Written by Cheryll and Wendy Johns (Art Directors in eCreators by Open LMS)
Content creatives interpret what a client’s subject matter experts, (SME’s), want to relay, and impart this knowledge in a way that leads a user’s attention all the way through the course so they can learn almost effortlessly.
Large slabs of information overload the user causing the learner to switch off and stop taking in information. Our biggest lesson over the years has been to curate the information into “bite sized chunks”. We reveal information slowly, in small snippets so the user can absorb it. Our tactic is to highlight key components of the content and lead the user to read on through interaction and gamification.
By continually changing focus, the user is forced to engage by having to participate in their own learning. There is risk of becoming gimmicky, however if a common thread is maintained, a theme or story is explored, this can subtly lead the user through the course and keep interactivity and gamification relevant to its educational context. It’s all about taking the user on a journey and not having them repetitively hitting back and next, with a few drag and drop activities dotted in.
We modernised instructional design from a word document supplied to the client, to supplying storyboards that are high fidelity mock-ups of each screen. Our standard practice is to now map out interactions and animations in an Adobe XD working prototype. This is a game changer. Visual design-based practice instead of word-based practice, matches; app design, advertising agencies and start up agency’s standards of visual storytelling.
Clients are happier because this has taken the guess work out of visualizing, which doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Developers no longer have to guess what the instructional designers are thinking. Storyboarding now takes slightly longer, but ultimately saves time and money, with less to-ing and fro-ing in the development stage. There are now no surprises. Everyone knows how a course works and looks at the storyboarding stage.
The use of digital imagery, illustration, animation, video and diagrams throughout courses is crucial. Visual imagery reinforces key points breaks up monotonous text and helps support visual learning by delving deeper into concepts. It frankly keeps things interesting, so a user doesn’t nod off at their desk. A boring subject matter needs extra experimentation and a bigger dose of creativity to keep a learner in the moment. Anything can be made interesting with a bit of trust from the client and a whole lot of creative vision.
Part of the challenge is to educate the client to take a risk and back a design that pushes the boundaries of creativity. We love to hear that our product is “better than they could ever have imagined”. Then we know we have nailed it. We are catering to audiences that are not only digitally savvy but expect more from content design, sometimes with a short attention span. Keeping users engaged requires intelligent design.
Learning design must reflect what the learners and clients are seeing on their phones and screens every day. Let’s push this further, we have the opportunity to be design and learning leaders by being agile and innovative. We need to look past our industry, into cutting edge design in app, tech companies or even new media arts. Think about our user’s experience. We want our users to be not just pleasantly surprised but inspired with a sense of wonder when completing one of our courses. If content creator’s have space to play and learn then we create spaces for our users to play and learn.