The Beginning of e-Learning Design? Step Away from the Computer

Those very new to working with PowerPoint as an authoring tool find it easy to fall into the “load content” trap. It’s tempting – and PowerPoint makes it so very easy – to want to start copying and pasting content from source material into slides. Or to just take existing classroom PowerPoint decks, adding some clip art or other decorative elements, and uploading it as “training”. I advise new learners to put their hands in the air and step away from the computer. What if you were told you had to take an online course on “leadership” or “customer service” or “forklift safety”, “sales strategies”, or “ethics in patient care”? Would you want to see a bunch of slides with nothing but bulleted text and some marginally-relevant photos? Of course not.

So don’t just start working from your “content”. Take a step back and think about what would make that content interesting for you. Maybe it’s a customer-service-problem mystery to solve, or a startling new way of looking at ethics in patient care. Maybe it’s examining a case study with an unusual outcome. Maybe it’s video-clip testimonials from sales people describing how they overcame the objections that landed a recent sale. When facing the assignment of completing an eLearning course, no one says, “Gee, I hope there’s a pretty template and lots of words on the screen.” A tip: Go Google your topic plus phrases like “free e-Learning” or “online training”. Try both web searches and image searches. You’ll find that there are thousands – really – of online programs for “Unlawful Harassment”, but only a handful of them will be very good. What did those designers do to make the content interesting and engaging? Was it some sort of technical wizardry or an expensive approach? Most times you’ll find that good e-Learning is about interesting design, not expensive software.

Here are some basic guidelines:

Basic Guidelines For Eelearning Design Beginners

Chart adapted from Bozarth, Jane. (2014). Better Than Bullet Points: Creating Engaging eLearning with PowerPoint (2nd edition). San Francisco: Wiley.

Want more? Check out Jane Bozarth’s book Better Than Bullet Points: Creating Engaging eLearning with PowerPoint, now out in its second edition.

Jane Bozarth has been a training practitioner for more than 20 years. Her specialty, finding low-cost ways of creating or purchasing quality e-Learning solutions, led to the publication of E-Learning Solutions on A Shoestring in 2005. Since then she has produced two editions of Better than Bullet Points Creating Engaging e-Learning with PowerPoint, as well as From Analysis to Evaluation, and her latest, Show Your Work. Dr. Bozarth’s dissertation focused on social learning and communities of practice, which informed her bestselling Social Media for Trainers. She is an e-Learning Guild Master and the recipient of a LOLA award, a Training Magazine Editor’s Pick Award, NASPE’s Rooney Award for innovation in government service, and an NC State University Distinguished Alumni Award. You can find her most Thursdays (8:30-9:30 pm ET) helping to moderate Twitter's popular #lrnchat.

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