Creating responsive online courses:
What to bear in mind
How and where we work is in upheaval – and the pandemic is only accelerating the process. 36% of all German companies are planning to implement a hybrid working model after the pandemic. While this brings increased freedom and efficiency to the world of work, the new situation is also making new demands—not least with regard to the digitalization of the workplace. Hand in hand with this goes an urgent need for flexible mobile training, which employees can complete whenever and wherever they like, depending on the fluctuations of their daily work routines. The basis for this is flexible online courses that can be adapted to all kinds of devices—in short: responsive eLearning.
This article tells you everything you need to know about responsive online courses, which authoring tools are truly fully responsive, and what to bear in mind when creating mobile-compatible courses.
How responsiveness works in eLearning
When we talk about responsiveness, we mean the ability of content to automatically adapt to the device being used—regardless of manufacturer, display size, or vertical/horizontal orientation. This is also the clear benefit of responsive online courses: Learners are no longer bound to desktop PCs, but can access flexible online courses that can be viewed effortlessly on any device, making it easy to learn and achieve anywhere. Responsiveness is thus fundamental if you want to take advantage of the many benefits and different forms of state-of-the-art eLearning.
In technical terms, responsiveness is based on what are known as “media queries”, which query the specific properties of an output medium or display. They also query the type of device being used (e.g., tablet or smartphone), along with its color capability and orientation (portrait or landscape format), and finally the specific width of the medium. This enables each device to be assigned the appropriate variable style sheet, so that content display can be optimized.
The right authoring tool
The must-have for designing responsive online courses
In order to create responsive online courses with ease, it is crucial that you choose the right authoring tool (a.k.a. learning content management system, or LCMS for short). In terms of responsiveness, tools can be divided into three categories:
- Some of the older LCMSs on the market by definition only allow you to create desktop online courses.
- Although “adaptive templates” are available to deliver material to mobile devices, they require additional expenditure. Adaptive templates are often described as mobile-compatible or responsive, but the responsive display is based on a second, additional version of courses, created in smartphone dimensions, for example. In this case, duplicate versions of the online course in question are created: a desktop version and a mobile version. The two versions thus have to be created and updated separately from one another, which increases the workload immensely (especially with regard to updates and translations).
- Ideally, your authoring tool should provide template-based, automatically responsive online courses. Where this is the case, there is only one template for each course—i.e., just one version—and this automatically adapts to the output device in question. This is known as true responsiveness, which means there’s no need to worry about line breaks, font sizes, layouts, the correct presentation of tables, etc. One example of responsive authoring software is the Knowledgeworker Create LCMS.
4 tips for creating responsive online courses
(1) Check the suitability of your features
Although each feature can theoretically be adapted for smaller displays, some are difficult to capture smartphones or tablets, for instance. It is therefore best to avoid small-scale interactive features that are difficult to click on, and try to find an alternative way of presenting elements such as complex tables. It’s also important to check whether gesture navigation can be made intuitive—for example, where individual images are swiped back and forth in an image gallery. Navigation features that are absent or unclear can also be replaced by written prompts.
(2) Keep an eye on data volumes
You should also cast a critical eye over the data volumes for individual elements, because employees learning on the go will sometimes have to rely on mobile data, which is often limited on smartphones. Large amounts of data can also lead to long loading times, which can be demotivating. Long videos, for example, should be replaced by audio files, omitted, or supplemented with a note indicating that they are best viewed over WiFi.
(3) Think about devices and learning environments
If your authoring tool is fully responsive, the medium via which material is provided is irrelevant from a technical point of view, because the format of content will always match the device being used. In other respects, however, the type of equipment being used is relevant: If, for example, learners frequently use small screens, video footage and images must be captured closer to the action so as to make all relevant details clear. Learning environments are also important: Where courses give instructions for processes that take place in a noisy production hall, for example, they should generally be subtitled and avoid hard-to-hear audio tracks.
So you need to think about all the situations in which your learners will be learning and consider the impact these environments should have on your content.
(4) Learning on the go: Microlearning not macrolearning
While traditional eLearning is often undertaken on desktops and in lessons whose scope and duration resemble face-to-face sessions, mobile learning has different requirements. Learners can study during downtime when traveling the subway to work, for example, during coffee breaks, in cafés when out and about, or during breaks between tasks when working at home. In order to guarantee learners will achieve in this context, shorter—but still self-contained—lessons are required, with a duration of 1–15 minutes: this is known as “microlearning”. This brings a lot of benefits: It is a form of learning that is both highly effective due to its short units, and that provides learners with knowledge precisely when they need it.
Create responsive online courses with Knowledgeworker Create
Knowledgeworker Create allows you to develop compelling, interactive and responsive eTraining sessions in the shortest possible time. The template-based drag-and-drop editor saves you valuable time, while numerous templates and interactive features help you make your content creative. Knowledgeworker Create has all the features you need to create fully responsive courses with ease. The result? Individualized learning experiences that maximize learning outcomes and yet are resource-efficient to create.
One course for all devices
All courses you create with Knowledgeworker Create are fully responsive and automatically adapt to all devices. You don’t need to create a second version of your course to make it compatible with cellphones.
Integrated live preview
As you create your courses, the intuitive course editor shows you how they will look on different devices. You can also make specific adjustments and see your changes directly in the editor.
In addition, thanks to a range of adaptive functions, templates can be automatically adapted to the specific requirements of each learner, for instance to take account of pre-test results or learners’ preferred languages.
The bottom line
Responsiveness is fundamental to state-of-the-art eLearning and hybrid working models. If content adapts to any device, you and your employees will be able to take advantage of the many benefits of mobile learning and build flexible training into day-to-day hybrid working. The right authoring tool makes it easy to create mobile-compatible online courses—an LCMS such as Knowledgeworker Create is fully responsive and requires no additional input, allowing you to keep your mind fully focused designing your courses.
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