Engaging TEXT BASED Courses

Oct 17, 2012

Hello All! I'd love to get your input and experience on this topic.

There are so many great courses that use audio, supporting visuals, limited text and no bullet points. I have been focused on creating a learning experience incorporating these elements for quite awhile now and this community has been a fantastic resource of ideas.

Now I'm beginning the design of several programs that CAN'T include audio. I'm sure I'm not the only one in this position and I am very interested in discussing different ways to design text-based courses that are still engaging.

My topic is system/technical training but I'm interested in any and all methods and techniques you have seen or designed around this limitation. 

Looking forward to hearing from you!


6 Replies
Rebecca Hay

Holly, nice inspiration--especially for those using Storyline.

Natalia, my former place of employement did not use audio in their courses. The main difference that I have noticed is that I made the text-based courses into more slides than the aduio-based courses.

Each slide contained a limited amount of text, so it might take several slides to cover the same topic.

Placement is also key. The text should be near the image that it is related to.

That is all that comes to mind right now.

Sheila Bulthuis

Natalia –

One of my favorite ways around this is using characters who “talk” (callouts or other formatted text) about their a scenario or problem or whatever, and the learner has to decide what the character should do next (branching scenarios).   I also try to use a lot of simple diagrams (sometimes with rollovers to see more detail) and other graphic representations of the content in order to get away from it being all text.   The forum has also had a lot of examples of courses done in a comic book style, which I thought was really cool, and which wouldn’t need audio.

I also really liked what Bruce said in this thread:


Of course for system training it’s a little different.  One thing that I’ve found to be key is to make the course user-driven, so each person has time to read the caption boxes at their own speed.  Less "video style demo" and more "click to continue."

That's my two cents.

Daniel Brigham


I'd probably use markers, hotspots, and drag-n-drops where I could. This is probably also an opportunity to work on extraordinarily cool images. I'm thinking your visual theme will be particularly important in this case. Colors you choose can play an active role.

I love text. Two of its many benefits: it relays complex information and it doesn't change or disappear on you. Because these reasons, text is great for complex scenarios. The learner can always go back and re-read. As Sheila mentioned, you can still get a nice story feel with call outs and animations. You might also think about how your text and image animations add meaning to the course.

This challenge sounds sort of fun, actually. Would love to see the finished project.

Steve Flowers

This may not work in the context of a slide-based output but it's pretty cool in concept. This is all text with images that change with the scroll context of the page. Really interesting effect that could potentially add an emotional punch. I think it's a little distracting from the text in this case - but I can totally see where it could add value:


Natalia Mueller

Thanks so much for all of your responses. I'm actually enjoying this different approach. I'm also really glad I'm developing in Storyline for these projects. Of course interaction can be build in other tools, but I've been heavily utilizing a lot of the pre-built interactions and it's helped my timeline tremendously. My user base hasn't seen them yet so I'm enjoying this phase while I can.

Steve, that example was really cool. It's definitely going into my design doc for future inspiration

A little more back story if it triggers any more ideas/discussion - my learners are international. The previous training programs contained audio, but everything was in English and the controls were locked down. Considering that the locations I support vary in English proficiency, I decided that text-based was the way to go so they could at least go at their own pace. I haven't announced it yet but I'm also going to begin translating the text so each location can have language specific courses. Before I can get to that stage, the courses all have to be created around text. So right now my focus is just how to keep them interesting. 

I agree that keeping the user interacting with the course in strategic ways is the way to keep it from feeling like they're reading a technical manual. If anyone has created or seen any text-only courses (of any topic) I'd love to see or hear about more examples.

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