Designing better eLearning courses

Hannah Waddams | 08/10/2017

It's well known among learning professionals that today's learners are more distracted and less engaged. When learners are distracted by smartphones, emails and the internet, how do we ensure our courses are effective, easy to digest and keep learners attention?

This is a challenge faced by instructional designers every day, and Karen Quinton, Head of our content development division, tackled this problem in her most recent webinar 'Designing better courses'. 

In this webinar Karen discussed six learning design principles that aid essential processing. Essential processing is defined as:

“The mental effort related to focusing on the core learning material, making sense of it and transferring it to long term memory”

These learning design principles focus on ensuring your course itself is not distracting for learners and ensuring that learners have the mental capacity to digest, interpret and understand the information you're trying to convey.

Pre-training principle

The pre-training principle ensures that learners know the name and characteristics of key concepts ahead of training. For example, defining key terms at the start of a course could aid learner comprehension, and prevents them becoming distracted by trying to define key terms themselves.

Multimedia principle

The multimedia principle is simple: using text and graphics is beneficial for learners, rather than using text or graphics on their own.

Segmenting principle

Segmenting (also known as chunking) is spoken about a lot in the eLearning industry, especially with declining attention spans. The segmenting principle relates to breaking up the content into smaller, easier to read sections. For example, it is clear to see in the images below that the segmented slide is much easier to digest.

Not Chunked.png        Chunked.png

Modality principle 

Clark and Mayer state that using speech, rather than on-screen text, can result in significant learning gains. For example, if you have a complex diagram, describing it through voice over, rather than on-screen text would benefit the learner. This ensures the learner has time to focus on the diagram, rather than switching their attention between text and the image. 

Personalization principle

The personalization principle states that the style of language used has an impact on learning outcomes. Using a conversational tone, for example talking directly to the learner as 'you', and referring to yourself as 'we', creates a relaxed, conversational feel throughout your learning.

Embodiment principle

There is evidence that using some representation of a tutor in eLearning can increase learning outcomes. However, it's important to ensure this isn't distracting the learner. A best practice tip is to take this embodiment away when the learning material is complex.


If you want to learn more about these principles, and hear some of Karen’s top tips for designing better courses, why not
listen back to the webinar now? Or if you want to check out Karen's previous webinars, you can do so here

Listen now

Hannah Waddams

Hannah is a marketing executive here at Omniplex

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