We get a lot of questions about the number of slides or screen counts per hour of instruction. Our answer is that screen count is usually irrelevant. Let me explain.
First, to the eLearner screen count means nothing. For example, I can make ten points on a single screen or have ten screens, each with a single point. The time it takes to get through each point may be the same. More screens don’t make it longer and fewer screens don’t make it shorter.
Screen count becomes even more irrelevant when you introduce interactive elements like branched navigation which could be made up of dozens of screens. The time it takes to go through them depends on how fast the person can review the content and make decisions (and then react to feedback).
Ask the Right Question
Screen count is the wrong question. People typically ask the question because they are concerned about the cost or want a better sense of how much content they need to produce.
Instead of asking about screen count (which is driven more by dumping information), we focus on how to create meaningful eLearning that will make the hour more productive for the learner. In the long run, it costs less and will save time.
The following are some simple tips we follow to help build more productive eLearning.
We Don’t Auto-Advance Slides
Screens have information. Adding text or narration to them isn’t a problem. Not every screen is going to be interactive. With that said, how the user controls the information is something to consider. Many developers will lock the screen and set it to auto-advance. The problem with this is that if the person is a fast reader, it’s frustrating to wait for the slide to catch up. If the person is a slow reader, they won’t get everything they need before the slide advances.
Screens that have text and no audio should advance based on the viewer’s reading speed. The length of time on the slide is determined by how fast the person can read (or interact with the screen) and not by some arbitrary average reading speed.
The same can be said for slides with narration. Ideally, the screen text and slide narration aren’t verbatim. But if you have narration and text, it’s a good idea to let the learner choose when to advance. We usually just set it to advance by the user. When they’re ready they can go to the next screen.
I’ll also add that if they have to read a lot on the screens, then they’re probably going to fall asleep during the course. So you’ll want to do something to jar them awake.
Even though they’re looking at the same screen, people will focus on different things. Some are really fast and will quickly scan the screen looking for visual cues. Others are more deliberate. Many lose track during the session and will want to pause and restart the content at various points.
If you really want them to learn, then give them the freedom to navigate the content as they need to. One of the great benefits of eLearning is that it’s asynchronous. Take advantage of this. Free up the course navigation. Let them explore.
Build Productive E-Learning
How many slides per hour is the wrong focus. It’s better to consider how to create the best course given a certain time limit. Here are three simple tips:
Break the content into bite-size chunks. Regardless of how we design the course, people can only digest so much information. Instead of an hour-long course, you may consider 5 ten-minute courses where you can tackle smaller topics that are easier to process.
Are they viewing or doing?
Some courses are only about sharing information. In fact, they’re probably not really eLearning. I like to think of them more as multimedia ebooks. The goal is to share information that is of interest or use to the learner but not necessarily tied to performance goals.
In those cases, it’s all about efficiently creating and sharing the information. It’s also a good idea to link the information to other performance support outside of the course. This way you get the most value out of it.
If you do have performance expectations, then you want to turn the focus from the information to one that is learnercentric.
Pushing vs. Pulling Information
Are you pushing or pulling? Info-centric courses push content out to the learner. The focus is not on performance. Instead, it’s on how much information can be pushed out. Hence the questions about slide count. “How much content can I push out in an hour?”
Wikipedia has more than 10,000 pages of information. If I asked you a question and let you search Wikipedia for an answer, odds are that you won’t need all 10,000 pages. You’ll only need what you need to answer the question. Based on how I ask it or what I do to follow up on your answers, I can get you to research and review all sorts of content.
The same applies to eLearning. We can create a course that has all sorts of information and content available to the learner. But people aren’t successful because they have information. They’re successful because they know how to use it.
We Get the Learner to Pull the Content
We create pull interactions where the learner has to make decisions. And if they don’t know what to do, we provide a way for them to pull the information they need. If they’re new to the topic, they’ll need more supporting information. But a more experienced person may need less. Thus, there’s a lot of information (or screens of content) but the number of screens is not relevant to completing the course. What’s relevant is that they can make the right decisions.
Building good eLearning is more than just providing information. The key is figuring out how they’ll use the information. And then create ways for them to make decisions using the information. How we structure the decision-making and tap into the learner’s motivation is where the course is productive.
Digital Content Creators Can Help
Learners WANT interactive and engaging content. Educators and trainers want learners to BE engaged in their content, and have the ability to update content and measure its impact and effectiveness quickly and affordably.
Digital Content Creators works with organizations and educators of any kind move to ‘digital first’ efficiently and affordably.
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