Online training designers are not the only ones constantly searching for ways to create more engaging content. Journalists, copywriters, and authors, to name only a few others, must create content that people want to read. No matter your profession, if you create content, the ultimate goal is to create something that provides value.
In an effort to increase engagement in online training, instructional designers can learn a few things from the content marketing profession on how to create engaging content. Here are five techniques that instructional designers can use to make it easier for people to digest online training content.
We know intuitively that using pictures makes content for interesting. This is true when it comes to articles and blogs, and it is true when it comes to online training. Two stats cited in this content marketing article say it best.
If you combine these stats with evidence about reducing cognitive load in online training, you realize that using good pictures is a mandatory practice when developing any type of content.
Create a Compelling Title
Online training designers do not spend enough time on writing great course titles. I am as guilty as anyone. We name our courses in typical, unimaginative fashion. We call a course, Sexual Harassment Training or Sexual Harassment 101. If we were really good, we would learn lessons from headline writers and call this same course, 7 Ways to Avoid a Sexual Harassment Charge? I don’t want to sit through a boring compliance course, but I do want to know how to avoid getting into trouble.
Keep Content Brief
People are busy and do not have a lot of free time to take long online training courses. This is especially important to understand when it comes to self-paced online training. People are easily distracted. By keeping sections brief and letting people know how brief it is, your learners can make decisions about whether they will sit and go through your content. Even if you have online training on a large topic like How to Use a CRM System, you can break the course up into many short lessons so people can more easily digest your content in 5 - 15 minute sessions.
Organize in Lists with Lots of White Space
If you have a choice between text and pictures, choose pictures. If you must choose text, arrange text in lists and leave a lot of white space. Think about how difficult it was to read Charles Dickens novels in school when you were faced with long paragraphs that went on for pages. Break up text on your screen to make it easy to read.
Finally, it is important to get your audience to be as active as possible. Do not let them just read or listen to slides without asking them to do something. This is a challenge in self-paced online training. A great way to do this is to add short quiz questions every few slides to enable people to review what they have learned. This technique gets people more active in the learning process.
There are many ways to increase engagement in your online training courses, and these are just a few. Think about what you would like to see in a self-paced course to keep you interested and work towards designing that into your courses. Your audience will thank you for it.
Bill Cushard, author, blogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations at companies like E*TRADE, Accenture, and ServiceRocket. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.