When creating e-learning content, you have a lot of choices to make. You’ll make decisions about everything from navigation to graphics, visual and audio media, to a writing style. In gathering your content and preparing it for uploading to a learning management system, pay special attention to that last aspect–the writing style. Many people forego this consideration and their courseware is ineffective because of it. A solid or weak writing voice can make or break an online course.
A powerful e-learning course is based on the author’s own expertise and personal experience. And because of the infinite number of courseware subjects that exist, and the different kinds of learning and pedagogical styles, it makes sense that writing style should vary depending on the context.
Unfortunately, the trend in e-learning writing has traditionally leaned towards “voiceless writing.” The idea is to provide students with formal, blank-faced content, and that an author’s “voice” should be found nowhere in the text. A completely impersonalized tone has been typically preferred.
But more and more people in the education community are finding that a strong voice in content isn’t necessarily a bad thing–especially in e-learning material. The simple fact is that learners respond better to a voice with a personality, rather than a bland impersonal tone.
Sometimes, a bland, impersonal tone is necessary, and cannot be avoided. That’s fine. But too often, course creators fall into the trap of intentionally creating difficult-to-read learning content so that learners will have greater respect for the course. This is simply a bad practice.
In reassessing the tone and language of an online course, be sure to revise well.
Put your online course through what writers call “deep revision.” Courseware developers must look over the course and make sure nothing looks clunky, out of place, bland, or extraneous. Every extraneous part should be taken out. Don’t be afraid to make big cuts and revisions, and throw out whole sections if they seem unnecessary. Especially in reference to training programs, e-learning courses should be to-the-point, engaging, and one hundred percent relevant to what trainees will need to know, such as new skills, new company policies, etc.
In addition, take advantage of all the format and style options available in a course creation toolkit. Choose a syndicator or LMS that allows you to choose your own colors and gives you power over the layout.
Additionally, your online course material should be compatible with the course type. In other words, if whiteboard work, slides, diagrams, and other visuals would be important in a classroom version of the course, LMS materials should include an equal number of graphic images. According to a study by the University of British Columbia, which rated 127 online courses according to 43 criteria, how an LMS course looks can be just as important as the quality of the lessons themselves.
Online courses should be as visually pleasurable as possible. Visual appeal coupled with a clear, brief, and personalized tone, following a formal and consistent structure, is the winning solution to successful e-learning content development.
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