6 Principles of Effective Online Training that Will Surprise You

Written by Austin Martin | Jul 17, 2015 9:55:08 PM

When it comes to developing online training, technology is making it easier to create courses that are visually appealing, interactive, and engaging. This is a good thing, after all, because visually appealing, interactive, and engaging online training is more effective, right? Not so fast. It turns out that online training like this can detract from learning. Research has shown this over and over again.

In this article from the eLearning Guild, Ruth Clark describes six principles of eLearning that is effective. What makes eLearning effective might surprise you. The good news is that these six principles are easy to implement in your online training courses. You just have to know what they are and apply the principles.

Adding Graphics to Words Can Improve Learning

Studies have found that when pictures were combined with text, there is an "average gain of 89% on transfer tests from learners who studied lessons with text and graphics compared to learners whose lessons were limited to text alone.”

Lesson: Add relevant visuals to your slides.

Placing Text Near Graphics Improves Learning

It matters where on the screen you place graphics and text. “In five out of five studies, learning from screens that integrated words near the visuals yielded an average improvement of 68%.”

Lesson: Place descriptive text close to the graphics it describes. 

Explaining Graphics with Audio Improves Learning

In studies that compared audio narration explanations of graphics versus versions of the same course with text on the screen explaining the graphics (using the exact same words as the audio script) learning increased by people who took the eLearning course with the audio narration. In fact, “in all comparisons, the narrated versions yielded better learning with a average improvement of 80%.”

Lesson: Narrate screens with audio.

Explaining Graphics with Audio and Redundant Text Can Hurt Learning

Studies continue to show that “better transfer learning is realized when graphics are explained by audio alone rather than by audio and text.”  By recording an audio track in your LMS and having it correspond with your course, retention skyrockets

Lesson: Ditch the text. I know you want to keep it. But don’t.

Using Gratuitous Visuals Text and Sounds Can Hurt Learning

Gratuitous text and sounds means adding “glitz and games to make the experience more engaging.” It is tempting to do this, and easier than ever, but not a good idea. Trying to “spice up” eLearning, just because you can, will not improve learning, contrary to popular belief. Studies have consistently shown that learners who studied base versions of courses, those courses without these extras, show much greater learning, than students who studied versions of the course with text only.

Lesson: Do not add extras, just to glitz up your course.

Use Conversational Tone to Increase Learning

Studies have shown that people learn more when conversational language is used rather than when formal language is used. Also, using learning agents to guide learners improves learning. It doesn’t even matter what the learning agent looks like. It only matters that that an audio voice was used and that the narration is in a casual tone.

Lesson: Use conversational language and personal agents to guide learners.

Key Take Aways

In all this fancy research, there are a few key takeaways.

  1. Add relevant graphics.
  2. Don’t add meaningless graphics or other extras just to make things “more engaging."
  3. Place text near the graphics it describes.
  4. Describe graphics with audio narration.
  5. Don’t use audio narration and identical text on a screen. Just use the audio.
  6. Be conversational.