Top 10 Tips for Instructional Designers

Instructional design

1. Get your client’s buy-in for starters. No surprises! Then, work on engaging your target audience and keeping them engaged – much, much simpler said than done. So how do you do this?

2. Understand who they are and put yourself in their shoes, so you’ll use a language they’ll understand and can relate to. Generally, keep it simple, use short sentences, literally short line lengths (2 columns is generally better than 1 long one), avoid the passive voice and use left justification in the main. I’ve deliberately used left and right full justification for this point; whilst it might give nice crisp edges, I think it’s harder to read on screen and you can more easily lose where you are.

3. Don’t patronise your audience – this is easily done by using such phrases as ‘we are going to….’, by language that’s too simple or by multiple choice questions where the wrong answers are too obviously wrong – what was the point of asking such a question in the first place?

4. Avoid rhetorical questions (joke), but use humour carefully. It might not be so funny the 2nd time and certainly won’t be funny the 3rd time.

5. Think visually – if there’s a point you want to get across, what image would help? Could it be animated?

6. Try very hard not to bore your audience (although you’ll find yourself up against it with some content that comes along). There’s little worse in elearning than to give them information they could just as easily obtain from a book, with page turning ‘click Next to continue’.

7. Use analogies where applicable and scenarios are great for immersive elearning.

8. Every word on the screen should be like a specially invited friend to a wedding! It’s there because you want it there, and that isn’t less true when applied to audio. Audio can be so frustrating because it can slow the learner down and/or be read by someone who should be prescribed to cure insomnia! Get audio recorded by a professional voice over artist, but make sure every word has been approved by your client before you do – including pronunciation! I once designed some elearning for a multinational company and there was to be a Dutch version. After it had been recorded, the client told me they wanted one important word to be pronounced with an English accent. Who’d have thought to ask? Well, I ask now! (Squeezing in an 8a here – learn from your mistakes!)

9. Make sure someone else reviews your work as you rarely see your own mistakes. A simple typo can destroy credibility.

10. If the budget allows, think outside the box – be creative! Anyone can convert a dull PowerPoint deck into something that goes by the name ‘elearning’, but where is the added value of your skills and talents?

(10 and a bit) There’s more than one way to skin a cat!

angry cat

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