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Rules for writing an e-learning course with high learning impact

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Good writing is an essential part of good learning. Writing clearly and succinctly helps your learners to digest, understand, and retain the necessary knowledge. Overly complex language is more likely to frustrate your learner than engage them.

Here are some basic writing rules to help guide you in developing your learning content:

  1. Know your audience. Who are you writing for? What is their existing level of knowledge on the subject matter?
  2. Have a clear goal. Your writing needs to remain focused and not digress onto irrelevant tangents.
  3. Put key information at the top, important details next and minor details last. No matter how engaging your course, your reader’s attention will diminish over time. You want to ensure that the most necessary information is at the start of your course.
  4. Write in short simple sentences (20 words max.). Short sentences are easier to follow and understand. Here’s a cheat sheet with the ideal writing parameters.
  5. Create content that is easy for your target audience to find. You want your learners to be able to find your course in their LMS. Consider the questions they’re asking on the topic (as well as the information you need to impart) as a way to frame your course content. Think about how you would search for this information, and what sort of keywords you would use.
  6. Use the active voice. Using the active voice (rather than the passive voice) is much clearer and stronger. In the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs its verb. For example, The site foreman performs the safety check. Sentences in the active voice are doing sentences; the subject is taking action.
  7. Use images and video if possible. Including a mix of media can help your learner to engage with the content, but only if it is relevant. This e-book describes how to use video and images effectively.
  8. Always have your course reviewed before you publish it. Even the best writers need someone else to proofread their work.

To give you a practical understanding of how these rules can be used while writing content, we created a short course, including examples of each rule. View the course here:  

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Read the next article as part of the e-learning best practices blog series: "Give your learners useful feedback"

Nine Cornerstones eBook