Writing is one area where we can have a great impact and make sure that the learning is inclusive for all. By refining how we write for learning experiences, it helps to reduce the cognitive load for the learner, makes the information easier to scan, helps make learning inclusive for all, increases accessibility, and reduces stress and time pressures.
When creating training materials – whether online or offline – how often do you think about the finer details of your writing? It is easy to get caught up in other factors such as timing, budget and covering topics, and only consider whether the basics like spelling and grammar are correct, but there are many more areas we can, and should, take into consideration.
We can learn from other areas of design such as user experience (UX) design and content design which can enhance our ability to reach our audience and make learning inclusive for all. The core principle of content design is making sure you are delivering the right content, in the right place, at the right time. These 3 factors alone give a lot of food for thought and areas for improvement.
So how can you make sure you are putting the learners first in your writing?
Meet the learners where they are
Consider the learner journey – what feelings do they bring to the experience? How can you acknowledge them and provide clear benefits for completing the learning?
Writing in plain language
Is your content full of jargon and technical info? Can you remove these or at least provide glossaries to help them?
Look at the level of difficulty in the language you use and areas where there could be potential misinterpretation or confusion.
Translation and localisation
Look at how you can prepare content for translation and potential areas of confusion. Also look at the impact of metaphors, local language, and other potential areas of difficulty.
Many IDs work by asking the question of what do learners need to know vs nice to know. Others live by the mantra ‘cut your content in half, then half again.’ Either way, being concise is an important factor in making sure your learners get the knowledge they need when they need it. This also includes looking at how you can break the text down visually through short paragraphs, varying sentence length and bullet points.
Looking from another perspective
Consider how the non-typical user may experience the course. This is where accessibility requirements come in. Are the instructions clear and easily read by a screenreader (get rid of all ‘click here’)? Could you understand the buttons/navigation if English was not your first language? Have you made state changes clear (i.e. not just a change of colour).
Test with learners
Usability testing with members of your audience can highlight problems you never considered and open your eyes to issues you did not expect. As we build learning experiences we should actively ask for feedback at all stages – and use it! Often we can forget to include questions around language in the questions we ask – focusing more on higher-level features such as flow and topics.
Write as you speak
Learning doesn’t need to be stale, technical and filled with jargon. By using conversational language, it is easier for the learner to relate to the content (and you as the training provider), to focus on the point being made, and interpret the information.
If you would like to know more, I am running an interactive webinar as part of the skills share series with the eLearning Network. It is open to members only, but for just £29 a year to join it is highly recommended for anyone interested in or developing eLearning.
You can find out more information on the eLN website.