Designing the Design

🕑 4 minutes read | Oct 03 2018 | By Becky Gendron

Parul, a TTA Expert Instructional Designer, Discusses How to Maximize Client Content for Learners

Now that you have done quite a bit, you have your colors and your templates at hand, next comes the interesting part where you get to reinvent the client’s content with an eye to maximizing the impact on learners. In this article, I will discuss a few strategies that I use when reorganizing the client content. This helps me in two ways: (1) it allows me to create some strategies that I can employ to make the content interesting; and (2) it helps me identify if any more slide layouts need to be designed.

Basically, the level of course you are designing and the strategy you choose depend on the content that you are handling and what level of detailing you want to add to your storyboard. In short, a Level 1 eLearning course (75 % static content, 25% interactive content), Level 2 (50% static, 50% interactive), and Level 3 (75% interactive, 25% static) are usually the three realms that we work in. There is a Level 4 too that’s your gamification level and it is a different beast altogether. For more details, you can refer to Chapman’s Alliance PowerPoint [i] that provides excellent information about what each level entails, and the estimated time and effort that go into designing each one of those levels.

Since we are talking about visual designs, there are a couple of ideas that I would like to share, along with a few good reads about designing.

Good design can be guided by a few pointers that I usually use:

Define the Problem: Yes, first and foremost, you need to define the problem because only then can you design the solution. For example, let’s say you are asked to create an interesting course about computer hardware and the internal components of a computer. Well, that should not be much of a problem, right? Well, it might be because the audience is not comprised of some tech-savvy pros, but it’s made up of front-line sales people, who will be selling products that use this hardware. Now, designing the content takes on a different meaning altogether.

Identify the Instructional Design (ID) Principles That Fit Best: Now, since you know the problem, you need to design the solution. Continuing with the previous example, we know that we have content that may not be so relevant to the learners, but, nevertheless, needs to be taught. So, only one thing in my opinion will help make the content interesting and interactive.

We talk about learning strategies and various buzz words associated with them. One of them being blended learning.  I approach this with a worldview of providing the learners with the standard set of tools for learning images, progressive builds, interactive elements, among others we need to immerse them and create an experience a learner/user experience. As human beings, we remember things by associating some sort of experience with them. By associating our content and weaving it in a story that immerses the learner, we want to create an association between the actual content and how the content made people feel. All our case study-based topics or our branching scenarios fall into this category. It is very much possible that you may use multiple strategies in the same course. However, ensure that you do not mix too many things as it would become difficult for the learner to keep up with all that.

Gather the Information:  Next step is to identify the content that you have and that you don’t have. Continuing with my example, for such content, I would choose a scenario-based strategy. I would search for scenarios, asking the client to provide any problematic situations that they have encountered in the past (with the content as a basis, in this case, the computer hardware/components). My questions would revolve around how to build a story around this content that these sales people can relate to. How do I try to elicit a response from them? Based on their responses, I can guide them on a path by using safety nets and branching scenarios, and leading them down the yellow brick road!

Put the Ideas into Action and Apply the Principles: Finally, you need to put everything together. If you are using basic techniques to present your content, you can start working on developing your storyboard in PowerPoint directly. However, if there is more to that, usually I put all that information in one place in a Word document, so I can see the content as it flows. Reading through it will allow me to add placeholders to the content where I feel that I can add my case study scenarios or other similar examples. Sometimes, if in the flow, I can add case study scenarios to these drafts and then when I am developing the storyboard, I will refine them to fit better. Now, this strategy dictates that I add a template for the case study, which means I will create a couple of slides that can be used throughout the course.

It is not necessary that you follow these guidelines in sequence, other than the implementation part. The way each individual works is different. You can always customize your experience based on your strengths.

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