Amy Morrisey is the president of Artisan E-Learning.
Putting learners at the center of e-learning, where they can visualize themselves in scenarios, helps make online education a more participatory, relatable, and successful experience.
Many associations use educational events to provide value to members—both with continuing education and networking experiences. However, due to COVID-19, those events are no longer on the calendar. But there’s a silver lining: Customized e-learning can successfully fill in the gaps by providing instruction that is focused on learners in a well-designed and prepared format.
Beyond providing content that’s genuinely useful for learners, the most effective learning programs deliver content that focuses on the learners themselves—rather than educational objectives, instructors, or your association. Creating learner-centric content provides many benefits. For example, your members are more likely to engage with and retain content if they can visualize themselves within it. Rather than being an outside observer, they’re immersed in the content and can bring the skills they learn into their own workplace.
Here are a few specific ways you can create learner-centric content:
Create visuals where learners can see themselves. Where do your members work? What kind of people do they work with? Too often, e-learning courses are filled with stock photography of beautiful people gazing at a screen. Unless your association represents fashion models, these images may not resonate with your learners. Replicate familiar landscapes and characters in your courses, so learners can see themselves within it.
Build the course with your learner personas in mind. Return to your learner personas and build your course based on what they would respond to best. Use your personas when determining what content should stay and what should go. Ask, “How will Wendy use this information? Is this something she really needs to know?”
Personalize the course. If the course is intended for your entire membership, how can you personalize it? There are many ways to help learners feel like the course is just for them. For example, build a branching scenario where the learner gets to choose their path and experience the consequence. Create an educational game where they can pick their own avatar or opt out of the warm-up and go straight to playing the game. Ask them to reflect on a teaching point and compare their answers with an expert.
Your members are more likely to engage with and retain content if they can visualize themselves within it. Rather than being an outside observer, they’re immersed in the content and can bring the skills they learn into their own workplace.
Tell stories to provide context. Don’t just present concepts to your learners; contextualize these concepts within the learners’ experience. Write a story that weaves learning objectives throughout. Most people are engaged by great storytelling. Your learners will be so immersed they might not even realize it’s an educational experience.
With learner-centric content, your members will complete the course and take the lessons they learn into their lives.
What is the best format for e-learning? The truth is, there isn’t one. It’s up to you to choose the best format for your course and learners alike. Again, remember your learner personas. What behavior are you trying to change? Are you trying to build skills? Change a mindset?
The answers to these questions can lead you to an effective format. Here are some options you might choose:
You might choose a combination of those options. In fact, if you’re creating a long-form, multi-module experience, you should consider including multiple types of instruction to hold your learners’ interest.
One of the biggest value propositions of membership is continuing education and professional development. During the current crisis and beyond, e-learning is a powerful way to continue providing this value. With these essential elements, you’ll be creating effective, engaging, and useful content for your members.