4 Simple Strategies to Designing an Inclusive Learning Environment
By Quinn Rom Ang, Instructional Designer
A quick online search showed countless statistics supporting the benefits of eLearning. One article stated that eLearning led to an increase in income for 42% of US organizations and improved retention rates by 25% to 60%. Another article indicated that 48% of students in both the graduate and undergraduate levels felt that online learning was as effective as face-to-face instruction. Moreover, it highlighted that 37% of students felt that online learning was better than in-classroom lessons.
Despite its numerous advantages, eLearning isn’t a guaranteed solution. Motivation, availability, and technical knowledge often prevent learners from understanding and retaining course content. ELearning programs are also difficult to design in a way that meets the unique needs of generational learners. This begs the question: How do we design inclusive and engaging eLearning courses that create genuine value for all learners?
Here are four simple strategies that you can implement to design an inclusive and transformative learning experience:
- Think “Readable”
The simplest and most effective way to make your courses engaging, relatable, and comprehensible is to make the narration and on-screen text simple. This is supported by two of Richard E. Mayer’s multimedia learning principles: the voice and personalization principles. So the next time you create learning content, use shorter statements and avoid jargon and words not used in everyday conversation. Technical learners will still understand without alienating learners who may be new to the industry.
- Use Neutral Language and Reflect Diversity
Another way is to examine the language used throughout your learning materials (e.g. eLearning courses, course descriptions, reference guides, facilitator and participant guides, manuals, infographics, etc.) Names and gender roles can often show unconscious bias, so enlisting the help of peers or a diverse test group can bring sexist and ableist language, as well as other issues to light.
- Consider Microlearning and Nanolearning
There is a limit to how much people can process and retain. We know this. Scaffolding and chunking are required to broaden understanding and target higher-order thinking skills. This is where microlearning and nanolearning become useful. Definitions vary, but microlearning refers to bite-sized learning modules between 5-15 minutes long while nanolearning delivers miniature content that is between 90 seconds and 2 minutes.
So, avoid 60-minute courses at all costs. Retain only need-to-know information and break the remaining content into 8-minute lessons rolled out daily. Better yet, engage experienced employees and leaders to record 2-minute videos discussing critical processes, showing statistics, or sharing personal experiences. These will not only encourage learners to examine the learning object from different perspectives but will also add up to create a culture of learning.
- Create a Learning Ecosystem
Learning is a continuous experience. And an eLearning course, even when exceptionally designed, isn’t guaranteed to improve performance outcomes. To help learners succeed, you can create a forum in your Learning Experience Platform (LXP) and assign subject-matter experts to respond and moderate discussions.
Don’t have an LXP? Why not hold 20-minute virtual sessions for those who do not learn well independently? You can provide one-page guides for those who prefer visuals and links to process documents in your shared directories or your knowledge base software for learners who want to broaden their knowledge.
These are only a few tips, and we encourage you to discover more. Remember that the goal of eLearning is to support employee development, but it’s not a standalone solution. It requires collaboration and creative solutions from everyone in the organization to become a catalyst for growth.
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