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What eLearners Want: 9 Components of Instructional Design

by on October 9, 2013

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If you could look into a crystal ball and read eLearner’s minds, you might hear stuff like “Why does this course treat me like I’m in kindergarten?” and “I wish I could just learn at my own pace.” Of course, you can’t read minds, so the next best thing is to research some of the key components of good instructional design and then use that knowledge to create courses and lectures that cater to your learners’ needs and wants. Wave your hands over your crystal ball and predict exactly what eLearners want out of their experience.

1. A marriage of instructional and graphic design While information is important, so is the medium by which it’s delivered. Adding multimedia components and putting effort into user experience means eLearners get the message in the most appealing way possible. It also grabs your learner’s attention from the start for a more engaged audience.

2. Allows for social structure A study published in a 2009 issue of Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects found that eLearners were most responsive and successful in eLearning when there was a social component involved. Solid instructional design allows the ability to check in with instructors, share with colleagues and work together.

3. Gives test-out options Don’t insult the intelligence of your learners. “Dumbing down” the material, going over subjects already discussed and requiring all learners to go through the same material could leave you with frustrated students. Instead, allowing for a test-out option gives your learners some of the control to learn at their own pace.

4. Offers freedom While you may be concerned about how your learners receive information, allowing only one path to completion can create a disinterest between the instructional design and the actual information. By planning components that allow your learners a degree of freedom – clicking ahead or discovering new topics, for example – your learners become more engaged with the design and therefore, the information.

5. Communicates simply Don’t use 10 words when 5 would suffice. Simplicity counts when it comes to eLearning, so don’t bombard your students with complicated terms, diagrams and graphics. Instead, remember that knowledge is more easily retained when simplicity is used to drive home the most important points. Metaphors and graphics may communicate more effectively than a wall of words.

6. Allows the most applicable user experience You can’t expect all of your eLearners to think and act exactly the same, which means they may interact differently with eLearning in general. By offering a number of ways with which eLearners can interact with programs, games and courses, they can choose the experience that works best for them. Audio options, case studies and tests can all be used to enhance individual experience.

7. Gives time to think and reflect One of the main benefits of eLearning should be the ability to learn at one’s own pace. Without the time to think about new concepts or test new skills, your efforts may be lost on an eLearner who needs more time with an idea. Giving time to pause before moving on can help accommodate those learners.

8. Offers quality over quantity Sure, you’ve got a lot of information to share with your learners. But valuing a large quantity of information over better, more fleshed out ideas could mean your learners retain less. Edit your information and focus on giving your learners meatier portions.

9. Organized material for easier access Don’t assume your learners know everything about the course from the get-go. Having regular bulletins, a table of contents, syllabus and easy access to each topic means your students have all the information they need right at their fingers for less aimless clicking and more time with the material.

Okay, so we don’t have a crystal ball that helps you read the minds of your eLearners. Instead, successful courses and learner insight are your best bet for predicting what works and what doesn’t. By knowing your audience and keeping individual experience in mind, you can create instructional design to give your learners the best chance of success.

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About the Author

Jae Curtis

As a features writer for the website BrainFlash.com and RaiseYourFlag.com, I've had the opportunity to cover MOOCs and online learning options for students looking to continue their education in a less-traditional manner. In doing so, I've forged a deep interest and understanding in the world of online learning, from the unique challenges presented to e-educators to the future of online education. I think I'd make an ideal addition to the team, particularly in covering the latest trends for online learning.