You don’t have to be a “certified” instructional designer to start building training content that resonates with your learners. Be your own learning content producer with the 5 tips below.
I disagree that you have to be “accredited” to be an instructional designer. Do you remember a time when people told us we had to go to journalism school in order to be published, in order to be taken seriously as content creators? It’s now easier and faster to learn something and put newly acquired skills to use. Education is being disrupted by the likes of social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok. Naturally, everyone can now be a teacher.
Whenever someone interviews me and asks how I got my start in EdTech, I’m always upfront that (1) I don’t have a degree in Education or Learning and (2) SmartUp is my first EdTech job. In fact, it is my first TECH job.
The lesson I hope to share – in these interviews – is that all of us can make a career pivot and. whatever expertise we need, we can definitely pick up on the job.
But First, Not All Content Are Created Equal
Despite the fact that all of us are empowered – in one way or another – to create content, not all content are created equal. Between putting words down in black and white and someone doing something with the information, a lot of things have to happen. It is one thing to create and another to engage. Just because we all can put content out there doesn’t mean they deserve to be read or used.
I have spent the last 3 years working with numerous clients to transform their learning content. I believe the 5 tips below will prove useful for those tasked with the job of creating learning/training content for their co-workers or students.
1. Bridge The Trainer-Learner Divide
As subject matter experts, it can often be tempting to place ourselves in a position of authority. We want to come off looking like we know our stuff better than everybody else.
But clearly, the thinking process taking place inside the learner’s head is markedly different from the trainer’s. Your learner is looking to pick up new information, find a solution to his problem, or follow a set of instructions to create something.
Where do you start? Well, besides possessing a strong dose of empathy, here are 4 questions to ask yourself before you start designing your content:
Why is the learner here?
Correctly identifying the learner’s intention will help you better form the learning outcomes.
Does the content look good?
Compelling visuals are make for awesome learning aids too.
Does the learner have control over how they learn?
Whether it’s the order in which they consume the content or how much time they spend with it, you should not micromanage your learner.
Would the learner take your course if it wasn’t mandated?
If there were no repercussions for not taking your course, would the learner willingly sign up for it?
2. Learn To Tell A Good Story
We all love a good story and this preference is carried into the way we absorb messages and knowledge. A story helps make things easier to remember and is an effective tool no matter what type of learner you are.
You see, in any given setting, roughly 40% of a group are visual learners. Another 40% are auditory learners (meaning they learn best through lectures and discussions). The remaining 20% are kinesthetic learners (they learn by experiencing and feeling). A story contains elements that appeal to each type.
Now you must be thinking, “I’m not a novelist so this isn’t going to be worth my while.”
Relax. Anyone can tell a story with these 3 points:
- Link a personal experience to the lesson – you’ll find it much easier to build out your story when you’ve personally lived it
- Highlight the struggle – because it makes the ending and the lesson much sweeter and more memorable
- You can emerge victorious but please, don’t humble-brag – learn the lesson WITH your learners; don’t pat yourself on the back and strut around like a peacock. A showoff is a turn-off.
3. Ask Them, “What Would You Do?”
A scenario is like a story except it typically ends with a “So, now that you have all the facts, what would you do?” Scenarios are effective when you want to make sure your learner understands a concept and knows how to apply it in a real-life situation.
Make the scenario realistic – think about a likely workplace or daily life situation that many of your learners will be able to relate to. Use a conversational tone of voice to describe the scenario because in the real world, no one talks like a code of conduct textbook. Challenge the learner by placing him in quandary and asking him to pick his next step.
4. Make Learning A Two-Way Street
When we think about user-generated content, some of us may call to mind nervous administrators who are worried about employees or students creating content that’s “not good enough” or just “inappropriate”.
But if you truly want to engage your learners, you cannot expect them to be ok with staying at the receiving end of the equation. Give your learners a chance to contribute. This will promote a sense of ownership towards the course and help them apply what they have learnt.
There are several ways to encourage quality user-generated content:
As the instructor or designer, set a “best practice” example so people have an idea what to do.
Manage the process by asking users to contribute after a set of content has been released.
Facilitate the process – be a moderator if you have to.
Encourage social interaction by allowing learners to up-vote, like, and comment on each other’s content.
5. Pay Attention To “Production Quality”
Finally, pay heed to the production quality of your content. No, I’m not talking about creating Pixar-level animation or designing ad-quality visuals.
Things like maintaining a consistent font-size, using high resolution images, keeping your visuals to the same colour-family, and reading your copy back to yourself to ensure it sounds good … these tiny steps contribute a great deal to how good your content looks and sounds to the learner.
Learning is an experience and taking steps to ensure it’s a great one will ultimately engage your learner in a meaningful and impactful way.