Best Practices for Educational Content Based on Content Type

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Best Practices for Educational Content Based on Content Type

Key Takeaways

  • Creating educational content for a face-to-face learning environment to capture the entire audience's attention can be complex due to the learning nature of various participants. However, creating educational content for an online audience can be even more complex as facial reactions are often not visible to the tutor. The absence of facial expression makes it challenging to detect when students are confused.
  • When creating online educational content, it is best to draft and present content in various formats, including visual content format (to carter for students who learn by seeing) and auditory content (to carter for students who learn by hearing).
  • It is important to draft and include content loved by read-and-write learners (individuals who prefer to earn via reading and writing) and content specific to kinesthetic learners (those who learn by doing). Content needs to be diverse because 66% of learners have multimodal preferences.

Introduction

  • Individuals have different learning preferences. Hence, there is a need to draft online education content to accommodate the need of various learners. Some organizations leveraging some identified best practices in their content organization to achieve success include MasterClass, Harvard Business School, and YALI, among other organizations.

(A). Best Practices for Creating Educational Online Content

  • Some best practices for creating online education content include the use of visual learning content, the use of short-duration lectures, and several other practices discussed below.
  • Visual Learning Content

    • Several credible organizations like Harvard University and eLearning Industry recommend the use of visual learning content. It is vital to incorporate visual content when creating educational content for online platforms because about 65% of all learners are visual learners.
    • According to Harvard University resources, it is vital to include visual content in online learning materials compelling because visual examples can help in deepening learners' "understanding of key terms and concepts."
    • Visual graphics (including still images or photographs) are pivotal to engaging students within eLearning environments. The human short-term and long-term memories save information in chunks, but the human short-term memory has many limitations. One way to ensure that learners retain information in their long-term memories is to illustrate concepts with meaningful visual images.
    • Still-images and visuals are among the most potent learning tools content developers can use to draft their content. They should be used when teachers want "to inform and inspire." Humans are "highly visual creatures" and often get attracted to images.
    • Human brains are wired for images. Advertisers are aware of this fact and invest lots of funds to get the right image, composition, and color because images communicate feelings.
    • When compared to text, images are powerful shorthand tools for communication. They convey concise meaning, and "several pages of text can be encapsulated by one image (thus the aphorism of a picture equaling a thousand words)." Images are not limited by language and are "more evocative and open to subjective interpretation."
    • Online content developers or teachers should select specific images that capture a feeling, arouse curiosity, or summarize their message. They can use images to lighten the cognitive load on learners. Selected meaningful images and not generic ones should be used to teach.

    Video Vs. Images

    • Developers or teachers should use video lectures for tutorial help when they want to improve initial learning, reduce dropout rates, and improve course grades. The use of video lectures often accompanies the use of alternative study resources that have covered the same topic or content.
    • Interactive video lectures are more useful materials and help during self-study.

    Auditory Learning Content

    • When creating educational content for online platforms, it is best to include content specifically for people with a preference for audio.
    • Auditory learning involves learning via hearing and listening. It is the second most preferred learning option across several age groups after kinesthetic.
    • Teachers should record and upload audio files with text or image content. They should explain their notes or concepts via short audio clips and upload them for students to use.
    • Teachers can also search for relevant podcasts to share with their students. Voice and audio notes must be as short as possible to ensure that students do not "drift off while listening."
    • It is best to include auditory learning content when creating online training content because about 30% of individuals are "auditory learners, who learn best through hearing."
    • Some students prefer auditory learning over visual or tactile and often focus on "listening instead of seeing, reading, or physically trying in order to learn."
    • Some characteristics of auditory learners include: they have a good memory for spoken information and have good public speaking abilities. They are eloquent, have strong listening skills, and excel in oral exams and presentations.
    • Auditory learners are good at telling stories, have a good ability to read aloud and retain information. They are distracted by background noises, distracted by silence, and enjoy conversations. They are not afraid to voice their thoughts, make good members in collaboration projects and study groups, and comprehend and process tone changes.
    • Auditory learners work through complex problems while talking out loud and can explain ideas well with solid communication abilities. Auditory learning strategies include the use of podcasts, the use of recorded lectures, and the use of background music during silent times.
    • 4.2% of males prefer the auditory mode of learning when asked to select their unimodal preference choice.
    • A chart shows the percentage of various gender preferences for visual (V) and auditory (A) unimodal preference choices below. It also shows the read-write (R) or kinesthetic (K) preferences of learners.

    Content for Read-and-Write Learners

    • When creating educational content for online platforms, it is essential to include content for read-and-write learners.
    • One way to include writings for an online lecture is to use zines (small-circulation of self-published works with "original or appropriated texts and images.")
    • It is the best practice also to include content for read-and-write learners because 46.9% of individuals include read/write in their learning preferences.

    Content for Kinesthetic Learners

    • When creating educational content for online platforms, it is essential (best practice) to include content for kinesthetic learners.
    • A majority of learners (87.1%) exhibit some kinesthetic preference as part of their learning preferences.

