Design Tip 1: Keep content light and conversational

I’ve been asked to expand on the 10 points in my post Blending Organizational Standards and Branding with Learning Theory, so here is some more detail on the first point: Keep content light and conversational.

In Renny Gleeson’s “404 Page Not Found” TED presentation he demonstrates how he helps navigate brands through fresh concepts, such as viral marketing and social media, to find the pulse of the modern consumer. In eLearning, we are trying to find the pulse of the modern learner. The ideas in this presentation can be used in eLearning to help reduce the threat of a snoozer course.

His demonstration of using casual, conversational and light-hearted language to address his audience is becoming more relevant and applicable in eLearning design and in-class material. Learners aren’t interested in stuffy old academic speak and dry rhetoric, they want clear and concise dialogue.

People are learning from blogs, LinkedIn articles and YouTube, which are all written or scripted in conversational English. It’s only natural that eLearning courses should coincide (stuffy word, sorry) with these. Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer give some great evidence for using conversational style in eLearning in Applying the Personalization Principle: Use Conversational Style and Virtual Coaches.

In a nutshell, here are some guidelines to keep your copy lively and fresh:

  1. Use more phrasal verbs than 4+ syllable words. Avoid using idioms as many may not be familiar with them. Audiences are global and cross-cultural.
  2. Define but convert terminology and industry jargon into layman’s words and use a mix of both.
  3. Write like you would speak to a buddy, or more formally, your boss.
  4. Talk to your audience through words, wouldn’t this engage you? Sure it would…me too.
  5. Not too, like, casual, you know, eh.

Give ‘er a try and see how it goes.

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