The Importance of Attention to Detail in eLearning

One of the many benefits of eLearning, is the ability to provide access to learning in nearly any location without the need of a physical teacher. This is beneficial to organizations (save money), teachers (save time) and students (save travel). However, when a facilitator or teacher is not available to answer questions or clear up any mistakes, it can lead to incorrect learning, confusion and frustration. This is why the attention to detail in eLearning is so important.

There are three main areas to focus on attention to detail within your eLearning projects; let’s take a look at each one.

Function

Function is listed first because it doesn’t matter how beautiful your eLearning is if the module doesn’t function as it should, or is expected to by the user. Both of these are important: how it should function and how the user expects it to function. You want your users to be able to predict how to navigate through your module. If they are trying to figure out basic navigation their cognitive load is strained and will not be available for the actual learning.

Check that all of your buttons, animations, transitions, links and other areas of functionality are working as they should. One of the most frustrating experiences of any technology is when it doesn’t work. The user will become frustrated and essentially give up trying on that learning. For example, when an eLearning module was uploaded to a client’s LMS, learners became confused by the seemingly duplicated navigation. However, the situation was made worse when learners discovered the navigation was not duplicated, but actually two separate navigation controls, and the one they were primarily using was not controlling the module at all (see Figure 1).

Presentation slide with red square hi-lighting "Next" and "Prev" arrows

There are typical ways many of us use technology, thanks to comfortable and familiar user systems. So, when your modules are too far from the typical that it becomes work for the user to figure out how to use it properly, the function becomes too convoluted.  This is called the MAYA Principle: Most Advanced Yet Acceptable. Developed by Raymond Loewy, this principle suggests designers create innovative content while balancing the comfortable current content to allow users to accept our work (Dam, 2019).

What is the easiest possible way you can configure an interaction? This is not to suggest you want any of your work to be elementary, but you don’t want your users wondering what to do next. Be clear, but also understand that if your module is well designed you shouldn’t have to spell out the details explicitly.

Take a look at these two images; they include the same content, but are different in regards to clarity. Figure 2 has clear written instructions, which can be matched with audio instructions, and radio buttons to make it clear to the user where they should select the option below it.

Three options laid out with multiple choice check boxes below each option

Figure 3 lacks written instructions. Even if there are verbal instructions, it is possible users may not hear them correctly and/or they may not have their sound on. The lack of radio buttons does not make it clear where or how the user should select their response.

same three options laid out with no multiple choice check boxes below options

Mechanics

The mechanics of your module include spelling, grammar, punctuation and consistency of the text. Spelling mistakes are easy to make, but also easy to fix. Run a spelling check within your module, if possible. If a spelling check is not available, go through each slide only looking for text errors.

Mechanical errors make your module appear sloppy and unprofessional, especially in a world where so many computerized programs exist to help you locate and repair any errors.

Sometimes such errors can be downright funny. Make sure the voice actor who is recording for your module knows how to pronounce any industry-specific words. For example, in a legal skills module we built, the word “deference” (pronounced “def-ruhns”) was initially mispronounced by the voice talent as “de-fur-ence”, completely changing the meaning of the word from respect to difference!

Form

The visuals in your module can include pictures, icons, videos, shapes, animations and any other slide elements meant to make your module be more visually appealing. Visuals should be useful and purposeful, not just filler. Consider what the visuals are communicating to the user on their own, without the narration and text; do they give a good indication of the message you want to portray?

When considering images and shapes, keep the style consistent (e.g. rounded rectangle versus sharp rectangle) throughout (see Figure 4 for an example of inconsistency). Adding shape to your images is one way to add continuity throughout your module. It’s a small detail, and many may not overly notice it, but it will make the module appear more polished overall. These little details are what ties your module together nicely and shows your attention to detail.

Attention to Detail in eLearning

This figure shows the inconsistency between the rounded rectangle shape of the 3 options as they contrast with the squared rectangle shapes of the header.

When adding videos to your project, try to keep your formatting consistent, including types of videos (from file versus from website, embedded versus linked), and how they work within the module. This includes having the play function the same throughout. If you are adding a video file directly into your project, add the progress bar to the slide, set the video to play automatically upon visiting the slide and ensure the slide timeline is set to the same run time as the video itself. This will allow the progress bar of the module to act as the controls for the video also. Having one progress bar, rather than one for the slide and one on the video, is one small detail that will help your users.

If you are working with a client who has a branded colour scheme, you will be restricted to specific colours. If you are not constricted by a brand, be consistent and thoughtful about the colours you choose to use. Develop a colour scheme on your own and follow it. A great tool for developing a colour scheme of colours that compliment one another is Adobe Color (https://color.adobe.com/create). This tool allows you to select from pre-selected colour schemes, or develop your own by suggesting complimentary colours. Again, consistency is key and will show that attention to detail that ties a project together nicely.

Quality is important not only for the reputation of your work, but also for the learning and ability of the users. Always have someone check over your work before sending it along to the users or client; we often are far too involved and close to our own work to be able to spot the small details. Having a new set of eyes (ideally) allows for a trial run and they can share with you any edits or areas that require some further thought. It is always better to receive constructive criticism from a peer or co-worker than the client or end user!

If you are looking for help creating your next detailed-oriented eLearning project, contact Artha Learning today!

References

Dam, R. (2019). The MAYA Principle: Design for the Future, but Balance it with Your Users’ Present. Retrieved 18 November 2019, from https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/design-for-the-future-but-balance-it-with-your-users-present

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