Thursday, October 15, 2015

Guide to Good Online Learning

Good online learning is deceptively simple but very engaging with a depth of knowledge that is delivered almost without the learner realising they are absorbing it.  It takes time and skill to build and embed the level of knowledge and feedback required behind any interactivity, an infographic, a cartoon or other seemingly light-hearted devices.

Here are some cues to take reference from when starting off with your course:

Set the goal
Define the end objective first and test every element against it as you create each unit.

Boring content makes boring online learning
Look critically at what you want to deliver before you start creating online content.  Get the content right before you start working out the delivery details.  Online learners are not excited by our factoids, stock photos and effects. They want to do something, to try something.

Step away from the information dump
Find creative ways to place the course content in a context that is relevant to the learner. Knowledge needs to be provided before it can be learnt and it cannot be tested until it has been learnt - but it can be provided and learnt creatively.

Make it visually appealing
People are attracted to things that look interesting.  Craft a visual theme that is interesting, relevant to the content, and immerses the learner in the course.

Don’t Push – Let the Learner Pull
Create an environment where the learner has to pull information in.  Instead of a series of click-and-read screens, give the learner a problem to solve.  Then provide all of the information that you would normally have pushed by creating access to additional, just-in-time resources.  As the learner attempts to solve the problem, they will pull the information they need.

Less can be more
Online learning units are most effective in a form that takes no more 15-20 minutes for the learner to complete.  Online learners will work at their own pace and in their own order.  Anything that takes longer than 15 seconds to download is likely to be dismissed.

Vary the content
Too much of any one thing is just as boring as too much text. Breaking-up content into smaller combined chunks will allow for a better learning experience.  Give learners challenges and tasks but make sure there are clues and answers readily available.

Engage early and hold on
Online learners must be engaged quickly with information that talks directly to them – not always the same as what we want to tell them first.  There is a fine line between being too simple (one question wonders – no revisits) and too complex (making one activity do too much – lose the thread).  Online learners will revisit engaging material regularly to refresh and ‘play again’.

It’s OK to have fun
By virtue of the medium, online learning tends to work best when it comes across more playfully and with humour - where the learner is in on the joke through being engaged and involved.

There is a place for novelty
What might seem novel the first time can quickly become annoying.  Don’t overdo the use of transitions, text effects and other visual or aural distractions.

All these tips come from my experience in online teaching and learning. I hope they will come in handy for you. I would love to know of any different guidelines/best practices that you follow for good online learning. Comments welcome.

About Caryl Oliver
Caryl Oliver has been a leading voice in online and mobile learning for 12 years and is a founding director of the International Association for Mobile Learning. Caryl speaks regularly at conferences, seminars and workshop on using technology to deliver training and online learning at all levels. By passion, Caryl is an interactive learning enthusiast. Check out her detailed profile here.   

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