Creating e-Learning for English Second-Language Learners

This article has been contributed by FUEL, a member of ADESSA.

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At FUEL, we specialise in creating engaging e-Learning lessons for English second-language learners. Most of our learners speak English as their second language. This means that we have to be especially sensitive to their ability to understand the language. This includes every element of the e-Learning experience, from the writing of the narrative all the way through to the user interface design. In this article, we are going to share some of our most valued guidelines for creating awesome e-Learning lessons for our English second-language learners

Use the simplest language possible

Language use not only includes the words you use but also how you structure your sentences. We follow a basic rule: if you can think of a shorter word or sentence than what is being used – use it. If there is a simpler way of saying something, then say it that way.

If we’re using more technical terminology or jargon in your lesson, we use a specific example to illustrate exactly what you mean. Sometimes, we use a glossary section where we define these terms and explain what they are used for.

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Make navigation easy

There is nothing more frustrating than not knowing where to tap or click or how to continue with a lesson. For this reason, the navigation and user interface need to be as simple as it is instructive. Don’t leave anything up to chance. If there is the slightest chance of confusion, fix it.

Here, we think about what we want the learner to do at every step of the journey. When describing an action, we use a verb that the learner will relate to. For example, if we need our learners to select something to enter an answer, we make the wording for the relevant field something along the lines of: ‘Enter answer’. On top of this, we give the button a distinct colour that just screams action, like green or red.

Don’t introduce any elements that are distracting – ever. Here, we believe that our only goal is to help our learner understand something. If there is anything that distracts the learner’s attention from what matters – remove it.

Don’t only tell the learner – show them

We don’t expect our learners to rely on textual or verbal explanations only. We believe that the best way to explain how to do something is to show it. That’s why we love using video, and lots of simple images and easy-to-understand animations, for our learners.

Video can bridge gaps in language and ensure that if the learner doesn’t understand the wording, they can fall back onto the visuals. It’s simple, if you’re discussing an object, show it. If you’re trying to explain a difficult process, use flow charts and infographics to represent it visually.

These are just some of the guidelines that we use every day to ensure that any lessons we create are well positioned to ensure our learners keep learning. The bottom line is that for any e-Learning solution to be successful, it has to be based on knowing our learners. That’s why we strongly believe that every lesson begins with the question: ‘Who is my learner?’

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