Being part of the learning industry, most of us have seen how e-learning has changed and evolved with time. As e-learning comes of age and newer ways of instruction gain popularity, let us ask ourselves one question—Is text in e-learning as important today as it was when this industry took its first steps? I know that most of you will answer “yes” and that’s true. Text has not lost its shine amidst high-end graphics, audio-video or any other kind of content. The main reason being that it is text that forms a ‘connect’ with the learner – in the absence of an instructor. It charts out the learners’ route through the course, sets the tone of the course and guides the learner through. It is indeed an integral part of any e-learning course, with varying extend of usage.
On the other hand knowing how important text is, sometimes we tend to overuse it. To get our point across to the learners, we build an intricate web of text and end up creating text-heavy courses. Imagine going through a course that has around 300 words on each frame or 10 text-heavy pop-ups. Would you really like to go through such a course? Probably not! Text-heavy courses or page-turners are often deemed tedious by learners. Many learners are prone to just skimming, which can leave gaping holes in the understanding of the subject. So, the main question ahead of us now is that how can use the text to our advantage without making our courses text-heavy?
Well, here are some tried and tested solutions that will help you use text to its maximum potential.
Chunk your text: Chunking is a clever instructional tool when creating text content for e-learning. To cite an example from an entirely different context to understand the importance of chunking – Have you ever tried swallowing an apple instead of eating it bite-by-bite? A text heavy course is like an apple which you need to swallow and chunking is the liberty to eat the apple bite-by-bite. Chunking creates space for one idea at a time, giving the learner the time to understand and then go ahead.
Some of the basic rules of chunking are:
Language: Now here is the tool we think we know so well but very often use it incorrectly. Since appropriateness of language is of foremost importance in e-learning, it is necessary to understand the audience before setting out to create content – especially text. There are however, some thumb-rules that one can work with.
The power of minimalistic OST: “Less is more” is not just a proverb. It plays a major role when you are writing text for e-learning. To ensure that text does not create tedium, on-screen text (OST) should be crisp, to-the-point and minimalistic. Here are some of the tips for keeping the OST minimal:
The balance of text and graphics: So far we have discussed only importance of text. But can an e-learning course be created without graphics? The answer is “No”. Text and Graphics cannot exist without the other in e-learning! Images and visuals complement all kinds of courses and can be used effectively to make our text more impactful.
Building explorative elements through text: Interactions with the learner within an e-learning course are necessary. It is human nature to explore things and look for answers. Interactions offer just that in an e-learning course. Contrary to popular belief, this element can be built successfully with text. Here are some ways we can provide explorative elements for our learners:
The strategies shared here are common practices that one can apply in e-learning. However, changing needs require changing strategies. Effective instructional strategies like role-plays, storytelling, scenario-based learning, game-based learning, theme-based courses, comic-strips, simulations, tutorials and such, can all be effective in creating content that is impactful in e-learning. Text element is the backbone in all of them, and if treated right – instrumental in building the path to learner success.