There’s no denying that writing e-learning content is a tricky job. It’s difficult to achieve that perfect balance between including all of the content the learner should know and not overloading them with information. There are also some common traps into which the unwary e-learning content writer can easily fall if he or she is not on the lookout for them.
Do you always manage to avoid them?
1. Telling the Learner Everything You Know
This pitfall is guaranteed to make learners lose all of their enthusiasm. You are the expert, but your learners probably don’t need to know as much as you do. Before you start writing, think about what the learners need to know and what they should be able to do with that knowledge at the end of the course. These are your learning objectives, and if you have a clear understanding of them when you start, you will create a more focused course that is much more likely to succeed in terms of both engaging and teaching the learner.
2. Assuming the Learner Knows Either a Lot or Nothing
Tell learners a lot of things they already know, and they will be bored. Start at a level that is too advanced for them, and they will quickly give up. Instead, think about your audience and the level of knowledge they already have. Ideally, the material will be aimed at people who are all starting from a similar level. Find out what that level is, and then start the content for your training slightly below it. You should aim to give the learner some very brief information that they are already aware of to set the context before going on to expand in detail.
It is trickier if the learners are not all starting from the same level, as you will need to bring the people with the least knowledge up to speed without boring those who are already more advanced. In this situation, it might be worth talking to the instructional designer to see if together, you can develop content that allows the advanced learners to bypass the simple material.
It’s really hard to learn a list of facts. If all of the information you are providing is new and lacking in context, your learners will be overloaded and confused. The trick is to tell a story with the information.
What if the information you are trying to convey doesn’t lend itself to a story? Weave the facts together in such a way that they build a logical progression. It’s much easier to retain information when you can remember it within a particular context, and this is particularly true for adult learners, who use their previous knowledge and experience as an anchor for new information.
4. Words, Words, Words, Words (and Then More Words)
If you’re writing the content, you are probably not the one designing and building the e-learning itself. However, it is still important to consider design. Visually engaging training content is going to be much more effective than just simply providing text on a screen. If you think a process lends itself well to a diagram, draft the diagram for the designer. If you can think of a way to phrase the information so it lends itself to a picture, do it!
5. Getting too Attached
You’ve spent ages laboring over finding and organizing information and writing your content. It’s only natural to feel attached, but try to resist! Your content will almost always be reviewed (whether at this stage or at a later stage) by people who will suggest making changes or cutting information. Sometimes, you might be able to push back and keep it your way, but often, you will have to accept the criticism. It’s all part of the process.
Creating the content for an online course is time-consuming and challenging. However, if you can avoid these common traps, the content you write will be more effective and engaging and, ultimately, will result in better learning outcomes.