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Custom eLearning: Online Tutorials vs. Printable Reference Guides

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Often when we work on custom eLearning projects we are faced with the decision of what type of reference materials we should include in the project. Should we include a link to online tutorials or should we create printable reference guides?

I think the answer to this question is dependent upon your audience and the content. Some learners are quick studies who can watch something one time and take off and run with it. Other learners might be new to a process or system and might need printed materials to refer back to until they feel confident with the process.

Here are some examples of when you might choose to use an online tutorial over a printed reference guide:

  • Some material, like how to use a new system or customize a template, might best be delivered via a short online tutorial. The learner can watch the tutorial and then practice what they have learned. (Support video 1
  • If the process is more complex, then a tutorial and written instructions might also be helpful. (Support video 2)

Here are a couple of examples of when printed reference materials might be a better option:

  • Some processes or systems are used so infrequently, that learners may not remember the process or steps when they need to use them. This is a good reason to have printable reference guides.
  • Location is another factor in your decision: Can the learner quickly refer back to an online tutorial while they are helping a client or completing a required task, or would a printed reference guide be much more quick and helpful? For example, are you creating a course for a customer service employee that operates a cash register? If the information you are sharing with the employee are product key codes, then a printed reference guide might be the best solution as the employee would not be able to quickly access an online tutorial while waiting on a client.

There are many other examples of when printed materials or online tutorials might be preferable.

Ultimately there is not one solution that fits all situations. There are many factors that weigh in on this decision. You have to fully know your audience and the expectations of them, to help you in this decision. Happy eLearning!

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One Comment

  1. Online Tutorials vs. Video vs. Printable Reference Guide?
    I might add that another choice may be to make a YouTube-like video for the same learning intervention. We are making a lot of them at our customers’ request, and they are not interactive. I don’t believe the learning is as sticky as when the learner gets to practice it, but they are definitely in demand for some audiences.

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