful MOOC beneficial as you make plans for your own online learning.

We think MOOCs are fantastic because they offer dramatic cost savings, a standardised level of training across large organisations and can allow people all over the world access to the leading academics in a subject.

There are three things intrinsic to a MOOC’s success:

  1. High levels of interactivity
  2. Best practice pedagogy
  3. Appropriate technology

Interactivity

Interactivity is essential in all forms and styles of learning. Learners grow and develop whenever content is delivered in a way that makes it memorable.

To inspire knowledge retention and stimulate thought amongst MOOC users, consider the following ideas:

  • Storytelling is being used across a broad spectrum of organisations because it captures the heart behind a lesson and delivers it in an entertaining way.
  • Problem-based learning can easily grab a learner’s imagination. Rather than completing a series of monotonous tick-box quizzes, learners are posed with real life problems faced by other individuals or organisations.
  • Gamification allows learners to apply knowledge and be rewarded as they progress.
  • Social learning allows a group of learners to come together to solve problems as well as give and receive encouragement. The creation of assignments to be posted on social forums creates conversation and stimulates thought amongst learners.
  • Progress tracking and instructor involvement encourages students by showing them how far they’ve come and allowing them to ask questions and receive advice when they get stuck.

Pedagogy

MOOCs present an opportunity to turn learning on its head. It is possible to design learning content in line with how the brain actually learns.

MOOCs are in a position to apply contemporary pedagogical principles and break free from the traditional and often ineffective styles of teaching that have crept their way into many organisations. By monitoring learner activity using big data, administrators can even test the effectiveness of different teaching styles.

In order to be truly successful, it is important that MOOCs do not simply copy dated models of learning from the past but are used as a forum to design new, better ways of learning. We face new challenges than ever before and require a new approach to learning.

Technology

If you’re able to successfully create a MOOC for your organisation, make sure you don’t fall at the last hurdle. When choosing an E-Learning provider, be sure to ask all of the right questions from the beginning. You’ll need to know what browsers will be able to support your E-Learning content, whether mobile devices will be supported, if the systems technology is up-to-date and whether it will require regular updates.

It’s really important to choose the right technology to support your learning goals so make a list of all the technical specifications you require before you begin to search for an E-Learning provider and you won’t have any regrets later.

Organisations all over the world are choosing to develop MOOCs because they offer possibilities and opportunities to engage with learners on a greater scale than ever before. MOOCs won’t work for everyone but if you have a restricted budget, a large learner audience to reach and are ready to adapt your learning content to make it more accessible, then a MOOC might just perfect for you.

Have you recently developed a MOOC? Please comment below and let us know what worked and didn’t work for you. Feel free to share this blog with others who you think may benefit from it. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

New to E-Learning? Where to get started

Infographic containing the E-Learning advice from the blog below.

This infographic is available to download here.

1. Learning strategy
Define your aims and identify issues that need to be resolved.

2. Set quantitative goals for progress and definitions of success
Make a list of measurable outcomes you could expect to see as a result

3. Identify a solution that fits both the goals and the audience
Keep in mind the age and background of users, their level of technology adoption and what sort of devices they will be using to access learning content

4. Get buy-in
Communicate issues, goals and expectations to stakeholders. Make sure they understand the value of a new E-Learning programme

5. Ask internal subject matter experts to summarise content
Identify the experts within your organisation and ask them to share their expertise with you.

6. Assess the technical requirements
Check out our Jargon Buster handbook for E-Learning newbies.

7. Instructional design
Apply best practice pedagogical principles. Think rich, concise content, heaps of interactivity and beautiful multimedia.

8. Begin to design and develop
Keep in mind accessibility and usability when choosing fonts and colours.

9. Pilot
Ask an internal group of stakeholders to test and review your learning campaign.

10. Amend where necessary
Take on board the feedback given by your pilot group and decide which changes are necessary. Small, incremental change will help to ensure that the baby isn’t thrown out with the bath water.

11. Collect data on learner progress
Check out our blog: Big Data: Big Results for E-Learning?

12. Assess the success of your E-Learning
Check out our blog: How to work out if your E-Learning programme is a success and what to do if it isn’t.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

How to work out if your E-Learning is a success and what to do if it isn’t

Image saying containing an illustration of a businessman flying into the sky in a rocket with a briefcase on which has been written the word SUCCESS. The title of this image is 'How to work out if your E-Learning is a success and what to do if it isn't'

In a bid to rush to the next project, many E-Learning professionals carelessly skip over the evaluation process. Because we believe it is vital to learn from experience, our mantra of the moment is:

 “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”.

