Part of the joy of designing online training is that no two projects are the same. Sure, some may have similarities but you often have the freedom to be creative and implement new ideas.
Over the years I’ve found that having some core principles built into your thought process when designing online training is useful and can save you lots of time when it comes to designing and editing.
Here are five things I always consider prior to designing and building any piece of learning:
Know your Target Audience
In my opinion, the most important aspect of any kind of online learning is understanding the person it’s intended for. If you don’t know your audience, how can you create meaningful learning and create the desired impact?
Everything you create in your online training suite should be done with the learner at the forefront of your mind! The difficulty can often come when the target audience is broad and lots of different groups of people have the potential to access the training. In this case, more research may be needed on your audiences and you might need to create a profile for each of these.
For example, if the training can be accessed by those who are less comfortable with digital technology you may have to consider creating something that is simple to navigate for those who are less tech savvy, as well as ensuring any multimedia resources are clear and easy to use.
Also consider the tone of your language. We all have a preferred style of writing but this will not always lend itself to the piece of learning you’re creating. Don’t get bogged down with technical language if your audience is not likely to understand it, keep it simple and conversational. As a lot of face-to-face training continues to move online, it doesn’t mean we have to lose the personality of your training.
But remember, the best way to understand the target audience is to talk to them! Carrying out your own research is the best way of getting as close to the target audience as possible, find out what they care about, their experience with learning so far and thoughts they have around the topic.
Design with responsiveness in mind
If a piece of online learning is truly responsive, it will work seamlessly across all devices and not detract from the user experience no matter how it is accessed. A bad experience would be training that is designed and tested only on desktop appliances and is then accessed through a tablet, resulting in the pages being squashed or shrunk down so they are illegible and difficult to navigate.
Fortunately, there are now plenty of tools and approaches that offer mobile responsive functions, giving you the groundwork to create responsive learning. Always consider the different ways in which your learning may be accessed from, test the different platforms and be prepared to adapt!
Not all training is done at a desk; mobile responsive learning has become vital for those who are constantly on the move and prefer to access these learning platforms when travelling rather than in the busy environment of an office. It is important that those who use mobiles and tablets have as much chance of succeeding with the training as those who use desktop or laptop devices.
Consider your approach for the online training
More often than not there is a reason why an individual is carrying out this training; it may be personal development or a company requirement. As we discussed earlier, by now you should know your target audience meaning you will be able to create a meaningful learning experience for them and consider how you will engage with your learners throughout their experience.
If you’re creating online learning, don’t just add activities that repeat what the learner has already gone through (this doesn’t add to the experience). Instead look at adding context to the content through an engaging platform. This may be adding an interactive video that requires the learners participation to go through a scenario to consolidate the learning, or it may asking them to contribute their own thoughts in order to give themselves actions after the training.
Interactivity should not be used for the sake of it. If a learner is asked to click on something or watch a video, it should contribute to the goals of the learning. Likewise with areas such as gamification, ensuring it does not detract from the overall objectives is important, for example, creating a game which looks fantastic and operates fantastically well may seem like a good idea but if it doesn’t add to the learning experience, is it necessary?
Which brings me onto the next point…
Accessibility in online learning means making sure that everyone, including those with disabilities, can participate with the online training.
Many companies do not put accessibility down as a top priority when sourcing or creating online learning, however, it can be extremely damaging and unfair for those with a disability, who therefore do not have the chance to engage in the learning experience.
Some simple steps you can take to ensure that your online training is accessible to all are:
- Understanding the needs of disabled learners,
- Appreciate the design capabilities and;
- Adapt the training to as many needs as possible.
It’s important that you consider what needs a person who is colorblind has as much as someone who is hard of hearing. This could be avoiding text such as ‘click on the green button’ or offering them the option of turning on captions for a video. Giving the learner the flexibility of selecting their own preferences allows them to customise their learning journey and makes for a much smoother, inclusive experience.
Finally, always consider accessibility before you begin the design process. It is much easier to build an accessible piece of learning from the start, than going back and making it accessible after you have already begun.
Sim Daltonism for Mac is a fantastic tool you can use in order to see from the perspective of someone who is colorblind. Here’s some further advice on making online training accessible.
Never forget what your intervention is aiming to do
Lastly, a really simple but important point – always have your performance and learning objectives in mind! I find that if you are working with very technical, heavy content, you can get bogged down in the little details that sometimes don’t relate to the big picture.
For example, If you’re teaching someone how to drive a car, you don’t necessarily need to explain the mechanics behind how it works, just the actions you need to carry out to drive it properly.
To ensure I never go off topic, I always write down a short sentence that sums up the purpose of the learning and refer back to this if I’m ever not sure on how to proceed. If something becomes too complicated or you fear doesn’t relate to the goal of the learning, flag it or take it out.
Try and put yourself in the learners shoes and ask yourself questions, such as; if you were taking the course, would you benefit from this video? Do I need to know this in order to be able to do that?
Always remember how you are measuring the success of the training, this should be outlined prior to the design period but must be kept in mind throughout the process.
Consider important pieces of the training and how you can make sure that the learner has processed this information.
The best thing you can do for yourself prior to designing any learning is have a roadmap to success – don’t start if you don’t have all the facts. Make sure you understand the objectives of the learning and who it’s for, then consider how you can make it accessible and responsive for all the different types of learners.