Idiosyncrasies of E-learning – Avoid These Pitfalls

Idiosyncrasies of E-learning - Avoid These Pitfalls

In the e-learning industry, we always strive to develop e-learning courses that are engaging, innovative, and faciliate maximum knowledge transfer in the most effective way to learners. E-learning courses are meant for adults and we need to adhere to the adult learning principles while crafting courses for them. But, sometimes in our attempt to create perfect learning experiences, we tend to impose certain restrictions in the course which totally contradict the adult learning principles and frustrate learners. We might think these restrictions facilitate learning and ensure that learners do not miss out on any aspect of the course, but in reality, they might be confusing, silly, and defeat the whole purpose, rather than adding value.

In my experience as an Instructional Designer, I’ve come across a few of such issues which are best avoided. My blog will highlight these issues and some simple tips to avoid them.

  1. Restriction at the Mastery Quiz
  2. ‘Try Again’ Option in Formative Assessments 

Restriction at the Mastery Quiz

I once came across a requirement where the client had an open navigation – learners had the freedom to navigate through the course using the Menu. But they wanted to restrict access to the mastery quiz.

Learners were to take the mastery quiz only after viewing all the preceeding slides.

What does NOT work

Initially, we did not impose any restrictions on the Menu. However, if learners accessed the mastery quiz without going through all the content slides, they received an alert message saying they had to complete all the slides in order to access the mastery quiz. This was very confusing and frustrating since learners had no way of knowing which slides they had missed.

The whole exercise was futile and it did not serve any purpose. Giving learners free access in the menu and restricting them at the level of mastery quiz is pointless.

What DOES work

The desired functionality can be implemented using two simple alternatives.

a. Grant sequential access in the menu

Using this option, learners will be able to access the next screen only after completing the current screen. This is to ensure they do not miss out on any screen in the course.

b. Highlight visited slides in the menu

This is the best option – it gives learners the flexibilty to explore the course from the menu. Visited slides can be shown in a different color. If learners proceed to the mastery quiz without completing the slides, they will be able to identify the missed slides at a glance, without any confusion.

‘Try Again’ Option in Formative Assessments

This is yet another pitfall we need to avoid. Since formative assessments are meant to gauge learners’ understanding rather than scoring them, we tend to design the questions so that learners have unlimited options to answer them and can proceed only when they answer correctly. This approach is good as it reinforces learning, but it needs to be used with caution as it can become redundant in a few cases.

What does NOT work

In the case of True/False, Match, and Drag and Drop questions with limited options, forcing learners to answer correctly to proceed is quite redundant.

For example, in a True/False question, if the learner anwers incorrectly, the correct answer is very obvious and forcing him to make the selection again and telling him his answer is correct or giving feedback such as ‘Great’, ‘Good Job’, and so on adds no value to the learning. Conversely, it might frustrate learners. 

What DOES work

It is always a good idea to review your questions once they are framed, go through what is being asked of the learners, the number of options available, the type of assessment, and so on and then decide whether giving them unlimited chances to answer is a good strategy. If it is not, give them a single chance to answer. Provide appropriate feedback telling them why they are wrong and what the correct answer is. This is to reinforce learning and make the assessment question more relevant.

Other Issues

Apart from these issues, there are other aspects, which if checked properly, will ensure that the e-learning course does not lose its value and provides learners a positive learning experience. These issues, though not major, are equally important and enhance the aesthetic value of the course.

1. ‘Do You Know’ Questions

If you are using ‘Do You Know’ questions at the beginning of your e-learning course, ensure you ask general, relevant questions related to the topic, which the learners will be able to answer without having to go through the course.

Do NOT base your questions on information provided in the module.

The main aim of using these questions is to provide learners a point of reference to something they already know about the module. This will bridge the gap between the known and the unknown and help learners relate to what is yet to come.

2. Characters vs. Animations

If you have characters or avatars explaining some concepts through animations, ensure that the size of characters and animations are proportionate.

For example, if talking about large silos or tanks, ensure the characters are not larger than them.

3. Language and Image Consistency

Ensure that you follow the correct form of English – American or British throughout the course.

Coming across the word ‘analyze’ in a slide and ‘analyse’ in the next can frustrate learners and reveal the carelessness of the developer.

Similarly, use a single type of images throughout the course – whether real photos, vectors, line drawings, and so on to provide a consistent look.

Take time to check the e-learning course, to identify and eliminate such issues. This will improve the quality of the course and make it a memorable learning experience for learners. Do not frustrate them with careless errors and silly whims. You will be able to watch the results of increased learner engagement, course-completion rates, and most importantly improved productivity, performance, and thus ROI.

Do you have other thoughts on this topic? Do share with us.

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