Do you use templates when building elearning?
I’m a big fan of templates (as I am of other methods of standardization). I love the idea of having a set of optimized formats for content. Plug and play, everything works with a minimum of fuss and bother.
But templates can be problematic. Designers and developers want to develop new and more interesting ways to present information. They want to explore better ways to create more delightful elearning experiences, and more effective ways of programming content. Audiences can quickly get bored when completing template-based elearning. Seeing a tab-style interaction once or twice is something that many learners will put up with. But see it too often, and it’s as dull as a click-and-read.
Templates can also become stale. Tools are always evolving—new tools are developed, and new capabilities arrive in existing ones. Yesterday, the only way to include closed captions might have been to hand-program them to appear on the screen. Today, the tool may be able to use a formatted text caption file. Yesterday, the only option for a branching, choose-your-own-adventure-style video might have been special-purpose webpages. Today, it might be part of the standard video player.
There seems to be, in practice, a constant tension between closely following existing templates and experimenting with better ways of doing things.
Is there an easy answer? I’m not sure there is. Some projects seem to work better when templates are rigorously enforced and options limited. Yet as tools and people change, templates can become too limiting, preventing a team from fully taking advantage of the possibilities that elearning can present. It may be that under severe constraints of time and money, using existing templates is essential; when an expansive scope is required, templates themselves need to undergo revision and improvement.
And, occasionally, although I shudder to think it, it may be that the success of a particular course needs to go beyond what a template can provide.
Until next time,
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Creativity within Constraints – Budget limits. Deadlines. Legacy tools. They don’t have to mean sacrificing creativity, engagement, or effectiveness.