Five tips on e-resource design (part 2)
Posted March 4, 2015on:
This is a continuation of the design advice I started offering yesterday on the design of e-learning and teaching resources.
The five main points were:
- Send consistent messages. Do not send mixed signals.
- Give learners a compelling reason to consume your resources. Do not assume the user wants to consume them.
- Give your learners choices. Do not assume the user is stupid by providing defaults.
- Design with student perspectives. Do not design for teacher eyes only.
- Make your resources social and open. Do not make it hard to share elsewhere.
4. Design with student perspective
STonline is still designed for a physical newspaper first and the desktop computer second. There is little thought for mobile access and consumption.
Content consumption and creation are increasingly mobile. You need only collect data among your learners to determine this. Alternatively, mine open data sources like SingStat or rely on research by comScore or other similar groups.
The learners of today, both youth and adult, are mobile. Your eyes tell you this every day; your mind should convince you of that with data from reputable sources.
The graphic above is from the WSJ and illustrates how reliant the major social media platforms are on mobile (orange bands). The only exceptions are LinkedIn (arguably an older person’s platform) and Tumblr (arguably a platform that is struggling with an identity).
My contacts in emerging economies confirm what I know from my own travels and research: Mobile is king. Serve the new king: Design for smaller screens, bite-sized content, and interstitial   and just-in-time learning.
5. Make your resources sharable
Ideally make them free, open, and social. But if not, make them usable elsewhere for use and manipulation by the learner.
STonline does not design its headlines for easy sharing on social media. If you try to tweet a resource, you are likely to run over the 140 character limit. The MOE Press Releases website is even worse with long titles and equally long attribution add-ons.
If the blurbs do not go past 140 characters, they come so close that you cannot add your thoughts. You can only pass along as intended. This goes against the grain of the sharing, reusing, and remixing culture of today’s learner.
If copyright or the nature of content is an issue, then provide tools or options that allow users to collaborate and manipulate the information in private platforms. Learning does not take place simply in controlled consumption, but in its deconstruction, reflection, and reconstruction.
The latter three processes tend to happen more naturally in open and social spaces, not in tightly regulated ones. As a parallel, consider the benefits of rote chanting over the social negotiation of meaning.
What I have shared is not rocket science. These are the low-hanging fruit of lesson and e-resource design. These are within easy reach of any instructional design or teacher. The fruit are ripe for picking.