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Content Strategy & Training Content

I’ve always had an issue with the term Content Strategy as it seems to imply that all content is of equal value. In a series of recent posts, the author, B. Noz Urbina  posits a device independent strategy so that content can be formatted and displayed on any device including print as needed.

Seems reasonable enough in the abstract, but lets review some examples from my recent experiences that suggest that Training Content whether eLearning, mLearning, or any printed job aids or instructions has some unique characteristics. These examples sit at the intersection of training and branding as I see it.

Template Design

Several years back on a contract for a Fortune 100 firm, I was tasked to create new eLearning modules in Adobe Captivate for staff training and customer on-boarding. The department manager provided me with the eLearning template developed by the Marketing department. The color pallet included a VERY bright orange for splash screens and text.

I felt strongly that the use of this orange for eLearning as I saw it was NOT acceptable from an ID point of view. Orange text may be OK for marketing, but it was hard on the eyes if one was reading captions with more than a few words per line. My solution was to bring a dark blue background color to the front for text and to use the orange only for accepts and navigation.  Initially the corporate branding police were un-happy with the changes but my manager also hated the orange text and he had good clout in the organization so we won that round in the end.

eLearning Design

A year later on the same assignment but a different project, I crossed swords with the branding folks once again. We had prototyped a lesson for on-boarding a new customer group giving them orientation to the system in a Captivate module that including standard slides such as Objectives and Summary. The simulations showed the basic ordering tasks and the text provided context and reinforcement (via repetition and knowledge checks).

When we got the edit back from Marketing, they had removed 90% of the eLearning content marking it as redundant. Clearly they did not get the standard pedagogy used. Tell them what you will tell them>Tell them>Tell them what you told them.

I am not making this up! Conclusion, what normally works from a Marketing or generic Customer Facing point of view for content display and organization may not work at all well when the content is related to training in virtually any medium.

Practical Considerations

In the 60s, Marshall Mcluhan coined the phrase “The medium is the message” in his noteworthy 1964 book Understanding Media. Another of his observations was that big screen movie was a “hot” medium while (largely) black and white TV was a “cool” medium. Extending this to today’s devices, I’d suggest that a 4” Smart Phone display is much “cooler” than a 22” desktop display or even a 15” laptop display. For this reason, the emotional impact of eLearning or mLearning content is partly determined by the screen size.

In addition, current hardware and UI limitations make the display of all eLearning or other training content on mobile devices a work in progress. As an organizing strategy, I’d ask what users need to do with the training content at the point of deliver in order to determine what and how to give them a functional UX.

Feedback please.

Copyright © 2013-2014 Edward Martino, PhD. All Rights Reserved.