Boredom Taxonomy

Boring eLearning is a huge problem for learners and instructors alike. Everyone in the L&D profession knows this. The problem is, why are people still creating boring courses? Online lessons are often boring for the same reasons that traditional classes are boring.

The problem of boredom won’t go away simply by avoiding it. You have to acknowledge it first before you can solve it. I have complied a taxonomy of the levels of boredom.

Level I: Severe risk of boredom

This worst scenario includes every bad thing in a course. It’s extremely passive, stale and offers nothing valuable to students. Heavy on facts, the material is pointless and irrelevant, hence downright boring. It pushes too much content at people without follow up or evaluation. This is when you offer readers long chunks of text without any purposeful breaks. When you have cluttered screens without purposeful interactivity or graphics. Or when you keep on using a technical language and take too long to get to your point.

Level II:  High risk of boredom

This is a pretty bad scenario but just a little better than the first. Clarey refers to this level as the “risk of eLearning carpal tunnel syndrome” where developers create a “click-next” style course. This usually happens when they digitize or turn the whole book into an unlimited number of slides that can go on for hours. It doesn’t offer learners more than clicking the next button. Learners face repetitive tasks. Their participation level is zero. They must make an excessive number of clicks.  So tiresomeness and boredom set in quickly. Bottom-line: Read, click, repeat learning is VERY boring! 

Level III: Significant risk of boredom

Here students are presented with a moderate, less text-heavy type of material. The course may contain some images and some media, nothing more. You list a bunch of learning objectives, present raw concepts, and ask some multiple choice questions at the end. That’s it. It’s all show and no go. There’s something in it but it doesn’t stimulate the interest of students. The images are generic stock photos that doesn’t catch their attention at all.

You basically have a page-turning presentation spiced with graphics, audio and video. It’s great you include multimedia and visuals, but if they aren’t really contributing anything to the course, they may end up distracting the learner from the subject instead.

Level IV: General risk of boredom

The situation here is getting better but it’s still far from the ideal. The course may have a little bit of interactivity but not the authentic kind. The gee-wiz factor takes over. The course is disguised as student-centered by dressing it up with interactions and media. It may even start off right but becomes boring after a short while. 

Watch out for interactivity that doesn’t provide authentic interaction. Notice how students behave once they reach the middle of your course. You may wow them at the beginning but no amount of animation can stop them from getting bored. True engagement comes from being asked to think and respond intelligently, rather than simply clicking multiple-choice bubbles or watching videos.

Level V: Low risk of boredom

This is the ideal scenario. Your course is fun, relevant and challenging. All the right elements are in the right place. The multimedia is well-placed and the simulations are challenging. You have a good selection of images that actually contribute to the students’ learning goals. The text is thoughtfully crafted using a conversational tone. The course reads like a realistic story. It makes learners want to hear more and respond to the task.

If this sounds like your own material, you’re on the right track.

But what if it’s not? What if your material is, indeed, boring? It’s okay. You can revise it. Get your content turned around fast without sacrificing engagement. Make sure keep the 3Ms in mind: Meaningful, Memorable and Motivating. I found these three things, form an awesome learner-centered eLearning experience.

Published by theirishduck

I love the ability where I can plan, prioritise, design, develop and deliver blended learning solutions for a variety of markets. I love to consult and advise about the best use of digital learning and improve design standards in line with evolving ways of working. I also enjoy to keep up to date with, understand and regularly recommend emerging technologies and practice to improve individuals, teams and organisational capabilities. With over 12 years digital learning experience and demonstrated experience in both instructional design and eLearning development, I have also a lot of experience conducting training needs analysis including how to leverage principles such as design thinking and root cause analysis to understand and address performance gaps. I also have led many facilitation workshops and even presented at iDesignX and Game Developers Conferences both here in Australia, Wales and in the United States. I bring loads of coding experience in Java, ASM, C++, HTML, JavaScript, SCORM and xAPI, as well as proven capability using Adobe Captivate, Trivantis Lectora and Articulate Storyline 360 Studio authoring programs. Of course, Adobe Creative Cloud is also part of my toolbox which I also use daily. Being taught traditional and advanced 3D animation techniques, I love hand drawing and polymer clay sculpture, but can also use the Blender, 3D Studio Max, Maya and Softimage applications. With strong multimedia, training and programming backgrounds, I understand modern learner behaviour including micro and social learning, I am very familiar with most LMSes and app-based (XCode and Android Studio), adult learning models and e-solutions. I also possess the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously, whilst being pro-active in delivering work independently with minimal supervision, but enjoy working in teams. I've been told I am a resilient, relationship focused guy which can manage and navigate conflicting views and stakeholders/subject matter experts.

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