In graduate school, I read a book that took an evidence-based approach to eLearning design and development - Clark and Mayer’s eLearning and the Science of Instruction (2008). What I loved about this book at the time was that it gave both proven (check!) and practical (check!) guidelines for how to create eLearning that actually leads to learning and performance improvement. Little did I know then how useful these tips and tricks would be in my career as an eLearning designer and developer for several Fortune 500 companies - useful not only because they lead to learning but also because they work for the business. I know, I know, if you’re in the field, you know these two things RARELY, if ever, coincide! So hold onto your hats because this post gives you some simple, evidence-based eLearning design principles (thank you Clark and Mayer!) that are sure to resonate in the business setting, making sense both from a learning perspective as well as your business’ bottom line.
The Segmentation Principle
Learning lengthy, complex topics can often lead to cognitive overload. It can also be impractical in a fast-paced business setting. The Segmentation Principle in eLearning is the idea that in order to be effective, complex topics should be chunked into bite-size segments. It’s not always possible to remove content from a lesson, but you can break it down into short, sensible segments, thus lowering the cognitive complexity for your learner.
Why It Will Work for You: I love this principle in the workplace! I don’t know about you, but I’m always getting feedback that training takes away from other tasks...primarily those that make the company money. This principle translates particularly well in sales organizations. Don’t worry about teaching your sales folks everything at once. Roll it out in short, well-done, well-spaced out modules - making not only their brains happy but also the business happy because it doesn’t take your people off the floor for too long.
The Coherence Principle
Turns out not anything and everything about a topic is absolutely necessary to learning. Similar to the segmentation principle in that too much information can overload your learner, the Coherence Principle is the idea that you should only add information to an eLearning module that is absolutely necessary to the instructional goal. When in doubt, leave it out, is what I like to say. This includes the idea that simpler can actually be better when it comes to things like graphics and/or explanations of processes.
Why It Will Work for You: The coherence principle is another practical principle I love, although I admit, this one can be a bit more challenging in the workplace when inevitably you’ll have that one project manager or product owner who thinks they need to add every last stinking detail about a given topic to the eLearning module in order for it to be effective. Remove the extraneous clutter or better yet, don’t add it to begin with. It will make you more efficient as a designer and developer which is a win for your organization while at the same time, it will reduce the amount of time learners spend trying to learn - a win for theirs.
The Personalization Principle
So here’s a cool fact - humans actually work harder to understand a concept when they are learning it in conversation with a partner (Clark & Mayer, 2008 and Beck, McKeown, Sandora Kucan, & Worthy, 1996). The Personalization Principle is the idea that you’ll get more engagement and actually increase the quality of your learning outcomes if you use conversations rather than formal style in your written and spoken eLearning content. It includes using personable avatars and even revealing yourself and your thoughts within the eLearning.
Why It Will Work for You: Remember how boring your compliance training can be, especially when it’s written in legalese or a more formal writing style? And remember how we suggested in this article one of the ways you can prevent this is by getting creative? Well, the personalization principle is one way to do that. Believe it or not, most companies actually care that their employees know things like business ethics and safety protocol. Why? Because it saves them a ton of headaches (and MONEY) in the long-run. They don’t want their employees gaming the system - just clicking through to pass - they want them internalizing the content, living, breathing it. Ensure this happens the first time by designing and developing your eLearning in a way that uses real world scenarios, makes learners feel as though they are in a conversation by using “I” and “You”, and uses avatars that exhibit human behavior and conversational dialogue.
So that’s it - three super practical and more importantly effective design principles that are sure to resonate with the business. To learn more about creating eLearning that aligns with business side of the business, contact us today!
Clark and Mayer