    Use Hardware With Good Quality When Recording Audio or Video and other Content

    • A significant portion of creating online content can be accomplished through Zoom. However, additional hardware like an external webcam can add to the quality of produced training content. USB webcams (like Logitech or similar models) provide better picture quality than standard cameras built into laptops or monitors.
    • The audio quality of a training segment matters, and it is advisable to use a good headset or a USB microphone or better quality.

    Short Duration Lectures

    • It is best to break down an online lecture into short segments of 3 to 5 minutes each. It is advisable to use short lecture segments because long pre-recorded lectures are often difficult to watch.
    • Several experts recommend that a good length for an online course is between 15 and 30 minutes.
    • The suitable duration of an online training session varies with the target audience. Some schools of thought recommend bigger chunks and advise that online courses should not exceed one and half hours (should be more like a regular lecture). This timing is more suitable for adult audiences as it ensures "comprehensive insight into a subject."
    • Some experts suggest that shorter online lectures are better. They feel lectures should be delivered in 5 minutes tops because engagement diminishes dramatically "after the first 6 or 7 minutes." With longer courses, a facilitator may probably be handling the course introduction phase by minute 7.
    • The best approach is to make short videos covering particular issues, which may require series of recordings.

(B) Case Studies of Educational Brands that Produce a Lot of Content

Mindvalley

  • Mindvalley is often regarded to be the best transformation and personal growth platform. It helps students to succeed at work while unlocking the full potential of their mind, body, and spirit. Mindvalley is most suitable for individuals desiring to improve several aspects of their life within a short interval.
  • Mindvalley has more than 50 courses (or quests) in its library, taught by world-level experts like CEOs of big companies, celebrity coaches, best-selling authors, famous therapists, entrepreneurs, and international speakers.
  • Each course can last for 30 to 50 days and usually requires less "than 20 minutes a day to complete a video-based lesson and a practice exercise."

Udemy

  • Udemy is a popular online learning platform with a vast library comprising over 150,000 courses (Undemy is among the best online learning platforms in terms of content). With Udemy, users can expand their knowledge and skills in any field they imagine, from hand weaving and clowning to business and marketing. Udemy's goal is to democratize and disrupt the educational system.
  • Udemy does not have unlimited subscription plans, and users need to purchase its courses individually. However, Udemy's courses are cheap and can cost as little as $9. And if users don't like any Udemy course they have purchased, they can get refunded within 30 days.
  • Some training courses on Udemy are as short as 30 minutes and often include additional resources, like quizzes, coding exercises, practice tests, and assignments.
  • The price of individual courses on Udemy ranges from $9 to $200. Its library has over 150,000 courses. It does not offer free trials.

Harvard Business School Publishing

  • Harvard Business School Publishing combines all the best practices outlined above, like the use of audio materials and the use o video materials. It also implements training through short lecture segments, among other best practices for its business school students.
  • In a special episode known as Cold Call, Brian Kenny, the chief marketing and communications officer (CMCO) of Harvard Business School (HBS), spoke with HBS professor Srikant Datar on how HBS assembled "1,800 MBA students and 200 faculty online in under two weeks amid the covid-19 pandemic." The episode is meant to educate several students and contains visual graphics and an audio podcast.
  • Harvard Business School has several online teaching resources that leverage video training materials that are less than three minutes in length.

YALI

  • The Young African Leaders Initiative (known as YALI) is the United States government's signature activity to invest in and train the next generation of leaders in Africa. YALI is not merely a fellowship, an online community, or a place where young people "go for regional leadership training. YALI is all three!"
  • YALI arranges its online training courses, video vignettes, blog posts, workbooks, and podcasts on its website, where its target audience visits for training.
  • YALI's video vignettes leverage video, audio, and descriptive sketches ("vignettes") and are short.
  • YALI uses text within its short video training episodes. YALI's programs in partnership with USAID have successfully trained over 20,000 young African leaders. After participants graduate, "they join a vibrant YALI alumni family and network, and continue connection to the RLCs through additional training and professional development opportunities, participation in their country's YALI Alumni Chapter."

MasterClass

  • "MasterClass" is a popular online learning platform. What makes MasterClass different is that celebrities and world-famous experts facilitate its courses. Individuals can learn to act on MasterClass from "Natalie Portman, film making from Martin Scorsese, singing from Christina Aguilera, cooking from Gordon Ramsay, writing from Dan Brown, etc."
  • For a $15 per month fee, users get unlimited access to every class. MasterClass courses consist of about 20 lessons on average, and each has a duration of approximately 10 minutes.
  • Participants can also join discussion groups to "ask questions, get feedback, and connect with other students."

Research Strategy

To find best practices for creating online educational content, our research team examined online learning industry publications like eLearning Industry (a US-based online media and publishing company with "the largest online community of eLearning professionals"). We also reviewed academic journals and resources like Harvard University. We considered best practices as practices discussed as best or recommended across several credible resources with metrics of their importance or preference among learners.
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