Therefore, today we want to take the opportunity to unpack best practice in E-Learning evaluation.

Evaluation is often overlooked because people lack the time, patience or clarity on the right approach or tool to use. Often, they are unsure of what data to collect or how to use it once they have collected it.

The first step in evaluating an E-Learning campaign lies in identifying the success metrics or performance parameters. These are formed by aligning or comparing organisational aims and goals with the results of the learning campaign.

Following this crucial first step, there are a number of ideas and approach methods to evaluation. One of the foremost ideas being propounded currently is Kirkpatrick’s taxonomy.

Kirkpatrick identified four levels or criteria for successful training evaluation:

Level 1: Learner reaction

Level 2: Learner knowledge

Level 3: Learner behaviour

Level 4: Learning results or impact

Sadly, many learning and development departments move no farther in their evaluations than level one or two.

They listen to how a selection of learners feel about the learning campaign and measure how much information they have retained but fail to research how the newfound information is being applied or what impact it is having on the organisation.

So what are the best tools to use to evaluate success?

We recommend a combination of the following:

  • Knowledge assessments both before and after completing training to assess learning progress;
  • Conducting a pilot to spot flaws early on;
  • Using big data to track learner engagement as well as weak points within the E-Learning content;
  • On the job assessments by management to gauge behavioural changes;
  • A forum (such as Survey Monkey) to receive feedback from learners about their personal experience;
  • Encouraging learners and stakeholders to give feedback in the long term; and
  • Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method suggests that we must look at success at an organisational or system level rather than just the individual learning programme. Brinkerhoff also asserts that it is useful to look at the “outliers” i.e. those who have been particularly successful or unsuccessful. By looking at these outliers, it may be possible to identify the differentiators between E-Learning success and failure on an individual level.

Now what?

After using this toolkit to evaluate your E-Learning success, you may find that learners are happy, clued in, applying their knowledge and your organisation is flourishing.

Hooray for you!

If you have a different result and find issues with your E-Learning, then take a deep breath, it’s going to be okay!

There are a number of reasons why your E-Learning campaign might not have hit the target this time.

It could be as a result of lack of support from management, the learning campaign being too theoretical or inaccuracy in identifying knowledge gaps pre-training. Luckily, your evaluation should point you in the right direction.

An important nugget of knowledge to keep in mind is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. In the majority of situations, change can be made in small, incremental amounts.

We recommend asking the people who have given you feedback and identified issues to become part of the solution by suggesting what they would have needed or preferred to better their learning experience.

There is always room for improvement and evaluation is one of the most consistently helpful tools we have at our disposal as learning and development professionals. Just remember our mantra, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”.

 

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. We’d love to hear about your biggest E-Learning successes and failures. What is your strategy for recovering and fixing your mistakes? Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

 

Top 5 Features of Articulate Storyline

Here at Aurion HQ, Articulate Storyline is our E-Learning authoring tool of choice. We like it because it produces fantastic learning content that hits the target both in terms of visual appeal and learning outcomes. Find out five reasons we think Articulate Storyline is fantastic:

Infographic displaying the information contained in the blog below.

This infographic is available to download here.

 

1. Ease of use

The PowerPoint style interface will put new users at ease instantly. Storyline is designed as simplistically as possible with the option to build your own slide or use one of the Articulate templates as a starting point. Storyline is great for instructional designers and learning professionals at any level of technical expertise.

 

2. Tracking and Reporting

Storyline content is Tin Can, SCORM and AICC compliant so any data tracking and reporting is an integrated part of the content development process. Learner progress and outcomes can easily be recorded and measured using your learning management system (LMS) or using Articulate Online.

 

3.    Interactivity

Great E-Learning contains high levels of interactivity. Storyline allows you to quickly create:

  1. Screen Recordings
  2. Quizzes and Assessments
  3. Slide Layers
  4. Triggers
  5. States

 

4.    Characters and Templates

Storyline contains a number of templates and character packs which mean you don’t have to spend hours building your E-Learning design from scratch. For those developing or following brand guidelines, it is possible to create a template and share it with colleagues to ensure there is consistency in the E-Learning that you produce.

 

5.    HTML 5, Flash and Mobile devices

E-Learning created on Storyline is publishable in HTML5, Flash and the Articulate Mobile Player, meaning it is available to learners on a wide range of devices. Users can tap into learning content whenever, wherever with whatever device they prefer.

Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.