Updating Your Learning Management Systems (Part 2)
Last week, we discussed the need for updating and refining content material in your LMS modules. Updating makes sense for a number of reasons: simple spelling, grammar, syntax, and the like; factual errors and inconsistencies; and, incorporating new information into the body your module.
Yet administrators should update and refine their content material for reasons of presentation as well. By presentation, we are not talking about the addition of “bells & whistles”; users are annoyed and distracted by superfluous presentation accents. Rather, updating LMS module presentation includes changes with the existing material and adding other types of material that will accent the existing material.
- Previous Feedback and Soliciting Opinions. Co-workers, students, trainees—your target audience is one of the best sources for appreciating the efficacy of your LMS modules. They are the perfect demographic for collecting feedback and soliciting opinions and the most valuable, as they most likely are going to be very similar to those to follow. Require participants to answer a training survey about the module and actually use that material. Try to group comments into categories and think about how you can update/refine your module to meet their collective concerns.
- Complexity. These are common criticisms for some training modules: “it’s too hard”; “I did not understand a thing after XYZ”; or, “why do we have to learn this” (which is often code for “I don’t understand this”). Administrators and training professionals can respond to concerns/complaints about difficulty by shrugging, “Ah, they’ll never learn” or “They’re not trying hard enough.” This may or may not be the case, but it frequently is due to a number of reasons that can be remedied by changing the style of presentation:
- Terms. As the trainer, it can be easy to assume that everyone understands the module language or the way that you are using it. Creating definitions are valuable even in higher-level trainings. It makes sure everyone is on the same page. The definition need not be center stage, but can be off to the side so as not to detract from the flow of your argument.
- Logical Steps. As you are writing your text, be sure that you do not skip over ideas and explanations in pursuit of parsimony. There are different levels of competency for the range of students who will utilize your module; be sure your argument is logical and in order.
- Accenting Concepts. Admittedly, given topic may be complex. If possible, break the ostensible “order” and spend time developing key concepts at greater length. Slightly different than terms, key concepts are ideas that have lots of background and assumptions into them. Again, this makes sure every user is on the same page.
- Augmenting Existing Material. In the spirit of adding terms and key concepts, the use of diagrams, photographs, and videos can be extremely valuable. Employing diagrams is especially valuable as they can encapsulate a wide-range of concepts and dynamics in a single image or in a succession of images. If you don’t have the right diagram at hand, don’t use something inadequate. Think about creating your own or get in-house talent to assist you. It’s worth the effort.
One should be judicious in the use of photographs and videos. You should not include them simply because you have it. There needs to be a reason and rationale that contributes to the overall training. If your training is barren of these resources, though, you might consider adding some photographs, as they can break up and accent your texts and intrigue your users. One needs to be even more circumspect in the use of videos. First, be sure that your use of videos—and photographs for that matter—follow legal copyright guidelines. Second, if the LMS module is going to be used in the context of an in-person training session, be sure the amount of video time warrants its inclusion.
All of these ideas for updates and refinements are nothing earth shattering. They are simple steps one takes in any creative enterprise. Yes, your LMS content is an expression of creativity; if you think of your work this way, then you will take more care and interest in the process of crafting its content and presentation.
Craig Lee Keller, Ph.D., Learning Strategist