What’s a good setup for your e-learning?

Rinke Huisman

A good e-learning has a clear beginning, middle and end. This sounds perhaps obvious, but this conclusion is based on years of research on the functioning of the brain. Don’t underestimate this! Every part has its own challenges. 

Beginning

A misunderstanding about digital tools in e-learnings is that good software ensures good quality. Of course this contributes to it, but the didactics remain priority and decisive in the quality of your e-learning, just like in a live training.  

The first impression the users have is based on the beginning of the e-learning. You’ll let your users get to know the e-learning environment. Where are all the buttons? How can I ask for help? Where can I find the content? Without this basic information, learning on the platform will not run smoothly.

Next up, you’ll introduce the subject of the e-learning. You need a structure because you want to ‘classify’ the content so to speak. Activate the prior knowledge of your users, illustrate the initial situation and manage the expectations, by doing so you’ll make your e-learning insightful and you offer your users structure. During learning, and certainly online, you’ll see various kinds of content. To remain motivated you want that your users can easily find their way through it all, that they know what they start and why.

Middle

The middle of your e-learning is focused on the content. You want to convey this in clear pieces of knowledge. You can maintain the same setup as during the live training or as a used book, but do vary in the content forms you use. The thumb rule is that the form should serve the goal you want to achieve. Choosing content forms ‘for fun’ or ‘as a filler’ can be didactic mistakes. 

Don’t be scared of parts that only take a few minutes. It’s better to have a multiple of short pieces in a row compared to fewer parts of 20 or 30 minutes, or even an hour! Less is more, this is also proved in the duo channel assumption of Mayer (2001). This is an important theory to use while designing your e-learning. This theory states that people take in information using two channels: verbally/auditive (spoken word) and visually (via images or written text). These channels communicate during the intake of information, but it’s limited. When there’s too much information we speak of cognitive overload. You can for example work better with a combination of spoken word & images, than spoken word & text. 

Repetition is also a key word. Both the repetition of the learning content as the repetition and clarification of the setup of your e-learning. Do this in a natural way, don’t force it too much. The repeating of the structure is called the advanced organizers model. You’ll repeatedly show in a subtle way where the user is in the e-learning and what’s ahead. Arrived at a new part, you’ll introduce this as follows: ‘In this part we’ll delve further into … and practice with …’ Conclude at the end with: ‘You’ve now learned about … and practiced with … in the next part we’ll …’

Always provide the user with the choice to continue to the next part or to return to the overview with all content in the e-learning. Some learning platforms offer the possibilities to mark some content as ‘favourite’, to highlight parts or to make notes, in this way important information can easily be retrieved. 

Finally, also think about which role you want to give ‘interaction’ in your e-learning. Scientific research proves that various kinds of interaction ensure involvement and motivation. This way you prevent early quitters. The most well-known examples of interaction are group assignments, feedback of your trainer or peer feedback, practical assignments, webinars, chat and discussion fora. 

End

When you design an e-learning, you start at the final aim. How does success look? What should someone do to achieve this? Which steps and goals must therefore be obtained? And does the e-learning help to solve this problem or to feed this ambition? 

The end of the e-learning is often used to repeat the covered knowledge, to determine the level of the users and to reward them for their effort. This often happens in form of a (summative) test and for example by awarding a certificate. Testing isn’t only convenient at the end of the e-learning. It’s also very effective to test in-between (formative) to let the users know how they’re doing. This doesn’t need to be very formal, but can also be done by means of a quiz, flashcards or a processing assignment. 

You don’t want the learning to stop after the completion of the e-learning. Offer therefore suggestions for in-depth content about the topic, give tips for the practice or refer to other nice e-learnings.