Have you ever visited a mall, where the layout of each floor was different and you had to huff and puff your way searching for the escalator/lift on each floor? If you have, I’m sure you will agree with me that it can be quite a frustrating experience and might have even caused you to skip that mall on your next shopping spree, though it has your favorite collection of scarves.
Many of our eLearning courses suffer the same fate. They frustrate learners by their lack of uniformity, and deter them from taking up the course in the future. So, as Instructional Designers, how can we avoid this loophole and retain learner engagement?
Problem: Lack of Consistency
Well, before answering this question, let us focus on the problem. This problem is more noticeable in eLearning courses with multiple modules. Due to time constraints, each module is developed by a different individual, and based on individual preferences, the layouts of components differ.
What are Components
In the context of eLearning, components can refer to, but are not limited to the following:
- Interactivities: Shape, placement, size, colors, etc.
- Buttons: Shape, placement, size, colors, etc.
- Bullets: Shape, size, color, indentation, etc.
- Instruction formats: Size, color, placement, etc.
- Fonts: Style and size for titles, sub- titles, instructions, source references, etc.
The Ensuing Chaos
Too many cooks spoil the broth – says the proverb. This holds good even for eLearning courses. The modules developed by different individuals will share no similarities and look different in terms of the components, colors, and fonts used, to name just a few.
Imagine the learners’ confusion when such disparate modules are bundled and delivered as a complete eLearning course. How do we reduce this confusion and provide learners a well-designed, consistent course?
Well, the answer is simple – standardize, standardize, standardize. The importance of standardization in eLearning courses can’t be over emphasized.
How to Achieve Standardization
Standardization is a very effective way to churn out eLearning courses with consistent modules.
The genesis of standardization lies in ‘Content Comprehension’. Take time to analyze your content and identify the common learning objects in all the modules. These objects can be processes, steps, activities, tables, bulleted lists, and so on. Next, decide on the presentation patterns for each of these learning objects.
This process will require the entire team of instructional designers to work in tandem. It will cost time initially, but more than makes up for the lost time in the subsequent stages, as we will see.
The next step is to create templates for each of the identified presentation patterns. Templates define components visually. For example, the template for a ‘Click on Tabs’ interactivity could specify the placement of the tabs, colors to be used for the different tab states (normal, rollover, visited), font style and size of the text, placement of images inside the tabs, etc.
Templates can also be created for other common elements such as Learning Objectives, Assessments, Instructions, etc.
Obtain Customer Sign-off
These templates can be sent to the client for approval and once approved, incorporated in the eLearning course. Hence, once ready, the templates can be reused whenever needed, with minor changes (if required; example: having 4 tabs instead of 3).
Hence, templates provide the perfect solution for the standardization of eLearning courses. They help even out the differences and present a common system of components. Now, no matter how many individuals are involved in designing the eLearning course, the output will be consistent in terms of look and feel, as all the developers access the same, common pool of components and follow the guidelines.
This approach reduces confusion and lends a systematic approach to the eLearning course. Hence, irrespective of the number of modules, a holistic, consistent whole is delivered to the learners. This increases learner engagement, and fosters good relations with the clients.
Have any steps or ideas to streamline this process? Please do share with us.