Blunder: a stupid or careless mistake.

Alternative words: mistake, error, gaffe, fault, slip, oversight, inaccuracy, botch.

This post was inspired by David Anderson’s eLearning challenge #32: Death, Taxes and E-Learning Mistakes. The purpose of the challenge was to highlight blunders found in eLearning courses and Articulate Community members provided many great examples of what not to do.

I wanted to bring all these examples together and share them here (just in case you haven’t seen the challenge). I’ve taken the blunders identified by the community and grouped them into categories.

Layout:

  • ‘Previous’ button on the first slide and ‘Next’ button on the last slide.
  • Split attention (having to combine information together to make sense of it).
  • All slide space filled.
  • No use of contrast.
  • No reuse of design elements (e.g. titles are all different and in different positions).
  • Poor positioning of screen elements.
  • Menu items in the wrong order.
  • Terrible, eye-searing colour scheme.
  • Timing issues e.g. characters/photos appearing on-screen at the same time, when that wasn’t the intention.
  • No way to exit a layer.
  • Being able to click on buttons on the base layer while viewing a layer.
  • Branding the course with company logo on every slide.
  • Redundant or confusing navigation.
  • Poor alignment of screen content.
  • Inconsistent use of colours.

Text:

  • Poor grammatical construction.
  • Long lines of text.
  • Bloated wording.
  • Inconsistent font types.
  • Spelling mistakes.
  • Using words that don’t actually exist.
  • Incorrect punctuation.
  • Tacky font choices (e.g. Chiller and Curlz MT).
  • Colour choices that make the text almost impossible to read.
  • Font choices/sizes that are difficult to read.
  • Too many exclamation points and ellipses.
  • Small text that is all jammed together making it hard to read.

Images:

  • Using decorative graphics.
  • Images copied from iStock and have the watermark on them.
  • Random, dated clip art.
  • Cropped characters that appear to float.
  • Meaningless pictures.
  • Images that are various styles e.g. photo and animated.
  • Overlapping images.
  • Stretched images.

Audio:

  • Bad voiceover that fades in and out with background noise.
  • Monotonous tone of voice.
  • Poor soundtrack.
  • Text-to-speech narration giving the course a robotic feel.
  • Animation of text and objects are poorly synchronized to the audio.

Video:

  • Media/content that makes no sense.

General:

  • Repeating the same information via different modes e.g. narrating on-screen text word for word.
  • URL’s that don’t work.
  • Link / 404 errors.
  • Resources button that does not work.
  • No attention to detail.
  • Overuse of animation.
  • Boring content dump followed by a quiz.
  • Way too much instruction for how to use the course.
  • Default feedback used in quiz slides.
  • Courses that are excessively long.
  • Elements like the Resources tab turned on even though there are no resources.

Some of the Community members (including myself) put together or shared some samples that show the types of errors listed above. Click here to view them.

In a blog post by Jonathan Kettleborough, he also talked about some eLearning errors that really give this form of learning a bad name. He referred to the mediocrity of some courses that he has completed because they contain errors that should have been picked up before the course was released. The post is definitely worth reading.

Many of the blunders listed can be overcome by a thorough quality assurance process and piloting of the course before general release – maybe a checklist of items to look for would help? Others require eLearning professionals to develop their skills and knowledge into how people process information and how to design for the online environment.

I hope that by bringing these types of blunders out into the open, we can make a conscious effort not to keep making mistakes that result in a poor user experience and generally give eLearning a bad name.

As people involved in creating eLearning, let’s eliminate blunders in our courses!

What are some eLearning blunders that you’ve come across?

Matthew Guyan About Matthew Guyan
Matt has been working in the learning and development field for over 8 years and has experience as a classroom facilitator, workplace assessor and most recently as an instructional designer (for e-learning and classroom environments). Matt has a keen interest in a number of learning related areas including human cognitive architecture, motivation, performance support, informal learning and social media. He’s also completing a Master of Education in Educational Psychology at the University of NSW. http://learningsnippets.wordpress.com/