Writing for eLearning

, , | Colin Dawson

How often do you feel confused when reading instructional content?

Do you feel the writer is trying to convince you how smart they are?

Are you impressed by their use of big words?

Or frustrated because there is too much detail?

How often is the answer to these questions yes?

Want to be clear without talking down to your audience?

As an eLearning designer there will be times when you know the material far better than the average learner, but the last thing you want to do is write content that goes over the learner’s head.

You need to be clear without appearing superior.

And be engaging without the entertainment factor overshadowing the information.

There are certain things you need to consider when designing for learners who are viewing your content on screens.  People who are learning on-line have far more distractions over people reading a piece of paper.

On-line learners tend to:

  • Focus on tasks not overall experience
  • Read up to 25% slower because distractions such as links to click on
  • Read only about 20% of text on the average page
  • Skim information instead of reading every word.

The DO factor in writing for eLearning

  • DO : Divide Content into Digestible Pieces

While glitzy titles can be eye-catching and memorable, it is even more important that a title provides structure to your course.  Because learners skim read, a title is a good way to help them find what they need.

Use titles involving “what, why, how, or when” because they trigger curiosity.

  • DO : Create Compound Titles

The colon is your best friend when creating titles because it allows you to position the most meaningful words to the left.

It makes good, descriptive titles possible without being too wordy

They also draw attention to the second half of the title, which can sometimes be ignored

Headlines should be 4-7 words

Bolding text makes it stand out and easier to find.

  • DO : Use Clear and Concise Wording

Abstract language often refers to vague concepts and uses specialised wording that takes time to get to main point.  Concrete language gets to the point immediately.

When you do use special vocabulary, you should always supply a definition early.  Also, acronyms need to be explained first up.

  • DO : Highlight Main Points

When in doubt, bold it!

If something like an idea, word or points are important the easiest way to set them apart is to bold them.

  • DO : Use Connecting Words

Connecting words allow you to connect the idea from one sentence to another without actually keeping them as one sentence.

They can even be used to connect or link paragraphs

  • Use number/order words like “first”, “furthermore” and “finally” to present a list or sequence
  • Casual connectors like “therefore”, “since,” and “consequently” are good at the beginning of a sentence or within a sentence
  • Quandary connectors help when you need to tell about a problem or solution to a problem.  These include “however” and “on the contrary”.

Overall, you need to keep your writing as simple as possible.  Try to leave out the parts

Find more about writing for learning at www.modlettes.com/resources

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