Creating effective eLearning is really challenging. How do you fit in all the content you need without massively impacting running time? How do you make sure your learners actually come away with knowledge that sticks? How do you make sure they’re not clicking with one hand and scrolling through Twitter with the other?

It’s all about engagement: Once you’ve grabbed the attention of your user, you need to sustain it throughout the module. But that’s easier said than done. Some people will suggest adding a narrative track, or maybe restricting the navigation. It sounds like good advice, but actually, it contradicts some key behaviors of learners:

  • You can’t read and listen at the same time. You literally can’t. The part of your brain that processes written text also processes narrative, so even if you tried really hard, at best you’d only be flitting from one stream to another, unable to give either your full attention. It’s like when your brain feels like it’s had a workout, but you haven’t really got anything to show from it.
  • Restricting your learners in some cases works against you. The learner feels like you don’t trust them to do the module properly, so they immediately become disengaged.

But the good news is that there is a solution, and it only takes three steps.

Step 1: Cut down your text

If you can’t read and listen at the same time, choose one stream. There’s nothing to say you can’t use both to keep your learners interested, but try to keep it consistent: You might have all your new information delivered through narration, and all your breakout interactive content as written text—or vice versa.

Whether you use written text or narration, try to be really focused about the information you’re providing and ask yourself, “Is this point relevant to my learning objectives?” If it isn’t, then consider putting it in a “click for more information” layer or in an appendix.

And if you absolutely must have paragraphs of text on the page, then bold or highlight the important words to guide the learner to the key areas of focus.

Step 2: Use visuals

An easy way to reduce the amount of text you have is to turn your text into visuals. Think about someone in the office approaching you and asking you about a process—something like the water cycle, or the sales funnel. I guarantee the most natural way to explain a process like this is by grabbing a piece of paper and sketching it out.

Visuals are so helpful in those situations. Why? Well, it comes back to what we were saying before about the sides of our brain that process information. If one side deals with written or aural information, the other side processes visuals. So when you have visuals that accompany text or narrative, the message arrives at your brain through two complementary streams, helping it to stick a bit better.

And visuals needn’t be complicated to create. You just need to know what you’re looking for in your information. Read more about the process we use here. 

Step 3: Pace the flow of information

If you’re anything like me, you remember stories much better than disembodied facts. That’s because, as humans, we love stories. A compelling beginning; oh! what a twist in the middle; and man, we all live for that ending. Using stories—however simple—throughout learning content will help your learner latch on to facts and how they link together.

But when you give away the beginning, middle, and end of your story all on one page, your learner drowns in a sea of information. Structuring it into a story is therefore key, and animation is the means for telling that story effectively.

Animation needn’t be complicated, either. Even just bringing things on using simple fades paces the flow of information for the learner, giving them bits of the story in manageable bites. If you’re using PowerPoint to create your eLearning, you might be interested in some animation tips to give your content the edge.

So there you have it! By cutting down on the amount of text you have in your eLearning, you open the door not only for more visual content, but also for a storytelling approach that will ensure your content stays with learners for longer.