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e-learning guidance


I've been developing online training via CD ROMs and I read somewhere that to keep the trainee engaged and interested, it is good to a) make the course very interactive e.g. lots of things to do (not just read text) and b) keep their eyes moving i.e. different activities on different areas of the screen). I have no idea where I read these suggestions, can any one help and would you agree?
sally coles

11 Responses

  1. It depends…
    …at least to a large extent on someone’s learning style as to what will work for them.

    For some people a lot of audio/video and point and click exercises will keep them engaged.

    For some text in itself is interesting enough.

    But the real key is the actual interest in the material itself.

    If the subject is dull you need to bring it to life. If it’s absolutely fascinating you won’t need to do much to it…. depending on your audience, I’ve met people who find trainspotting truly fascinating – it just doesn’t do much for me.

    And that’s really the problem with e-learning, in that unlike classroom learning it can’t adapt to the learner very well (at least not yet) and one size rarely fits all.

    The best you can do is to try things on your potential audience, gauge their reaction to it and then adapt it to the “best fit” approach – which is a lot of work.

  2. keeping Interest
    Dear Sally,

    Engaging material is a key factor in the effective delivery and impact of any training course. Powerful and professional images do make a difference, however, try to use images or key words only when it is appropriate as too much animation could distract the end user. Audio is extremely powerful, try and select the right balance and consider the tone as a mono pitch could have an adverse effect. CD-ROM training may not alway’s be the total solution, try a mixture “the blended approach” Some eLearning combined with other training methods such as dvd, tutor-led courses etc. Before pushing on with CD-ROM delivery assess if it is right for the audiance, i.e. are they confident with PC’s, do they have access? these are a few things to consider before delivering eLearning courses.

    I hope this helps.

    Ian Fielding
    NDC Training Media

  3. Look no further….

    I’d say there were some nice techniques you could apply (with a bit of lateral thinking) if you looked at this week’s feature article: The Secrets of Engaging Employees

    Although its intended for a more general purpose, I’d say that a lot of the tips presented in the article could be applied sensibly to your materials.

  4. I recommend a support group.
    Hi Sally, I’ve never met anyone that’s enjoyed an online learning course. To make them engaging i.e. with great visual material and sounds as well as seriously challenging teaching material to suit the exact needs of the learner, is expensive and difficult. It would be worth doing the sums because I think real human teachers are better at engaging people and probably a better all round investment. Otherwise I recommend a support group for the learners so that they can get together and discuss what they are learning as well as the pros and cons of the method of learning. Tina Coulsting, Director, Mentor Consultancy.

  5. engaging the learner

    Where do we start with this one. But from the mountain of possible suggestions I would pull out the following (in no particular order):

    a. Make sure that e-learning / CBT is the right solution (or part of the right solution) for your training need. The right media, for the right material, for the right audience.

    b. Make sure the materials address the needs of the audience, in the right language and at the right level, reflecting the culture of the audience/organisation.

    c. Ensure the materials are professionally produced, using people who can show they understand how adults learn, and can sensibly apply the various educational theories to their varied clients’ needs.

    d. Take the time and expense to investigate and understand the training need properly.

    e. Map out the training against your required competencies or objectives and sell the training in terms of what this will enable the learner to do / achieve.

    f. Use high quality images and graphics that reinforce the learning, and reflect the organisation’s values and goals.

    g. Avoid the gimmicky use of animations and other tools that might distract and annoy the learner.

    h. Ensure you have a sustainable organisation-wide learning strategy in place that is supported by management, forms part of the annual reporting cycle, is visible, easy to access, and talked about.

    In my experience, any learning that has failed to address these points during the development and launch process will also fail to engage the learners and make them want to move forward.

    Oh yes, and coincidentally thousands of people have really liked our e-learning.

  6. Blended learning
    Dear Sally

    I would agree with Andrew that ‘blended’ learning is usually more successful that straight computer-based training. Having a tutor to monitor, support and guide someone through seems ‘expensive’ but is a worthwhile investment.

    If you are putting materials on a CD Rom then you have the opportunity to provide for different levels and styles of learning. Some people like slideshows, others prefer to download a document to read – so you can put in both on the same topic to cater for these needs. Short ‘bite-sized’ pieces are preferable. There can be more advanced material, or links to sources of this, for those whose interest has been caught by a topic, as well as the ‘simple guide’ for those who didn’t understand, but didn’t like to ask!

    Short (and friendly) quizzes can be used for participants to check their own knowledge, and automatic feedback from these can guide participants to the next step in their learning plan.

    I have a website which demonstrates this at You can use the ID guest123x to log in to ‘The Learning Room’, which leads you to a virtual learning environment.


  7. Make it relevant and test their learning
    Sally, nobody said learning had to be fun. Make it a requirement that when people attend training – in whatever form – they have to undertake an assessment of knowledge or skill or even attitude improvement which is used for current job appraisal and future career progression

  8. blended learning
    If you use blended learning, as suggested by others, it certainly helps people to stay engaged with the subject. It also helps if you can use visuals, self quizzes and text. I find the best self learning is where topics are dealt with individually, clearly linked to learning outcomes, and provides an overview of the key points, detailed content that is clearand easy to follow, and self quizzes and practice assessments. Provide answers to the quizzes, as that is also how people learn – by going back to the material and trying until they get it right. If you can enable the print option on the material it also helps.

  9. A couple of extra tips
    LOts of sensible comments already –

    I would add that you can usefully include ‘offline’ activities in many online courses – ones where you give the learner some tasks to perform away from the PC and these can help to engage learners in the subject matter (especially if you want some practical application of the knowledge being learned as an outcome).
    Another useful tip is to look for ways in which you can recognise and reward the learners for their performance using your online materials – accreditation of some kind can help to motivate learners to persist.
    Finally, I personally would avoid too much ‘busyness’ on screen unless there was a really good reason for it( e.g. simulation of a real-life busy environment).

    There are lots of excellent materials to help designers create good online learning materials – how about reading the CIPD book on Mastering Instructional Design in TBT (J Christian Chalmers) as a starting point

  10. If the screen is cluttered this format will discourage many stud
    If the screen is cluttered this format will discourage many students. I believe in a friendly format that load fast and only has the necessary material. Special Topic links that return to the page are productive. The links must be tested if they are outside the developers web page.

  11. thank you for your help
    Thanks to all of you for your help. In fact the CD ROM i have produced has been incrediblky popular. It is an interactive course designed to prepare trainees for a face to face day providing a necessary knowledge base. As part of a blended learning approach we have found it works well although those trainees who are not used to computers have had some useful comments to make in their evaluations. Most importantly to ensure that the experience is so user friendly that a 5 year old could use it!! Any more suggestions will be gratefully received. Thanks again – Sally


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