What do you think about design consistency ACROSS multiple eLearning modules?

Hi. What is the latest theory on the "look and feel" across multiple eLearning modules; vary it or ensure they all look the same?  There is a significant amount of material available on consistency within a course, but not when applying it to an entire library.  FYI, the over-arching topic is safety, with numerous technical and soft-skill sub-topics.

Specifically, how will it affect learning transfer, retention, and engagement if we use the same avatar across multiple (25++) modules? Same question for using the same style across many modules (scenario-based, comic strip, scavenger hunt, illustrated vs. photographic imagery, etc.)?

We created a style guide that ensures consistency with primary and secondary colors, limited fonts (1 or 2), and consistent placement of buttons and other navigational elements. The learner will have no need to re-familiarize themselves with the interface in the next module.

Would love to hear everyone's thoughts! Thanks. -Jill

6 Replies
Ned Whiteley

Hi Jill,

An interesting topic indeed and one which I expect will promote a fair amount of discussion in the community.

At one end of the scale you have the heavily automated presentations with loud colours, no user-interaction and the corporate message being shouted out every few minutes, which leaves the user almost too afraid to touch the keyboard.

At the other end of the scale you have a course constructed from a dozen or so modules written by different individuals who haven't spoken to each other during the development process and, consequently, although some of the individual presentations maybe of a good quality, the overall course looks a mess.

In each of the above cases, if you were to ask your users at the end whether or not they would undertake another course with this company, the answer would probably be No!

To some extent, the style of your courses is dependent on individual choice, but I believe that there is a good compromise to be had somewhere between the two extremes. What works for me personally is a subtle corporate look that makes your course easy on the eye, engaging and professional in appearance. Once you achieve that, users are going to want to learn the information you are providing.

There are subtle ways to vary the corporate look that still maintain the one-company feel through the course. Using your example of a 25++ module course, I would assume that one of that length would be split into a number of topics, whether it be a course on software training, running corporate accounts or even First Aid. Lets just assume that you have five main topics, each consisting of five modules. As part of your corporate look built into your Master Slide, there may be a splash of colour, even if it is just a horizontal bar or coloured shape. In each new section, you have a different avatar to present the topic and change that single colour splash. That way you still maintain your corporate look, but also individually identify each topic through the subtle changes that you make. These simple changes also keep your users better engaged.

Having determined the look and feel of your course, you then need to populate it with a good mix of text, imagery and interactivity. It is important not to overdo it. Reading endless pages of text will quickly put your audience to sleep, but likewise, don't keep flashing new images up on the screen every few seconds. We've all seen them out there and there are some absolute shockers, but at the same time, there are some really good quality courses. Personally, I have been particularly impressed by the high quality of some of the examples that we see on a regular basis within this community. There are some seriously smart people out there using Articulate software and these community discussions are a great place to go to build your knowledge-base.

I could ramble on for hours on this topic, but for now I hope this helps. :)

Jill Freeman

Ned, thank you so much for your insights. I agree completely.
So you think that varying the avatars and a minor color change can help with engagement? I agree but some of our stakeholders think all courses in a library should have the same avatar and layout. I think they would all run together, causing learner to lose interest and the experience would not be memorable - thus limiting retention.

I hope to find some actual data to support this. Thanks! -Jill

Ned Whiteley

Hi Jill,

Perhaps what you want to do is to put together half a dozen slides (intro, menu and four main topic starter slides) and then create two demo versions, one with identical corporate look and the same avatar in each topic starter and a second with a subtle colour change and different avatar for each topic starter and then see what your stakeholders think. They might not be persuaded, in which case at least you know they never will be, or they may see the light when they can actually see how the options look on the screen.

Best of luck :)

Michael Ambech

Hi all,

We have completely identical landing pages, introduction slides and end slides to all of our chapters. This part should be familiar to the user every time they take a course. But after that we use a number of different methods. Videos, cartoons (Vyond), interactive exercises + plus the quizzes/exercises increase in complexity as the user is expected to actually apply what they learn during the course. The content dictates the delvery method - not the other way around. I use different characters in Vyond, but mostly stick to the same theme. I use technical drawings and real-life scenarios when needed.

To engage users the learning experience itself has to be engaging. There are positive things to be said about using the same avatar throughout, but in my opinion this only works if that avatar is actively engaging with the user -i.e. asking them to do stuff, asking questions etc. Otherwise he/she just becomes annoying and irrelevant. If you use avatars, they should be an integral part of the course. I tend not to use them, as they appear static and impersonal. Maybe in the future Storyline will introduce animated avatars?

Just my 2 cents

Michael