At the simplest, instructional strategy for an eLearning course means the approach taken to deliver or teach the content. The bottom line is that people learn best when we are able to stimulate and engage them. How to deliver the content in a manner that it engages the learner is the question we should be asking. That would help in formulating the instructional strategy.
At Betelvine, we put a lot of thought into deciding the instructional strategy for our courses. As the starting point, we take into consideration the level of the learner combined with the course type. This post discusses the play of language and graphics as an instructional strategy in two of our courses. These are Couch to 10K Basics – How to Prepare for Your First Run and Application of Human Rights Framework – The Basics.
Use of language as an instructional strategy
The most important aspect of language is the tone. Tone conveys the mood to the learner. This blog has made a wonderful compilation of 155 types of tone that a writer can use. We don’t use most tones in instructional writing, but we do use many in everyday speech or in creative writing. It is good to be aware of them to understand what tones to avoid in instructional writing.
As a strategy across all our courses, at Betelvine, we want to maintain a conversational tone. A conversational tone is something between a formal and informal tone. It carries the quality of precision from formal tone but is not as rigid. It carries the simplicity from informal tone, but it is not as casual. At best, it is friendly, informative, and reflective. And we believe it is important to get the tone right as it engages the learner. A checklist to attain a conversational tone warrants a separate post.
Another aspect of language is writing in accordance with the level of the learner. Both the courses in question are ‘beginner-level’ courses, hence we did not leave any term or concept undefined or unexplained. For example, in the Running course, we had an animation to explain ‘calorie’ and its connection to weight loss. If this were a course for more advanced learners, we wouldn’t have taken the approach to define basic terms.
Similarly, in the case of the Human Rights course, being a ‘basic’ level ‘application-based’ course, we included an explanation of the characteristics of rights and its sources. We did not jump into how to apply the human rights framework directly.
Use of graphics as an instructional strategy
The level of the learner is also a deciding factor for the extent of infographics to use in the course. Instead of presenting the content as a plain lecture, a visually enriching experience works as a hook for a beginner. Most people have strong visual or photographic memories. Therefore, a simple or layered infographic with labels is likely to appeal more and have better chances of retention. In the Human Rights course with many concepts and their interrelationships to be explained, we included lots of infographics. We also made some of them available as job aids that the learner can download and pin at their desks.
We also stress on maintaining consistency across the graphics in one particular course for a better visual experience. Being a ‘Lifestyle’ course and motivational in nature, Couch to 10K mostly comprised real-life big-sized photographs. We used vectors (computer-generated images) only for the animations. On the other hand, we have delivered the concept-based Human Rights course through vectors only.
The bottom line is that a visually consistent experience has better possibilities for holding the attention span of the learner. Inconsistent use of multimedia or the lack of multimedia can break the flow. The result: The learner can get disinterested and disengage.
More on our instructional strategies in future posts. Stay tuned.