How do clever people manage preferences?

Apr 05, 2017

This will not be a new concept to those of you who are clever e-learning developers so if you have something you would be prepared to share, I would be sincerely appreciative.

I am developing e-learning through SL2 (basically because I cannot justify the cost of Articulate 360 at the moment) and I have become aware of particular language styles suiting particular people so am wondering how I can best develop e-learning to suit an individual's language style or attitude.

Let me explain. Some people just need to be told what to do and how to do it. Others need to understand why something needs to be done in a particular way. This means that e-learning developed without consideration for the different behavioural (yes, I am Australian so we use the 'U') needs is rarely likely to deliver the benefits that face-to-face training does where the presenter can vary the style to suit the audience or different audiences.

How can this be effectively achieved in e-learning?

I am playing around with the idea of asking a couple of different questions that, depending on the preferred answers, would result in each trainee being diverted to a language and presentation style that best seems to suit their needs. It does mean duplicating the presentation but I do think it may result in a small upfront investment in time but a much better application and learning experience. Any thoughts or experiences?

5 Replies
Christy Tucker

The Debunker Club also has a whole page of resources (including Cathy Moore's posts that Matthew already shared).

If you're looking for more effective ways to design that will have more benefit for learners than a preference for language or presentation style, try Julie Dirksen's book Design for How People Learn.

Bob S

Hi Ian,

Taking your question at face value (rather than from a learning style debate), have you considered a simple solution of optional info?

Write the course in a straight forward "here's what you need to do" kind of way. But also include optional content the learner can click on to get the "why do it this way" for the key points; in other words the rationale that some folks seem to need. This can be handled really simply and no branching or alternate paths required.

Importantly, let the learners know up front about the approach, and clearly mark all the deeper "why" content in a similar way and make it clear it's ok to skip that stuff if they wish to.

This sort of approach is easy to create, easy to maintain, easy to augment should you need to, and avoids a bunch of higher-level debate.

Hope this helps,


Ian Bell


What a sensational and simple solution to an issue I made more complex than it perhaps needed to be. I currently use layers to provide additional information but, on reflection, think that simplifying the original base layers as you suggest may, in fact, be the most straight forward way to resolve the issue I am having.

I will not promise that I will not create a duplicate stream using language and a different approach to 'push' some people towards the objectives I am trying to create but your solution is a practical way to achieve a great outcome. Thanks for taking the time to simplify my issue.


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