Ideas for your next elearning project – Part 1
September 24, 2021
Last week, Gill ran a session at the Charity Learning Consortium members meeting full of elearning ideas and examples. The aim was to inspire and share some of the things we have included for people who are either commissioning or developing elearning in-house. This interactive session allowed members of the online audience to select from ten categories. We managed to get through four of these in the session before running out of time. This blog post is the first of two and starts with the six categories we didn’t manage to cover in the session. Next week we will go over the three we covered in the session as a reminder, or for those of you who didn’t attend.
One of the tasks for an instructional designer is to help learners connect with the content and care about the topic. Sometimes this is easy, the learner wants to know about the topic and can easily connect with how the module will help them to do their role. However, sometimes the connection isn’t as clear or, more commonly, they view the topic negatively. They may even think they know enough from completing previous training on the subject. Think GDPR, Health and Safety and IT security.
- Use first-person stories that show the negative impact of not doing something right.
- Help the learner feel what it’s like when things go wrong.
- Put them under pressure by giving them a timed activity that requires focus.
Tackling sensitive topics
We work predominantly with charities, and often the bespoke content we create for them relates to their work. This can involve sensitive or complex topics such as suicide, illness, abortion, sexual violence, and abuse. First and foremost, we are sensitive to the needs of our staff working on these topics and offer alternative projects when topics are emotionally challenging. However, we have found that the team often find comfort in the knowledge that they are creating something positive that can help people.
When it comes to the topic, our first step is to research, discuss, and understand what is considered best practice when presenting the topic. This might involve specific languages, terms (to use and to avoid) and visual representation. We then consider our audience and their connection, experience, and exposure to the topic. For example, someone new to a sensitive topic may need a different approach to someone more experienced and slightly desensitised.
- Use animations and visuals to represent the content.
- Be honest in your approach. Can you/should you push the learner outside of their comfort zone?
- Consider the need to suggest learner wellbeing when completing the module.
- Warn your learners that the content may be distressing, and signpost them to support.
Tailoring for your audience
Some modules are created for a specific audience, while others are made for a large group of people with different knowledge, background, experience, and skills. For example, a safeguarding module for professionals working with service users would be different from a safeguarding module for all staff at an animal charity. Tailoring your content can help to ensure that learners receive content that is relevant. This can help to ensure you maximise your impact, relevance, and engagement. It can also allow the learner to personalise the content (to connect it to their role) and save them time (by allowing them only to complete content that’s relevant to them).
Examples might include:
- Asking them a question at the start of the module and tailoring content based on their response.
- Providing scenarios relevant to their area of work/based on their role.
- Addressing them directly by name.
- Allowing them to select characters that represent them in stories.
A typical elearning module is 15-30 minutes long. That isn’t much time. It may be appropriate to support their experience with practical and tangible takeaways. This might include printable crib sheets, personalised lists created by the learner. It can also be helpful to summarise the key points and present these in a visually engaging and memorable way.
Making it practical
“We’re big believers in making things practical, from the talks we do to the training we provide and the elearning we create. We believe in putting actionable change at the centre of our design. So, we encourage clients to think about the changes learners will make to their behaviour and actions.
Inside our modules, we give learners relevant and authentic activities that help people apply what they have learnt in different ways.
- Provide opportunities to fail and learn from mistakes, for example, authentic scenarios.
- Activities that allow them to create personal action plans they can keep.
- Use offline activities that encourage them to apply what they have learnt straight away before continuing the module.
Using sound effects
We love sound effects. They are fun, engaging and involve little or no cost. For people who can hear the sounds (from accessibility, logistical or technology perspective), they provide a more immersive experience that stimulates another sense and works well in:
- Stories – think background noise, keyboard tapping.
- Games – think cartoon stretching, popping or pings.
- Key points – think ‘give us a call’ and a phone rings.
If the learner cannot hear the sound effects, the core learning is not affected.
Check back next week for part 2 of this article where we will look at the use of humour, easter eggs and the importance of grabbing the learners attention.