Here are five passive activities to eliminate from your design as quickly as possible.
Strive to keep text direct, simple and short. Larger passages of text can be especially demanding for screen-based reading because it strains your eyes and challenges your concentration levels.
It also requires passive involvement, which soon gets boring. Instead, use video clips. Keep them short and stimulating, no longer than a minute—that’s roughly 100 written/typed words. You can also use voice recordings but edit them formally to include ambient noise, sound effects, and mood music. This makes them far more engaging than simply listening to a disembodied voice. Dramatize your clips for added interest and improved recall.
Online training shouldn’t just be a digitized textbook. The approach some eLearning developers take, scanning printed materials and uploading them, is half-baked. Similarly, hiring a professional voice actor to read the text as it is, is not helpful either. Remember the average adult’s focus has shrunk. Studies show that in the year 2000, the average human being could focus on 12-second intervals. Currently, our attention spans have whittled down to 8 seconds. (Goldfish can converge on a thought or idea at least a second longer—9 seconds.)
Limit any videos to between 15 and 30 seconds or build in some interactive features. Whichever media you’re using, corporate learners should be asked to “do something” every 10 seconds or so. It doesn’t really matter what they do, as long as they’re yanked out of passivity. For example, infographics work better than a block of text. Your corporate learners’ eyes move to a new image every few words. The accompanying visuals make it easier to retain the information they’ve consumed. They’re also more fun to read. Plus, they cause less optical strain than reading small black letters off a brightly back-lit white screen.
Movement jars the brain into action and creates a more stimulating environment, in contrast to passive online training activities. So, while drawings and photos are better than text, animated content trumps both. An image may improve the aesthetic of your online training course or even stir up some controversy. However, employees are still just passive observers. Wherever possible, apply multimedia tools that engage as many of your corporate learners’ senses as possible. Virtual Reality software often uses haptic sensations and surround sound. Mood music and ambient noise in video and audio clips are a good immersive touch. You might use GIFs in place of static images, or animated elements in your charts and graphs. Photoshop and interactive PDFs are great for this function. Branching scenarios are good, too.
We’ve all sat through a lecture that was a tad too long or featured a monotonous speaker. Some of us may have even nodded off, despite our best efforts to stay focused and engaged. Omit all recorded lectures and presentations from your Instructional Design and replace them with engaging audio online training resources, such as podcasts that focus on specific topics or webinars that allow employees to interact with the host and their peers. This also gives you the ability to incorporate interactive online training resources. For instance, a pop quiz to evaluate their knowledge or a poll to gather eLearning feedback.
It’s true, they do have to click on the controls to move to the next slide. But that just requires them to go through the motions, rather than absorbing the ideas. Instead of just incorporating static slideshows, give your corporate learners interactive scenarios that put knowledge into practice. Or even interactive videos that feature a clip followed by a brief pop quiz that tests their comprehension. If you do go with a slideshow, to avoid offering another one of those passive online training activities, include attention-grabbing visuals and supplemental links at the end where employees can find more info. For instance, a list of microlearning online training resources they can use to immerse themselves in the subject matter and apply their new skills.
So, it turns out human beings can barely maintain their focus. Mobile technology has cut our attention spans to less than 10 seconds. As an eLearning developer, you need creative ways to engage learners. This doesn’t mean that texts and videos are restricted to 6-second formats. But to leave behind passive online training activities, it does mean you have to nudge your corporate learners 5 or 6 times a minute. Use infographics instead of bulky blocks of text. Opt for moving media wherever you can. Prioritize immersive, interactive online training content. Lay out your online training material in a way that moves your corporate learners into renewed reaction. It could be as simple as turning a page, clicking “next,” or adjusting their eye muscles from text to visual. That’s what makes (animated) graphics so effective.
About the author – Christopher Pappas
Christopher Pappas is the Founder of eLearning Industry’s Network, which is the largest online community of professionals involved in the eLearning field. Christopher holds an MBA and an M.Ed. (Learning Design) from BGSU. (https://elearningindustry.com/elearning-authors/christopher-pappas).
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