5 tips for writing content for an online learning platform

Nadine Otten

Writing content for an online learning platform is not always easy. Besides the didactic knowledge you often need to write for example a good, effective e-learning, it is also important that your texts are well put together. This does not only apply for the content, but surely also for the tone of voice, the length, the language use and the writing style. In this blog we will provide you with five tips with which you can make your texts easier to read and more appealing for the users.

1. Define the goal of your content

All content you create, you create with a goal. What do you want the learner to know after studying your content? Articulate this in a learning goal. A learning goal ensures on the one hand clarity for the learner, for they know what they can expect when starting to learn. On the other hand it ensures the right demarcation for you as a content creator. When you create content it is tempting to dwell on the subject in your enthusiasm and to deviate from it. This will make your text much longer than you thought in advance, mainly because you discuss several points that don’t directly contribute to the learning goal you formulated. Everything you write down in an e-learning or a microlearning needs to contribute to the goal. Keep this in mind and your content will ensure that your learners achieve the desired goal.

 

2. Adjust your language use to your reader

Much people write in a different manner compared to how they talk. Imagine that you tell someone who will read your content what you write down. Will you tell it in the same tone of voice and with the same words as when you write it down? Yes? Then you’re doing a good job. Is the answer no? Make sure you do. There’s no need to adapt your writing language. Don’t use difficult or formal words which you wouldn’t use while speaking. And try to avoid jargon. Is this unavoidable in your case? Make sure you explain the difficult words the first time you use them.

Tone of voice

It’s also important that you adjust your tone to your reader or learner. It helps to imagine how you would tell this to a learner. What’s the common tone among your audience? Which words do they often use? What type of words aren’t used or seem not to be comprehended? To write a text with the right tone of voice and words some investment and empathy for your audience is required.

 

3. Ensure a good readability

Learning online works better when the texts are well readable. With readable we mean for example that a text is organised and not too long. In this way you’re able to hold the attention of the reader for a longer period of time in which the chance of distraction is smaller.

Paragraphs and subheadings

An organised and good readable text contains at least paragraphs and subheadings. A long piece of text discourages. Separate your text in several paragraphs and use subheadings per one or two paragraphs. Is your text still quite long? Divide your text in pieces and post the next piece in a new part of content in your learning platform. 

The use of subheadings ensures the text to be scannable for the learner. Before they start reading they already get an impression of the subjects that will be covered. This contributes to the comprehensibility of your text.

Short sentences

In addition, don’t make your sentences too long. Be critical on your own sentences. Reread them and think of possibilities to put a full stop somewhere in the sentence, to make a new sentence of the following part. A sentence ideally consists of a maximum of 15 words. 

 

4. Write actively

This is perhaps the most frequent mistake made in written texts: the use of passive sentences. Well, it’s of course not a real mistake. The message is conveyed in passive word use as well, but if you aren’t aware of this, you’ll notice how much nicer it is to read an actively written text. What do we mean with passive sentences? Passive sentence can be recognised by the use of words like should, must, could, have and are in combination with a past participle.

Example

We have written a blog in which tips are given which will help writing content. When you read this sentence, you understand what it says. Compare that sentence to the following sentence: We wrote a blog in which we gave tips that help writing content. The meaning or the purport of the sentence is exactly the same, but the sentence is shorter, more concise and comprehensive because there are no unnecessary words used. The unnecessary words carry the danger that the reader needs longer to process the sentence and thus needs to reread the sentence several times. In the sentence above the passive sentence isn’t even that long, but you can imagine that very long sentence will become even more difficult to understand.  

Practice

Make sure you avoid the verbs mentioned above as much as possible in your sentences. In every sentence they are removeable or replaceable. In the beginning you will notice you often need to correct your sentences afterwards and that this thus requires practice, but the more often you use this, the more it will go automatically while writing.

 

5. Give your content a good title

When you finished writing your text, think of a title. It’s for online texts in particular important that the title indicates what the text is about. What’s the content of the text? What’s the most important subject? Does the title you thought of cover the content? A good title often consist of a sentence and not of one or two words. And keep in mind: when you or your colleague content creators search the just made content in the content management system of the online learning platform, which words do you use? When should your content appear, and when shouldn’t it? When you consider this thoroughly, you will keep your cms organised and your content will remain retrievable and reusable for content creators in your organisation.