A film with spectacular special effects and visual razzle-dazzle might win appreciation of judges at Oscars. It may also be praised by movie goers who are ardent fans of this genre. However, an eLearning course with too much razzle-dazzle runs the risk of losing the purpose of its existence.
Rapid developments in technology have armed training managers and subject matter experts with tools to develop online training programs. We now have rapid authoring tools such as Articulate Storyline, Captivate, Lectora and Camtasia which require little or no programming knowledge. Each of the tools provide an array of options that can provide visual delight in terms of rich interactivities with options to include animations, videos and audio etc. It is very easy to get carried away in this technological fantasy to explore and experiment with all the options by incorporating them into an eLearning course.
However, a prudent learning design specialist knows that the purpose of an eLearning course is to transfer knowledge. Technology is only a means to transfer knowledge. There is no point in delighting a learner with fancy interactivities and games in an eLearning course where at the end of the course,the purpose for which the course has been developed is never met.
A training manager might use stories, anecdotes and jokes as an ice-breaker to establish rapport with the audience or to reinforce a point he is trying to make. But what happens if the training manager is remembered only for the jokes cracked and the stories he shared, while the context for them is forgotten? The purpose of training is defeated.
The same is applicable to an eLearning course. An eLearning course has various learning objectives such as diagrams, charts, images, videos, animations, music, voice over, sequencing, and branching that provide opportunities to lead learners to seek information. Indiscriminate use of these elements can distract learners and veer them away from their learning goal.
In his book titled, “Delivering E-learning“,Kenneth Fee says, “There are two focuses in design: the learner, and the purpose of the learning. These, more than anything else, should determine the design strategy”.
You need to have a well-planed “learning design strategy” that uses the elements provided by technology judiciously, based on sound instructional design principles. Bottom line, you need to cut the razzle-dazzle and focus on the purpose in eLearning courses.