Technology is truly beginning to transform what learning is. If you’ve attended any of the many eLearning or training & development conferences, you know there is a lot of buzz around augmented reality, immersive learning simulations, serious games, and social learning applications. While we believe these technologies are already bringing seismic changes to the learning landscape, we need to remember not to maroon the traditional learner. eLearning with traditional learners

If you’ve seen the film “Castaway” with Tom Hanks, you remember his frustration at being forgotten and alone on a desert island in the Pacific. He started talking to a volleyball he called “Wilson” to help cope. In this sea of complex new learning strategies, more traditional learners need to have their preferences addressed too. They should have someone who understands their situation, a “Wilson.”

Here are four tips on how to help make your eLearning friendly to traditional learners:

Provide Support

Trying to learn new information while learning how to use a new program makes both tasks more difficult. This may be especially true for older learners who may not feel comfortable with technology, to begin with. Providing simple instructions on how to navigate the eLearning course can make traditional learners more open to the learning itself. So definitely include a: “How to move around in the course” section every time.

Also, having responsive support to answer questions and help troubleshoot can go a long way toward minimizing user frustration.  Will the learners know who to contact if they’re having trouble? Make sure this is clear.

Employ Accessible Design

Traditional learners may also be older learners and may have physical limitations, such as hearing difficulties or trouble with their vision. The National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine (NIA/NLM) has created a set of technical guidelines for making information technology usable by older adults. Among the considerations are the consistent placement of navigation aids and screen structure, reducing the need for scrolling, the use of reader-friendly fonts like Helvetica in 12-24 point size, and avoiding the placement of blue and green design elements near one another. Take a look at the guidelines. It’s a nice checklist during design to make sure you’re accommodating everyone.

Use Self-Pacing

Traditional learners value the ability to work at their own pace. They can learn just as well as members of other age groups, but they tend to like learning at their own pace. As a result, they’re more likely to prefer self-paced, asynchronous learning. They also will be more likely to want to actually read material! So, providing printable versions of the course content can be a great learning aid for them, too.

Explain the Benefits

Older adults are more likely to use a new piece of technology, such as eLearning, if they can see the benefits. It’s a good rule of thumb for any learning, but traditional learners want context. Let them know when and how the new skill or information will be used, and how it relates to the information the learner is already familiar with. They want to know why they’re supposed to learn something new, not just what they’re expected to learn.

Traditional learners aren’t that different from other learners. They like to understand how to use technology. They want an experience that accommodates, based on the physical limitations we all face as we get older. And they want to know the context for the learning.  By slightly adjusting our instructional design approach, we can easily make sure not to abandon a major segment of our learning community.

Try these simple tips to design your eLearning for traditional learners, so you can get on board with their learning, rather than stranding them on some uncharted isle!

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