Imagine your organization has decided to impart training via eLearning and outsource the development. But, all you can provide your eLearning vendor is a huge number of MS Word files and PowerPoint presentations of your existing instructor-led courses (ILT). But instead of developing a lengthy and tedious eLearning course, the vendor suggests developing a curriculum of 10 microlearning modules.
Each module will have individual learning objectives pertaining to the goal of the overall training. But, are you wondering whether these modules will be consistent and cohesive in the final output? That’s when standardization of certain elements in an eLearning curriculum comes to the rescue!
Standardization implies common elements will be implemented similarly in all the modules of the curriculum. Standardizing these elements comes handy when different development teams of the vendor work on different modules, helping them deliver quickly, with consistency.
What happens when there is no standardization? Chances are modules might be inconsistent and not what you expected, which implies rework for course developers and additional cost and delays. Want to know what are the elements that can be standardized to save development time and cost? These elements can be categorized into two types, soft and hard.
Instructional Design Strategy
The ID strategy will determine the ideal method of how the content should be taught to the learners. For instance, whether the modules should be scenario-based, have a guided approach, or include case studies. If an avatar has been used in some modules and not in the rest, learners might feel disconnected, which can put them off track. Hence, adherence to a standard ID strategy will ensure a smooth learning experience throughout the online curriculum.
Assessments allows you as well as learners to gauge their acquisition of knowledge from the eLearning modules. Inconsistency in the type of assessment used, number of attempts given, as well as feedback across modules can discourage learners and might even lead to the failure of the entire eLearning endeavor.
When the assessment strategy is standardized, each course development team working on different modules knows when, where, and what assessment to use, without having to worry about discrepancies.
Coming to the audio strategy, it is important to determine when and how to use audio, and whether it adds value to the course. Audio can be supportive but might not be necessary always. For instance, if some modules use audio to simply narrate the onscreen text and in other modules to provide additional information, learners might get confused as to what to expect from the audio. Not sticking to a standardized audio strategy can distract learners.
Level of Interactivity
Developing a course which allows learners to actively participate by either thinking or doing is very important. For instance, if some modules use interactivities such as click on tabs, flip cards, drag and drop, and other modules don’t, learning can be engaging in the former and passive in the latter. So as to maintain consistency in what interactivities to use and how often, the usage of interactivities should be standardized to provide an optimal learning experience from each module.
These strategies are finalized in accordance with the type of content and the learning objectives of the course, once the content has been analyzed by the course development team. These strategies will determine how the content will be treated in the eLearning curriculum. Consistency in these elements is directly proportional to the effectiveness of the final eLearning curriculum.
Graphical User Interface (GUI)
The Graphical User Interface allows learners to communicate with the eLearning course using the various elements such as buttons and menus. A GUI should enable learners to easily navigate through the course, without having to provide additional instructions. Also, if the GUI is inconsistent in its appearance, different modules might end up looking standalone and will have no connection to one another.
For instance, if the course is on sustainable development, some course developers might use leaves in the GUI whereas other modules maybe plain. Do you think the online course will be effective with such inconsistencies? Here are some of the elements of the GUI that should be looked for consistency in different modules in the eLearning curriculum:
- Buttons: Are all buttons of the same size and shape? Is the placement same in all modules?
- Icons: Are the icons similar in design for all modules? Where are they placed onscreen?
- Color: Do the colors used match your organization branding? Do all the modules use solid color or gradient?
- Menu: Is the menu bar hidden or visible in all the modules?
In an eLearning curriculum, there will be certain screens across modules, whose layout can be standardized for all the modules, to maintain consistency and save development time. These screen layouts can then be put in a template library for every course development team to access. What are these screens, by the way? Some of them are:
- Welcome Screen
- Learning Objectives Screen
- Topic Introduction/Agenda Screen
- ‘What’s In It for Me?’ Screen
- Assessment Introduction Screen
- Assessment Result Screen
- Summary Screen
Apart from the GUI and screen layouts, typography also plays an important role in an eLearning curriculum. Inconsistent usage of fonts in different modules might not go down well with learners and can distract them.
For instance, using different font styles and sizes for headings or subheads can confuse learners. Hence, it’s always better if elements of typography such as what fonts and sizes to use for headings, subheadings, bullet points, etc. are standardized to provide uniformity. Additionally, the color of highlighted text, links should also be considered.
To standardize the above elements, you can either provide your own style guide or ask the vendor to define the standards before course development is undertaken. It saves time on rework and also eases the process.
Hence, standardization not only ensures consistency throughout the modules in an e-learning curriculum but also saves time on rework and additional cost. What’s more? It helps in developing a curriculum that is effective and of good quality.