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Posts Tagged ‘e-resources

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:

  1. Send consistent messages. Do not send mixed signals.
  2. Give learners a compelling reason to consume your resources. Do not assume the user wants to consume them.
  3. Give your learners choices. Do not assume the user is stupid by providing defaults.
  4. Design with student perspectives. Do not design for teacher eyes only.
  5. 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 [1] [2] 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.

moe_press_release_untweetable

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.

If we are sharp enough, we can learn important lessons from current media outlets about how not to design e-learning and teaching resources.
 

Five Ball by Dricker94, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Dricker94 

 

Here are just five lessons from two online newspapers in Singapore. I present them as bullet points below and brief-to-the-point-of-indecent explanations thereafter.

  1. Send consistent messages. Do not send mixed signals.
  2. Give learners a compelling reason to consume your resources. Do not assume the user wants to consume them.
  3. Give your learners choices. Do not assume the user is stupid by providing defaults.
  4. Design with student perspectives. Do not design for teacher eyes only.
  5. Make your resources social and open. Do not make it hard to share elsewhere.

1. Send consistent messages
TODAYonline published an informative and important piece on the use of big data in hospitals in Singapore.

However, the paper saw it fit to publish photos that did not really illustrate the story. They were not the worst photos. They were not even stock photos. But they were awkwardly posed photos that did not add to the story. Such photos are quite common public relations posters or pamphlets and are painfully awkward.

Images are very powerful. Publications like the Boston Globe’s Big Picture and National Geographic leverage skillfully on this.

Carefully chosen images can not only reinforce a message, they can also be the message.

Words may leave room for some interpretation and debate; photos are visual and require interpretation and generate debate. Used skillfully, images do not push content; they pull it from participants and can be used to negotiate meaning.

2. Provide compelling reason; do not compel
I used to click on links that STonline tweeted. But I would be led to pages that auto-loaded and auto-played embedded video advertisements in the Twitter web browser.

Not only were these advertisements loud and alarming, they also consumed huge portions of my data plan. I was compelled to view them and had to manually stop them from playing.

Instead of first pushing the who, what, where, when, or how of content, educators should start with the WHY of a lesson. The WHY provides the impetus for learning.

3. Give your learner choices
Of late, the auto-play videos seem to have gone away from the STonline pages when viewed with Twitter. However, they have been replaced with another design sin.

If you are reading on a mobile device and listening to music, the STonline site somehow reduces the system volume of the mobile device. You cannot override this default behaviour.

STonline assumes that I cannot read the news and listen to music at the same time. This takes away user choice and control.

If you do not design choice for learners, you are assuming you know best. You are not the only authoritative source of information, no matter how highly you think of yourself. You are certainly not their overbearing parent. Give them choices.

More tips in Part 2 tomorrow.


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