eLearning authoring tools (for example Storyline, Lectora, Captivate, etc.,) are very powerful and offer a number of tools and features for enhancing the appearance and performance of the output. Unfortunately, many of these features, used improperly, can have the opposite of the intended effect. Instead of enhancing and speeding up learning/performance, they can make it more difficult for learners to access and learn from the material.
You may hear from non-instructional designers (perhaps your manager or director) that we should “jazz up the interface or content.” By that they mean make it more “visually appealing or attractive.” They’re typically not thinking of ID/eD/adult learning principles. Instead, they were playing with the tool, attended a demo, or saw a fancy example and think that that feature or function will work in other/all circumstances. Wrong!
Features and constructs to use sparingly, if at all:
- Sliders, accordions, flashcards, flip cards, buttons, fiddly process diagrams, tabs, and other interactive gimmicks that hide information behind unnecessary clicks (and not part of practice)
- Image maps, drop-downs, expanding sections
- Purely decorative images (people, places, objects that are not directly related to the topic)
- Overly attractive/distracting images and video lacking an instructional purpose
- Background music behind the narration
- Distracting games
- Hidden content (is it a secret?)
- Lengthy lectures (eHectoring) without worked and practice examples
- Important text buried in images or under multiple clicks
- Items that move unnecessarily in an attempt to hold interest while the narrator drones on