When 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.
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 MS, Verdana, Comic Sans MS, Courier New, and Lucida Console.
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.
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 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.