When I started counting the types of writing that are potentially required to produce an online course, I was stunned. I realized that one instructional designer can potentially provide the skills of an entire writing department.Not only do we need skills for expository, creative, persuasive and technical writing, but we often write about topics for which we know very little at first. Furthermore, our writing is expected to be motivating while clearly delivering concepts, procedures and facts.
Here you’ll find some brief guidelines that focus on each type of writing. Much of this writing is done in storyboards, so I didn’t include writing for storyboards as a separate type. What other types of writing for eLearning can you think of?
1. Writing On-screen Text
They Skim! Nearly all types of online learning—from simple web pages to highly interactive multimedia—include on-screen text. Perhaps in prehistoric times, learners read everything that was on the screen. Today, people skim before they read and learners may skip material unless they are highly engaged.
Requirements for On-screen. On-screen text should be lively but not self-conscious. It must relate to the learner’s current world to give it meaning, while providing them with something new. On-screen text should consider the limits people have for processing new information (around four chunks).
Mind-deadening? When on-screen text accompanies audio, it is often displayed in short pithy phrases, sometimes as bullet points. Although this can provide another channel for encoding information, many learners find it mind-deadening. See alternatives to bullet lists to get around the bullet point approach.
2. Writing Audio Scripts
Find the Spark. It’s probably obvious that writing to be heard is very different than writing to be read, so I won’t mention it. Similar to radio scripts, audio scripts should have a hook that sparks the imagination and entices the listener. We must draw the learner into our content, like a moth to a flame or an instructional designer to Twitter.