Guest Blogger PostWhen designing and developing an elearning course you will always be incorporating some combination of text, images, audio, and video. There are several important things you need to keep in mind when working with various types of media.

Text

When designing a course, the wording of the text is not the only thing you should consider. The font you choose can have a huge impact on your elearning course. In one of his blog posts, Tom Kuhlmann points out how the typeface you choose sets the tone or mood for a course. It is important to choose a typeface that matches the tone you want your course to have. For example, you wouldn’t use Comic Sans in a course for business professionals. You would probably be better off using something more traditional like Times New Roman.

While you are deciding on which typefaces are just right for your course, also keep Jennifer Farley’s advice in mind and don’t use more than two fonts per design. She recommends choosing two contrasting fonts such as using an elaborate or decorative font for your headings and contrast them with a sans-serif font for the main text.

Also consider the size of the font in your design. Depending on the age of your learners, a font size of 10 might be too small for them to read comfortably. On the other hand if the font is too large it could distract the learner and make the visual design less appealing.

Finally, if you are creating elearning that will be displayed directly in a browser you should only use web safe fonts. In an article about web safe fonts, Chet Garrison says that if you use an exotic font, only the limited users who have the font installed on their computer will actually see the design as you intended. The thirteen fonts that are considered to be web safe are: Georgia, Palatino Linotype, Times New Roman, Arial, Arial Black, Impact, Lucida Sans Unicode, Tahoma, Trebuchet MSVerdana, Comic Sans MS, Courier New, and Lucida Console.

Images

When using images in your elearning course an important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t use images just for decoration. Although, like text, images can be used to set the tone of a course, they should also contribute to the content and learning.

In another blog post, Tom Kuhlman stresses the importance of using images that belong together. You shouldn’t mix photos and clipart or even different styles of photos and clipart within the same course. The images in your course should have a consistent look and feel.

You also need to consider the direction an image flows when you are deciding where to place an image in your course. You can use images to shift a learner’s focus as long as you place the image in the correct place. For example if you have an image of person pointing next to a body of text, make sure that the image is pointing towards the body of text. Chet Garrison has written a great blog post that goes into more details about this concept.

Audio

Just like images, don’t use audio in your course just because you can. You should only use audio if it helps with learning. Tom Kuhlmann talks about how background audio should only be used if it “contributes to an immersive experience” or “creates emotional cues”. Be careful not to use audio that is distracting to the learner.

Another time audio is often used in elearning is for narration. Al Lemieux offers several tips for recording good narration. The tip that I found to be the best, and that most people overlook, is the importance of using a high quality microphone. Using a good external mic instead of the one built into your computer can make your audio sound much more professional.

Video

Video can be a great way to add content to your elearning course, but it can also be really bad if it is not done correctly. One major problem is having a video clip that is too long. Learners can quickly become bored if all they are doing is watching a video. In an article for Learning Solutions Magazine, Jeremy Vest says that the optimal length for a video segment is two to seven minutes long.

In the same article, Vest says another common mistake, especially with screencasts, is not showing the instructor in the video. The learner can quickly become disengaged if they never see anyone on the screen. So, try to add in some shots of the instructor talking when it is appropriate.

I hope these tips will help you as you are designing your own elearning courses. Please feel free to share some of your on tips in the comments.

Guest blogger: Joey Weaver teaches Computer Technology to high school students at Kansas Career & Technology Center in Memphis, TN. He is currently working on a Master’s degree in Instructional Design & Technology at the University of Memphis.

Images courtesy of Daehyun Park, D’Arcy Norman, & Valeriana Solaris at Flikr Creative Commons.

About Michael M Grant

Dr. Michael M. Grant is a passionate professor, researcher, and consultant. He works with faculty members, schools and universities, and districts to integrate technology meaningfully and improve teaching and learning. When 140 characters just won't work, then he blogs here at Viral-Notebook.com. He has a beautiful wife and three equally beautiful daughters, who will change the world.

7 Thoughts on “Get more from your multimedia in elearning

  1. Great advice Joey! I’ve seen several instances where a designer appeared to have spent way too much time and attention on “dressing” up their course instead of developing the content. Another tip I can add in with what you’ve stated regarding video…instructors need to also consider video file sizes. Huge video clips can bog down a CMS and can also take students forever to download who are on slower internet connection speeds.

  2. Joey on March 4, 2010 at 6:56 pm said:

    That is very true Kristy! File sizes need to be considered with all types of media: video, audio, and images.

  3. Stacy on March 5, 2010 at 9:49 am said:

    Joey, thanks for the refresher on fonts! Often times, designers forget about the importance the font plays in the overall look and feel of the instruction. My undergraduate is in advertising and the font selection was “design 101.” It is important and often overlooked.

  4. Jeremy on March 8, 2010 at 2:12 pm said:

    Hey Joey,

    I really liked your blog. Great comments on some very practical ways to improve our instruction. I liked that you began your blog post with text. Text is probably equally the easiest thing designers could alter to improve their instruction as well as the most frequently overlooked. I also liked some of the general rules you gave on text like not using more than 2 fonts per design and making sure your text fits your instructional tone. Similarly, I liked the rules on having consistent images, using a high quality microphone, and using shorter video clips. Multimedia can be great for instruction, but can be even better by following some of these simple rules.

  5. Amanda on March 8, 2010 at 6:01 pm said:

    Joey, I like the suggestions you listed for formatting text. Undoubtedly, we take in a lot of information from reading. Font and font size can be used to provide a visual aid to the content being presented. Personally, I use headings and subheadings as a basis for an outline. Also, the type of font can increase readability and must be taken into consideration depending on the amount of text used. We need to spread your suggestions to others around us.

  6. Joey on March 9, 2010 at 5:30 am said:

    Amanda, you’re right. The font choice has a lot to do with readability. Typically sans serif fonts are easier to read on a computer screen and serif fonts are easier to read in print.

  7. Joey,

    You have summarized it all so clearly. I will use your post as guidelines in my future design projects. Thank you, it’s a great review.

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