As an instructional designer, my main day-to-day task is to arrange, edit and improve the information that will form the content of a digital learning resource. Either this is provided by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) or found through research, but either way it requires further work to ensure it fulfils the business need.
eCom’s view is that content comes in three forms: Must, Could and Should. The content that must be used, could be used or should be used to meet learner objectives. And we have some other top tips we want to share, to avoid the common content pitfalls.
Content is dense
Have you ever come across learning materials where the content is just heavy? Usually it will consist of concepts that are complex and require many layers of understanding for the learners to reach the objectives. It’s likely that highly technical, legal or scientific topics can initially fall into this dense content state.
We use our mantra (must, could, should) to challenge dense content. We make sure all content presented to learners is key information they’ll need to meet the business objectives. And we also present dense content visually, if possible, to make highly complex information easily digestible and engaging so that key concepts will be absorbed and remembered.
In our recent project with Hydrosense, we created an introduction to their Rapid Testing for Legionella for a diverse group of users. Working in partnership, the digital learning resource incorporated images, animations and diagrams and portrayed the various heavy scientific concepts in an engaging way.
No logical content flow
Content may be represented like a list of interesting facts, each informative on their own but with a lack of relevance to the next. The best way to avoid confusion is thorough research of the subject. This allows us to look at the overall story which is key to making sure the content flows logically. And we use storytelling, a medium that people have been using for years to inform each other. This engages the learner, enabling them to make connections and find relevance between the topics.
In our partnership with Devro, we worked with their content to present a specific story for each aspect of their manufacturing process, highlighting the importance of each concept and its relevance.
When there are several SMEs or multiple stakeholders, everyone has a vision for the content and its presentation, but these visions can vary. To make sure this doesn’t happen, we set a specific schedule of content editing processes, each with a person acting as a gatekeeper. This person, usually the most knowledgeable SME, is tasked with making the final decision on what feedback is used.
By using this approach, we made sure our partnership with NHS Education for Scotland didn’t suffer from open-ended editing. Our Quality Improvement set of resources had a large team of SMEs to make sure the content resonated with the wide range of NHS staff who benefit from the resources.