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The 10 Commandments of Content

Video, gamification, good 'ol PowerPoint. Creating custom learning material is only growing more and more confusing as we acquire more tools and research. We want to take the guessing game out of content creation, and also give you the tools you need to prepare training material that abides by best practices. Here are a few for compiling outstanding custom content.

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Thou Shalt Go Easy On the Text least in any training material that includes both visual and audio content. The last thing you want is for your learners to be reading something and not listening to the spoken message, or vice versa. In videos, webinars, or tutorials, make sure the text is only there to support that which the presenter is saying. Text on a screen and text being spoken should never match word-for-word, save for a few key points that you really want drilled into the minds of your audience. Graphic organizers, white space, and images are just as, if not more, impactful, than a bunch of words anyway.


Thou Shalt Brand Appropriately

Consider branding all initiatives that are owned by your L&D department. By this, I mean branding in general sense (determining the mission, goal, and vision of your training department and how it supports the overall organization) but also in a very literal sense (create official names of your various training programs like ‘XYZ Academy’ or ‘Such-and-such U’, a logo or a family of logos, a color scheme that supports your organization's brand colors, designated fonts, etc). After those things are determined, create some templates for slide decks, documents, and other material that can be used to produce your curated content. If you ask nicely, I bet someone from your Marketing department may even lend a hand here. For more on branding L&D, check out this great post from Training Industry. 


Thou Shalt Keep it Short and Sweet

In 2017, Google rocked the L&D world by shedding light on the concept of Microlearning in their re:Work blog. Could it be that fewer words can be more impactful than many words? In a lot of cases, the data is responding with a resounding "yes!". When you're crafting custom content, think of ways to simplify it, and then present it in small, attainable, actionable chunks for your employees. Perhaps that 1 hour video tutorial can actually be broken into 7 or 8 short, engaging videos that can be accessed exactly at the time of need. Maybe your onboarding training can be more than reading endless documents and can instead be a go-at-your-own-pace interactive slideshow. Less is actually more.


Thou Shalt Request, Nay, REQUIRE Learner Engagement

Content delivery should be more than just spitting out information at your learners and hoping that they do something with it. Build in learner engagement. At the very least, courses should be followed by an assessment. But if you want to take this to the next level, require a more practical application like having course participants respond to a case study, or utilize the "Choose Your Own Adventure" method in which learners pick the order they progress through content on a screen.


Thou Shalt Review, Update, and Repeat

In a perfect world, our content would be evergreen. But the L&D world is far from perfect. Despite our best efforts to create content that will not easily be outdated, we will inevitably have to redo or replace some of our material. Create a plan for periodic content review and a procedure for getting content updated as quickly and efficiently as possible. This may not be feasible for you and, in that case, consider subscribing to content libraries, like the one offered in our eLearning Cloud, as an alternative.


Thou Shalt Never Neglect Grammar and Spelling

I am a bit of a grammar snob, I'll admit. That doesn't mean I don't get it wrong sometimes, and it also doesn't mean that I can't forgive a grammar misstep here and there. But the responsibility of educating someone on a topic requires that the person delivering that content is perceived as knowledgeable and respectable. Grammar and spelling mistakes can ruin credibility, and you'll lose your learner's attention faster than you can say "oxford comma". If you are tasked with creating content, and you know this is not a strength of yours, consider a subscription to Grammarly, or at the very least, have someone else go through your work with a fine-tooth comb. 


Thou Shalt Plan in Advance

This is a no-brainer in most cases, but I am specifically talking about any recorded presentations (think video tutorials). In my experience, no matter how articulate the presenter, or how confident he or she is on the subject, recording without a script is a fumbled, disorganized disaster. Require a script for any video content, not a bulleted list, an actual script. This not only benefits the person tasked with editing, but adds an extra 'umph' of confidence because the speaker is freed up to be present and properly animated, instead of thinking of what to say next.


Custom content allows you to have complete control over the message you will deliver to your eager learners, but that comes with a great responsibility. With these commandments in mind, go forth and teach the masses.

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