Learning Solution Design Tip #6 – Be consistent in design

From coloured chalk, to whiteboards, to overhead projectors, to PowerPoint, to Prezi, to Storyline, to 360 VR – the desire for novelty (rightly fuelled by a goal of increasing engagement) in learning design has always been with us. The design options only ever increase with time as every tool tries to outdo the predecessors and competitors with what it offers. However, novelty, and shiny new ways of presenting content can distract from the process of learning that content. The challenge for designers is to ensure that what’s possible serves us, rather than rules us.

Consistency can sometimes have a bad name. It may sound conservative, repetitive … boring. But it doesn’t have to be, if you understand that consistency doesn’t have to mean monotony. When we’re continually bombarded by novelty and change, consistency can bring a sense of comfort and familiarity in an otherwise manic world.

Consistency in learning design is repeatable, predictable and ‘makes sense’ to participants. It is about designing so that participants feel they are in the same learning space throughout the experience. When you’re encouraging people to step out of their cognitive comfort zone in order to learn, it helps if the learning environment feels reliable and familiar, creating a safe space in which to explore new content and ideas. There are some simple ways to achieve this that the team at easyA use. Individually, they’re not rocket science, but when used together, they have a big impact on the user experience.

Learning design.

All the elements of the learning design need to be considered together and integrated to make sure they work seamlessly for participants. For example, if the design includes an eLearning module, a workbook and a video, it should be obvious to learners how they are meant to use all of these components to learn.

Using the established software engineering tradition of Design Patterns, there are conventions for how common learning designs like scenario-based learning and diagnostic training should work.

Visual and UX design.

If your organisation has a brand/style guide, be guided by this when determining the visual design of the learning experience. Considerations such as layouts (grouping, alignment, positioning), fonts, colours (palette, contrast, white space) and formatting (list structures, indents etc) should be consistent throughout the learning experience.

Similarly, follow well-established user experience (UX) conventions when designing screen layouts and interactions. For example, in scenario-based learning make sure that the characters stay in the same positions on the screen (unless they’re moving in the scenario!).

Writing style.

At easyA, we use editorial guidelines to ensure that our writing style is consistent throughout client work. We use an editorial style guide to ensure our punctuation and grammar are consistent. A consistent ‘voice’ and tone goes a long way towards helping participants feel comfortable in the learning experience.

Behind all these considerations is solid educational theory. The concept of ‘cognitive load’ is an important consideration for any learning designer. Entertaining animations and interactions can be tempting, and multiple, visual design changes may appear interesting, but if they’re making participants’ brains work harder than they need to, they run the risk of working against your learning goals.

A consistent, cohesive design creates a feeling of quality and reassurance. It’s not about bespoke designs for every screen or, conversely, monotonous same-ness. It’s design, not determined by the latest, shiny new tool, but by purposeful, mindful design processes that serve the learners and the learning outcomes.

Interested in a deep dive?

What will you do?

Take some time to review your last project according to the criteria of consistency in:

  • learning design
  • visual and UX design
  • writing style.

Are there any areas where inconsistent design is creating extra cognitive load?

Get it touch!

Contact us at easyA to explore how our learning solutions design team can work with your organisation: www.easyauthoring.com

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