Are you more of a visual learner or do you prefer reading long-form pieces? Do you find it helpful to listen to podcasts during your commute or do you need focused time to learn? The answers to these questions can be wildly different from one person to the next. Combine a group of virtual learners and the variety will only increase. Considering this, one of the most important elements of elearning success is your choice of content formats to give learners the opportunity to consume materials in a way that suits their learning preferences and lifestyle.
The right mix of content formats can give your elearning more depth and make it accessible for a range of users. It’ll also help make the process engaging and improve your learners’ outcomes.
Let’s explore the four primary formats you need to consider when planning your next online learning program.
Four eLearning Content Types You Need To Include in Your Next Program
This one is probably the eLearning content type you’ll think of first when coming up with your course materials.
You can use text for your elearning content in a variety of ways, like directly in your LMS (Learning Management System). Depending on how you deliver your course, you’ll likely have web pages with the lessons on them.
You can also have PDFs or Word documents, slide presentations, and flyers or workbooks for learners to download. And you can use video scripts as supporting material to hand out as well.
But that’s not all you can do with text in your online learning.
Make your online course more interactive by including infographics, daily (or weekly) emails, forum posts, and live chats for real-time interaction between learners.
Additionally, consider translating your course content depending on your target audience. And work with a designer to ensure your content is accessible. Accessibility in design includes elements like color contrast, font sizes, and even the actual font choice. In general, you’ll want high contrast, but you don’t have to stick to black and white. You’ll also want a font that’s easy on the eyes, usually a sans serif or a simple serif for big blocks of text — and a more decorative font for headings and titles.
Either live or recorded, video is a fan favorite because it makes consuming content quick and entertaining. In fact, studies show that even before the pandemic, a vast majority of learners considered that video improves the learning experience.
Plus, many times it’s easier to explain a concept by talking about it than trying to write it down.
How to use different video formats in your elearning:
There’s a range of options for including video in your eLearning content. To start, you can divide it into synchronous (or real time) or asynchronous (on demand).
Real-time video can be a livestream (through channels like Crowdcast) or a video conference (like a Zoom call). The benefits of using this format include the possibility to engage with learners (and for them to engage with each other) and hold lively discussions about the topics your course covers.
With real-time video, it’s easy to answer questions and clarify doubts on the spot. On the flip side, it may be hard to get everyone in the same (virtual) room at the same time. And software needs can vary and get expensive depending on the size of your cohort. Plus, live interaction may bring unplanned interruptions and tangents.
With asynchronous video, on the other hand, instructors can explain complex ideas and use visual aids like slide presentations in a more engaging manner than asking learners to download the PPT.
Regardless of your choice between real-time or asynchronous video, you don’t need any fancy equipment to record. Tools like Zoom’s call recording make it a breeze to save high-quality video for your online learning.
One factor to consider if you choose video are captions. Offering captions makes video easier to consume for people with hearing disabilities or those who speak foreign languages. Alternatively, you can provide a transcript of the video. There are many affordable tools to create transcripts — or you can repurpose the script your instructor used to record.
If you’ve consumed hours and hours of podcasts, you’ll know how well audio fills chores and commutes. Audio content is a powerful content type for learners to consume while doing mindless tasks or sitting in traffic. Audio also makes it faster to consume large pieces of content compared to reading. Although it can mean that the learner is paying less attention, so use this type of content carefully in your eLearning.
Video is a powerful communication tool, but it can pose challenges for learners. Video files are usually heavier than audio or text, and they can be a problem to play on phones or slower internet connections.
An easy alternative to video is including audio versions of your materials as part of your eLearning content. Doing this gives those with difficulty consuming video a viable option that’s not in text. And it’s really not that difficult to do since many video platforms offer audio versions of the same video recordings.
Make your audio engaging by recording interviews and making them more of a conversation than, well, an interview — similar to many popular podcasts. Or record live sessions for participants to play on-demand. For real-time audio, you can also give the option of attending a live conference call without using the camera, which again, removes some of the burden on the participant’s equipment and bandwidth.
Quizzes & Evaluations
Finally, regardless of the type of content you choose for eLearning, you’ll need to spark engagement and measure results. Do this by creating evaluations that mimic the formats you used throughout the course.
For example, host a live session where learners have 5-10 minutes to present their final essay. Show them how to record themselves and post it in the forum. Or have them design a slide presentation and test out different tools like Google Slides or Miro.
The goal of the evaluation is to gauge the impact of your program on their professional development, so recreating real-life scenarios like a panel discussion or a presentation helps prepare them to apply their newly-acquired knowledge.
And contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to evaluate a course only at the end. In fact, we’d argue that a needs assessment and pre-evaluation are essential tools for online learning. You can also sprinkle quizzes and interactive activities throughout the program depending on its duration. Frequent activities (especially with deadlines) help everyone stay on track instead of letting things slide until the last week, which improves retention and overall learning.
In Online Learning, Delivery Is Just as Important as Substance
The most engaging course materials will mean little if your course is presented in a way that’s unappealing or difficult to consume. You’ll also improve everyone’s chances of success by providing different content types so each learner has resources that suit their eLearning needs.
At Talance, we design custom courses in multiple languages and media to serve a wide range of learners and optimize their online training experience, which ultimately benefits their organization and communities.At any point, our courses mix video, audio, downloads, and web content to make learning a fun experience people want to dive into. If your agency is in search of a learning management system, contact us. We’ll guide you through the process of designing an online learning program to suit your organizational needs.