Cognitive overload is the norm in education and training. New teachers present too much too soon, to bewildered learners. Lecturers hammer out dense, hour long lectures. Trainers construct overlong, padded-out courses. Whether it’s classroom, lecture, conference talk, workshop or e-learning, it’s usually too long. Don't take a scalpel to your courses, take an axe - aim for 30% reduction on first pass.
1. Learning objectives – if your course has these up front - ditch them. They’re boring and irrelevant. You need to interest learners, not turn them off.
2. ‘Introduction’ – if this appears as your first module, chapter, slide etc – cut it. I don’t mean make it shorter, I mean massacre it. ‘The history of…’ is particularly irrelevant.
3. Pretty but useless graphics – all those graphics that simply illustrate and don’t instruct –stock photos of over eager people in smart offices. Don’t insert graphics that simply match key nouns in the text.
4. Text – cut, cut and cut again. All those adjectives, clichés and long sentences. Forget the language of print such as ‘With regard to ‘ etc. Use short sentences. Use more bullet points.
5. Audio – if it’s background music get rid of it. Annoying beeps on input will also drive people crazy. Extraneous audio is a waste of time and may actually distract from learning.
6. Annoying animation - Animated words and transitions, that are all whiz-bang but serve no instructional purpose. Use sparingly. Animation is only useful if you have to show movement. Flash is the usual suspect – reign those flashers in.
7. Video – anything longer than a TV ad is suspect. Keep as short as possible. Think YouTube, not TV.
8. Glossary – only in very technical courses. If you’re using words the learner doesn’t understand, rewrite, don’t rely on a glossary.
9. Abandon fixed times – don’t do the ‘1 hour’ of learning or 1 hour lecture or full day course. Make it only as long as it needs to be.
Happy sheets – they don’t tell you anything about learning, so abandon them altogether.