Terms that indicate "pay attention, we're getting ready to change"

Sep 13, 2011

What are some of your favorite transitional words and phrases to use when writing for eLearning?

I'm exploring effective words to use to provide coherence and to indicate a change in thought, idea, discussion, etc. and I'd like to learn what other professionals use. (I understand the terminology is different depending on the content.)

For instance, when teaching a procedure, I like to use: "Here are the steps to..." and "Now let's look at how to..."

32 Replies
Brooke Schepker

I am a big fan of conversational tone (i.e., talk to the learner as if there were sitting in front of you in the classroom).  How would you transition to another topic in that setting?

Like Robert, I use "Now that we've reviewed..., let's switch gears and look at..."  If you want to continue the thought, but get into more specifics, you could use something like "let's delve into more detail (or take a closer look at)..."  I am also a fan of "let's see how this all fits together" to summarize the content you have just covered and give them the "why" of the lesson.  What's the takeaway?

A few others for consideration:

  •  "When you are ready, click Next to..." - This gives the learner a feeling of control.  When they have finished processing the information, they can continue at their own pace.
  • "Now that you are familiar with..., let's put it to use" or "let's see if you can..." or "let's practice what you have just learned" or "let's practice using a real work scenario" - This is good to use when you are going to move into a simulation, scenario, or assessment.

 Good luck and hope this helps a little!

Jeanette Brooks

Fun discussion! In addition to using consistent phrases or keywords for transitions, visual & audio cues can be helpful too. Like maybe you include a key-shaped icon on your section summary slides when you review the key points. Or maybe you add some brief intro/outro music (think subtle NPR-type music clips) to signal the beginning or ending of major sections.

Lauren Milstid

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Great ideas!

Brooke—I agree with speaking in a conversational tone. When transitioning, I tend to speak in first or second person, using words such as, “you, we, us, our, let’s.”

Jeanette –Your mention of visual and audio cues is a perfect addition to using keywords for transitions. All these components help to give eLearning projects a consistent voice/brand, which helps to establish credibility.

Natalia Mueller

Along with what Jeanette suggested, one of my favorite ways to cue the learner that the topic is changing is to add a visual slide transition like fade to black. Since Articulate doesn't support PPT slide transitions, I fake it by

-creating a black square the size of the slide

-cut and paste special to bring it back as a PNG

-To get the fade thru black effect, I'll add it as the last animation on the slide set to fade in. Then the first animation on the next slide to fade out.

I use transitional terminology as well, but I really think that visual element helps since we're used to feeling like something has ended when it fades to black.

Bob S

LIke so many of us with roots in stand-up training, my tendency is to write as I would deliver trainining...

"Now that we understand X, we can look at Y...."

"Let's explore the next step in Z..."

It's conversational and friendly for the learner. And let's be honest, it's comfortable to for us to write since it's how we think.  But there is the challenge...

Unlike stand-up training, we can't always be sure exactly what particular path the learner will use to progress through the course. So we have to pay special attention to be nuetral in our transitions.

Some designers approach this with a choice....

Eg. "By clicking NEXT we can look at how what we just learned applies to XYZ. Or click HOME to explore a different topic altogether"

Some designers try to write transitions that work no matter where the learner came from or leaves to in the course...

And some designers simply forego transitions altogether to avoid the issue...

In the end it's just one more thing we have to be concious of in order to create good elearning. Hmm, perhaps we should all put in for a raise! 

Jeanette Brooks

To Natalia's point about using fade-to-black and other subtle visual cues... I've also seen designers use a change in the player's view mode as a nice transition. Like, maybe they use Standard View for most of their content, but on slides where a new section starts, they might use Slide Only View, or No Sidebar View. It can be a nice reminder to the learner that they're entering a new portion of the course

In case anyone's not familiar with switching up the View Mode, here's a tutorial: http://community.articulate.com/tutorials/products/customizing-the-view-modes-of-your-player.aspx

Harriet Stroupe

Bob - good point about the open-entry/open-exit available to e-learners. Some transitional phrases may not make sense. That's actually an e-learning development challenge - how to avoid repetition for those who go straight through while accomodating those who hop around. Most courses we develop are set up to run sequentially, but we're trying to make them more interactive by letting the learner go where he/she wants.

Lauren Milstid

Good point Bob and Harriet. If we develop non-linear training and allow the user to skip around, it would be disorienting for the user if we used a statement such as, "As we previously discussed..." or "In the earlier example..."

There would probably be confusion as to what "previous" or "earlier" is referring to, since each user would likely navigate the course differently.

Michael Fimian

I liked Natalia's fade in/out idea.

How about making a bit more transitional by adding (gasp) bullets to the effect that  (Fade to black: "Now that we covered A, B. and C, we're going to turn our attention to X, Y, and Z.).  Fade to next screen.

A word or two for each bullet, just the highlights; this would recap the material just presented and act as an advanced organizer for the new material.  No more than 8-10 seconds tops.

I'd probably throw in a gong sound and baby as well, just for motivation's sake...  


Dennis Coffen

I like the inclusion of silence...especially if the rest of the piece has audio of some sort...it is a sneaky way to get the attention of the viewer. The lack of sound is enough to make them think they are supposed to do something, so they come back to you to find out.

I also like to use questions to transition between segments...since often times the question is used to build the course anyway. It is kind of like the good old carrot and the stick.


Bruce Graham

Julie Frappier said:

Which transitional phrase would you use in a system training, where you do from one screen to the next? I have maybe 10 screens that shows a step by step process in a system.... 

I've already used the common '' Next'', Then, Now....''

Any more suggestions?



Well - if it was system training, I would summarise the process step(s) that have been completed, and layer the next one by saying something along the lines of "So...now you have entered the customer details, you now need to send them the invoice, so let's see how to do that", (or similar...).