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instructional design

It might seem blatantly obvious that proper planning and storyboarding in your eLearning is an absolute must, but you would be surprised how many in the eLearning trenches blow off this simple, crucial process. You may read the title of this blog and say “three whole, separate things I have to remember to do my job in rock star mode?” But I have to tell you, it is not as easy as it sounds. To sit down and look at a project and just try to let your mind run free with instructional design strategies is a tough order for some people. The trick is to come up with the ideas that will keep your learner wanting to know more, anxiously anticipating what is going to happen next, wishing they could more quickly continue down the path that you have laid out for them to follow. All the time they are actually learning something. It could be a soft skill like teaching CSRs how to effectively interact with customers or it could be a training on the latest and greatest app or software program.

The answer to the question, “How do I design engaging eLearning?” is simple. Mt. Dew and lots of it. All kidding aside, it requires consumption of a moderate amount of Mt. Dew and the careful implementation of the following suggested steps to help you on your way to optimal engagement.

  1. Know your audience. Ask yourself these questions: Who are they? What do they like? How do they spend their time? How do they like to communicate? How do they like to receive communication? What annoys them?For example, if I were building a training for a sales department, I would really want to consider their time. The time that they are taking to sit through my training could be considered very valuable since it is time that they could be selling and making more money. My training had better sell them very quickly on the ROI for their time. This training course should demonstrate quickly how it will be worth their time because it will help them do their job better and increase sales. Also, it is imperative that I better give them some real-world examples quickly or they are going to turn on the autopilot and start hitting the next button as quickly as they can to get through my course.
  2. Become an expert in your topic. It takes half a second to realize that the author of a course knew nothing about their topic. Engage subject matter experts; ask all the questions that you think might come up in the training. Hold focus groups with your potential audience to find out what they already know and where the knowledge gaps are. Include just enough information in your training to avoid cognitive overload for your learner but have them walk away with new knowledge and to be excited to use it.
  3. Make it awesome. No matter what medium you create your training in, always be looking for new ways to do things. Mix it up. Don’t use the same old ways of presenting information and checking for knowledge. Use comics, create scenarios, micro-content, and spruce up your presentation by creating branching dynamics that will allow the learner to go down various paths. Have fun with it! Make it interesting. Include Easter Eggs. Give your characters some personality. If you are not as strong with design, use eLearning templates.

To conclude, build something that you are proud of. As Instructional Designers, we are all too familiar with rapid development and the ever-looming milestone deadlines. When you give it your very best and make it AWESOME, you will find that your learners will enjoy exploring it as much as you enjoyed creating it.

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