How to author eLearning content

Dustin Moore | August 14, 2019

Authoring eLearning content isn’t as simple as writing down steps and hoping your users can follow them. It’s also not about trying to sound smart. Instead, authoring eLearning content requires you to be as succinct and easy to comprehend as possible while providing detailed instructions. If you author eLearning content that goes over your users’ heads, you end up with content that is completely useless. You also end up with content that sounds like you’re talking down on your users. This leads to poor engagement and blurs the entire purpose of your content.

There are numerous factors to consider when authoring eLearning content, including the type of device your audience will use to view your eLearning course. This can become a bit complicated when your users view your content on different types of devices. But most importantly, you must consider the distractions that your audience will face when viewing your eLearning course. Think about it. Viewing an eLearning course on a computer or smartphone will present many more distractions than reading content on a plain piece of paper.

Important to note is that when your audience views your content from an electronic device, they are likely to read it 25% slower than what they read content on a piece of paper.

 be succinct when authoring elearning content

This reduced reading rate comes as a result of distractions, like images, videos, and links to click on. You should also know that your audience is likely to read only about 20% of the content on each page. Instead of reading every word, they prefer to skim the content to find what’s most pertinent to them. These stats alone highlight the importance of making sure your eLearning content is concise and organized with lots of subheads and short paragraphs. Here’s a closer look at how to author eLearning content.

Divide Content Into Small Chunks

Probably the most important tip you can follow when authoring eLearning content is to divide your content into small chunks. This is crucial to improving post-training evaluations. You want to create a sequence that allows you to go from simple topics to more in-depth concepts. Each subject that you cover should have its own subhead so your users can skim the content to quickly find what they need. This complements their preference to skim your content. You should also number your subheads, particularly when your title has a number in it, such as ‘3 ways to create a new account.’ 

To help you better author your content so that it is in easy-to-digest chunks, follow these four tips:

  • Prioritize the information: Create a content hierarchy and follow a logical progression of content (main points, primary supporting points/materials/visuals, followed by secondary supporting materials)
  • Follow the “less is more” concept: Only include absolutely necessary and relevant information to help your users avoid information overload
  • Go screen-by-screen: Before designing, plan what will appear on each screen (all new topics should appear on a new screen)
  • Use bullets and numbered lists: Information presented in bullets and numbered lists are easy to scan (make sure these lists don’t include more than nine elements)
  • Use relevant titles: All sections need an eye-catching, relevant title (use compound titles using colons to make the titles extremely descriptive and make sure to leave out filler words)

Be Careful With Your Wording

Avoid abstract language and vague concepts. Concrete language works best for authoring eLearning content because it allows you to get to the point immediately. When using special vocabulary, make sure to provide a definition. Additionally, all acronyms and abbreviations should have an explanation beside them the first time you use them. If your eLearning content is heavy in acronyms, abbreviations, and/or special vocabulary, users may find a glossary helpful to navigate the terminology.

Avoid Long Sentences

Long sentences require people to slow down and direct their attention on wording, and when they do this, it takes their attention off of learning. Any sentence that is over 55 words is usually difficult to follow. This is why you should aim for your sentences to be between 10 to 30 words. However, do use varying lengths to ensure the content has a nice flow and doesn’t sound like a robot. To write concise sentences, follow these tips:

  • Cover your mine idea with three to five sentences
  • Keep paragraphs around 100 words
  • Try to use active voice 85% of the time and passive voice 15%

Steer Clear of Compound Sentences

When sentence after sentence uses “and” or “but,” this makes your eLearning content difficult to understand. Instead of using compound sentences, strive to use simple sentences as much as possible. It’s also important to steer clear of authoring eLearning content that uses a lot of commas and semicolons; this indicates the presence of long sentences that are hard to follow. A lot of times, a sentence with a comma can easily be made into two shorter sentences.

Use Lots of Bolding

The eyes are drawn to bolded fonts. You can use bolding to draw your users’ eyes toward your main ideas. If a part of a sentence is really important, use bolding to make it stand apart from the rest of the text. You should not bold an entire sentence; only individual words or phrases.

Improve the Flow of the Content By Using Connecting Words

Connecting words help you connect one idea to another. Even better, they let you connect these ideas without having to create long sentences. When used strategically, you can even use a connecting word to connect an idea in one paragraph to an idea in the next one. Here are examples of connecting words:

  • Number/order words: First, secondly, thirdly, lastly, furthermore, finally, etc.
  • Casual connectors: Therefore, since, consequently, etc.
  • Quandary connectors: However, on the contrary, etc.

Bonus: Use eLearning Content for Contextual Guidance

You may also want to consider using eLearning content as contextual guidance for end users. Contextual guidance delivers content to a user in their workflow, based on “context” that could include their department, role, in-use application, and more. This is a much more effective way to deliver content than by having users access it exclusively outside of their workflow, like in an LMS. By delivering eLearning content as contextual guidance, you’re giving your users the right content at the right time to help them solve a problem while they are working.  This enhances user engagement and accelerates learning.

Final Thoughts

Essentially, the best tip you can follow when authoring eLearning content is to keep everything as simple as possible. Have a professional help you edit your work for clarity. Don’t try to sit down in one session to create all of your eLearning content. It’s typically best to take breaks and come back to it at a later time. Lastly, leave out any unnecessary information. 

There are several types of eLearning authoring tools that simplify creating eLearning content. One of the fastest and most powerful is Smart Documentation from Epilogue Systems. And, when paired with the Epilogue Opus Digital Adoption Solution, you can deliver eLearning content as contextual guidance to your users when they need it–while working in an application. No more having to stop what they’re doing to find answers. Contact us today to learn more about Smart Documentation and the Opus Digital Adoption Solution.

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