E-Learning Content Types
You’ve been tasked with developing your first training course, and the time frame is tight. What next? That’s a very abrupt first sentence for an article – but that’s how it can feel when an eLearning content development project is dumped on you for the first time.
Where to start? What type of end product is required? What is even feasible in the project’s time frame and budget? There are so many questions that need answering but one of the main ones is ‘what type of eLearning content will you be developing’?
You may wonder if there is a perfect roadmap for relevant and engaging eLearning content, but given the unique variables of each project, it’s difficult to cover everything in a single plan.
Varying factors include:
- Your team size
- Amount of content
- The subject at hand and ideal mode of content delivery
- The audience’s knowledge
- Your business goals
Let’s look at the different types of eLearning content so you can make an informed decision about which ones might be a good fit for your project.
Quick and Easy eLearning Content Types
We classified the first set of content types that we’ll look at as ‘quick and easy.’ This means we consider them to be fast and simple to develop – with no technical authoring skills required.
1. Slide-based courses
Slide-based courses are what most people think of first when they hear ‘eLearning’. They involve the user taking a self-paced course where learners view slides with interactive units and possibly narration and other multimedia elements. Such courses often have a look and feel similar to PowerPoint presentations.
This kind of content might be preferable in a number of different scenarios. Consider using it, for example, if you:
- Have existing learning materials in presentations, documents, PDFs, or other formats that you can easily repurpose into an online course
- Need to get some offline training into an online format fast
- Want to put new employee onboarding on autopilot
- Need to get a refresher training on a new product or service out quickly
Quizzes, tests, assessments, or knowledge checks – whatever you choose to call them – are an essential component of most eLearning courses. Why? Quizzes allow you to track your learner’s knowledge and ensure the learning objectives of your training are being met. They are also a fun and interactive way to break up the content in your training modules and provide a natural breakpoint between main topics that will give learners a sense of progression within your course.
How and when you use quizzes will depend on the type of courses you are building and whether they are formal or informal, accredited or not, and a number of other factors. Generally, when you are planning your course, consider:
- For short, informal courses, knowledge checks at the end of topics or modules may be more appropriate than a long final quiz.
- For longer courses, consider a more formal final assessment with feedback and info slides.
3. Training videos
Video content is more popular than ever, and with good reason – it’s always more engaging than text or pictures alone. There are several ways you can use video content in your eLearning:
- Standalone training videos.You can use video as the only type of content. For example, you could record a series of videos on a soft skill like speaking in meetings.
- Embedded videos.You can embed videos in your eLearning course. The video could be content that you created yourself, or public domain, or stock footage. The nice thing about this approach is that you can use video for certain topics and mix up more interactive elements within the course.
- Webinar or live training playback.This method is simply providing recordings of previous live or virtual classroom training and making them available online via an LMS or other platform. This is a great and inexpensive way to incorporate video into your eLearning content.
There are also several types of video content that are typically used in training and include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Video tutorials.These are the familiar ‘how-to videos’ and often feature additional on-screen text, call-out boxes, and other elements.
- Presenter screencasts.These feature your screen and the video from your webcam simultaneously.
- Software tutorials.These are used to teach how to use software. Typically, the video capture tool will automatically detect when you move the cursor, press keys and click screen elements, and will add visual cues for these actions to the video, like highlighting boxes on data entry fields.
Podcasts have risen in popularity to become a mainstream form of media familiar to just about everyone. They are already used in various spheres of business, so organizations have also started using them as a convenient tool for learning and development.
Podcasts are mobile and available 24/7, so employees can listen and learn whenever they want. They also offer a number of opportunities to improve employee retention, since they don’t require a specific time to listen – the audience can listen to podcasts while doing virtually any other activity, including working.
Podcasts are great for non-assessable training, particularly skills that revolve around mindset, motivation, and other ‘soft skills.’ They can also be useful for presenting longer format use cases and scenarios in the form of ‘stories’ that would be way too long to present in, say, a dialog simulation.
5. Dialogue simulations
A dialogue simulation is an eLearning content type that simulates a real-world conversation with a customer or other third party. It’s great for teaching customer service, sales skills, and any type of training scenario that involves the need for conversation between two parties to establish facts, negotiate, and reach mutually beneficial conclusions in a risk-free environment. Good dialogue simulations tend to use branched scenarios, where each decision an employee makes has consequences that affect the outcomes and the next stage of the sim.
This type of eLearning content is not seen as often as the others mentioned, but it’s a very quick and easy way to share things like standard operating procedures, step-by-step processes, and other manuals with your employees, and provide a good reading experience.
This is a great option if you have material sitting around in Word or PDF format that is underutilized or simply not available to learners in a format that is easy to access and consume.
7. Interactive videos
In normal training videos, learner passivity or lack of engagement can become a drawback, particularly in longer format videos. This can be where interactive videos fit in. Technology now enables us to provide interactions with videos, such as hotspots and quizzes. This could be a good choice if you want to add the ability for users to click, drag, scroll, hover, gesture and complete other digital actions to interact with the video’s content.
8. Serious games
We first need to make a distinction between ‘gamification’ and more serious games. Gamification is very much a part of most LMSs and you may be familiar with the term and its main use cases – leaderboards and badges. Those are great, but there is a whole other subset of more complex games that can be custom developed and look more like what you would expect to find on a games console. These feature rich graphics and complex gameplay that rewards the learner for completing tasks or scoring points within the game.