Online training content development
The phrase “content is king” is widely used in the marketing world, but it can refer to the eLearning as well. Do you know why?
1. Content can help you build the authority of your training.
2. Content can encourage learners’ engagement.
3. Content can add value to your training.
So, let’s see how you can make your training content great.
Imagine that you are in the following situation. You’ve already started working on your new eLearning course. You have completed the following steps:
1. You’ve defined the learning goals.
2. You’ve analyzed your target audience and its training needs.
3. You’ve defined the learning objectives.
The next step is the topic analysis. That’s the point where you need to start working on your course content. What is the information you need to include in your eLearning course?
To succeed at this stage, you have to work with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). They will provide you with their knowledge and existing training materials, such as PowerPoint presentations, presenter notes, reference documents, web resources, test questions, etc. It’s your responsibility to analyze these training materials (with the help of the SMEs) and to create content that is short, clear, concise, and engaging. Each learning objective needs to be presented with (key) information, case studies, real-life examples or scenarios, and a reference to additional learning resources covering the topic.
To analyze your training’s topics, you can ask your SMEs the following questions:
• What do learners need to know to meet the learning objective?
• What skills do learners need to perform the learning objective?
• What are the activities (tasks, exercises, case studies, scenarios) that can help learners understand the content?
• What are the most common mistakes people make (related to the topic)?
• What are the most common questions that people ask (related to the topic)?
• What is the information that is considered “obligatory”?
• How will you assess the learners’ knowledge?
To analyze the existing training resources, you can use the following questions:
• Are there any existing training materials that can ease the content development process (presentations, documents, manuals, specifications, videos, etc.)?
• Do these materials contain all the necessary information? Are they outdated? Are there any inaccuracies? Are they interesting and engaging?
• Is there any previous feedback on the quality of the training materials? What learners liked/disliked before?
• Is there any missing information?
• Why wasn’t the training considered successful before?
Practical eLearning content development tips
So, you already defined the topics of your eLearning course, now it’s time to continue with the content development. Here are 6 simple tips that will make your text useful, interesting and easy to read.
1. Your text should be easy to understand, clear and consistent throughout the training.
2. Don’t use phrases or jargon that some learners may not understand.
3. Use consistent formatting—choose one font and font size for titles, one font and font size for paragraphs, use consistent row length, use consistent font color, etc.
4. Place instructional text in the same place on each screen.
5. Leave enough white space between text blocks.
6. Each screen in your eLearning course should contain a limited amount of text, but enough to present all the necessary information.
Here are some additional tips that will ease your training content development process.
• Usually, SMEs will provide you with a PowerPoint presentation or any other type of text document. Take time to get acquainted with the topic and the existing content. Find additional resources on your own. Make questionnaires to use during the meetings with the SMEs.
• The provided training materials might be well-structured, clear and organized. However, the situation might be the opposite. Keep this in mind and don’t panic if the second happens to you. Talk with the SMEs and discuss the difficulties you’re experiencing.
• The training might cover a topic that includes very specific terminology. Take time to understand it. Make a dictionary to serve you as a reference, if necessary.
• If the training plan includes a narrator, keep in mind that it is a good practice for the on-screen text and the narrator’s script to be different.
• If the training will include audio and video files, you are the one that will be responsible for their text development.
• If there will be a dialogue scene in your training, you need to change the tone. You have to create a conversation that sounds easy and natural.
• All exercises, tasks, and tests should be related to the training content. Instructions should be short and clear.
• Don’t include information that is not related to the problems that the training aims to solve. Any unnecessary information will overwhelm the learners. It may even irritate them, and your efforts will be in vain.
• Talk with your SMEs about the deadlines. When will they send you the training materials? When do you need to send the first draft for review? And so on.
• Don’t take criticism personally. On the contrary, ask your SMEs for feedback. This will help you succeed in your job and create effective eLearning content.
• Of course, proofread and edit your text.
• Use tools such as Google Drive, Google Docs, Grammarly, etc. They will help you create, archive and edit your content.
The theory behind successful training content development
The adult learning theory of Malcolm Knowles
One of the main things you need to keep in mind while working on your eLearning course is the fact that your training targets adult people. Adults have different training needs and expectations compared to kids, so you need to get acquainted with the main principles of andragogy. Malcolm Knowles defined them some time ago and they are as follows:
• Adults need to know that the training will have a direct and immediate impact on their daily job duties.
• The training needs to be problem-oriented. Your content has to focus on defined problems and how they can be solved.
• Adults prefer to learn through their experiences. Your job is to provide them with a safe environment where they can test new things, make mistakes, progress, and use their knowledge.
• Adults prefer to have a say in the training development and assessment process.
Robert Gagne’s 9 events of instruction
To create effective training that focuses on the results and changes in learners’ behavior, you can use Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction.
1. Gain learners’ attention right at the beginning of the training. To achieve this, you can use an interesting example or a task that they need to complete.
2. Present the learning objectives. Your learners are adults, and adults want to know why they need to take the training, what’s in it for them, how the training will ease their day-to-day job duties, etc.
3. Make learners use their current knowledge. Include activities that will make them apply what they already know.
4. Present the content. Provide learners with new information.
5. Guide the learners. Supplement the content with examples.
6. Make learners use what they’ve just learned. Include tasks and exercises that relate to the real-life.
7. Provide feedback. Give learners regular feedback about their performance.
8. Test learners’ knowledge. Assess what they have learned during the training.
9. Help learners remember and use their new knowledge and skills. Provide learners with additional resources—documents, web resources, etc.
These are the main tips I can give you regarding eLearning content creation. Remember, content is the king to whom all other training elements obey.