Thursday, 27 September 2012

Separated by a common language

I've launched a new blog for those not aware 'The Techo Translator Blog', but that doesn't mean I can't still talk about one of my most common topics here under the LT blog; the use of language in Learning Technologies. Whilst the new blog is intended to be a little but humorous, this one is only funny by accident, this is serious stuff you know?!

Dealing with your techos is a major linguistic challenge that I address in that other blog, but the use of language in your site and learning is something you do have control of and there are definitely some things you should aim to do and somethings you should definitely try to avoid doing. Firstly, my assumption here is that you are working in English, with my first-class English education (as far as you know) and my extensive world travel you may think I'd be talking about your language conversion abilities for multi-market platforms, but you'd be a little off the mark. Possibly another conversation for another day, this is about how you use the Queen's English or variants of that (and boy there are a few).

Before you get that far this blog today assumes you have input into the language of your site (if it's Totara or Moodle you do!) and your learning. If you don't then your first step should be to seriously consider why you are using that tool or company, language is one of the singularly most important things to elearning. Studies show that retention is improved by over 70% when the language used is completely understood by the learner. Now of course this is just as much an issue for any type of learning as elearning, but hey.. My blog is all about learning technologies so it kinda figures that's the focus... That will smoothly segue to the first tip:

Must Do

It seems almost too obvious to state (almost) but the first thing in setting up your LMS or learning objects is that you must take your audience into consideration. If you're dealing with a certain literacy level that means keeping the language as simple and clear as possible, but it's more than just avoiding those big words that most people don't understand, it's about the language of the subject too. This is a learning focused blog so it's fine for me to talk about training needs analysis and quality and expect most people to follow, but if I use an excess of technical jargon say from a different sector or focus it would be poor practice. For example, if I tell you that you that you must stay within the required parameters and only use wild-cards in search strings half of you switch off instantly. Of course we know what parameters and wild-cards are but the context doesn't match and it will quickly upset your audience and switch them off to the system.

Secondly I'm a big fan of analogies (read one of my blogs on the topic of analogical elearning) and metaphors. This isn't the best way to set your system up, but if you're training and writing guides then putting things into simple terms that your audience understands is a great way of aiding their learning. It also helps to portray things in some different way, the misplaced
pedagogical approach of simply speaking slower and louder doesn't help in elearning, try a different approach, putting your point across in an example the learners will understand. I'm also a big fan of scenario based learning, another great way to make learning relative.

Be consistent. Easy for me to say in my rambling mess of a blog, but you want learners to get used to the terms that you are using or the areas of your site. If your record of learning is called that then links and instructions should use that phrase too. A small step to 'courses completed' may seem harmless enough but it can throw those users off the trail and lead them to think there missing something. Likewise with fonts and colours just like you would for the rest of your learning, keep them consistent.

Language Killers

Don't use 20 words where a couple will do.

Don't use jargon unless you know your audience know it too.

Chuck fur spalling mistooks and typ0s

Use imagery to reinforce language and not just pretty pictures

Don't use txt spk and overly informal language (scenarios can though)

Don't use overly formal and archaic language

Avoid ambiguous statements

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Location:Another AirNZ black plane