Good instructional design is a process.
Continual reassessment and refinement is key to delivering an ever-improving learner experience, and to seeing improvement in post-course performance. We have worked with the ACCA for over a decade to develop their elearning certificates; successful and popular professional courses. Every year these courses are updated to ensure they are in line with the relevant accounting standards. For us, this is a golden opportunity for continual reassessment and improvement. It's like cool, clear water to our instructional designers, who want to produce the best learning experience they can.
These courses contain a lot of technical content that has to be digested. Our challenge with them has always been to make the experience more interactive and engaging. During this year's updates we wanted to enhance this even more; and with the ACCA having a brand refresh, we took the opportunity to refresh our course design, too.
Perhaps one of the biggest impacts on the learner experience was one of the simplest and easiest to achieve - a change of typeface. The ACCA brand refresh allowed a different choice, so whilst we were updating the technical content we also changed the typeface to Avenir. It's a more open and readable typeface than Arial, and has a little more space between lines. We also increased the default font size from 12 point to 14 point. The result was a significantly fresher look and feel to the courses, and a far more pleasant reading experience.
The impact of typography should never be underestimated. The right typeface, font size and spacing - can make your content more legible and therefore easier for the learner to absorb, as well as helping to reduce eye strain and fatigue.
As we analysed the responses to the existing free-type exercises, it was apparent that many of the students were simply not engaging effectively. During this refresh, we had the chance to add some more interactive exercises. These exercises supply the learner with instant feedback, and the chance to have another go to get the correct answers. They provide variety by breaking up the content, and they add an element of surprise and reward to the courses. Further plans are in place to continue to improve the question styles, and allow more active feedback for students in future updates.
As well as improving exercise interactivity, we worked on making the content itself more interactive; due to the nature of the content, there was a tendency towards lots of unrelenting text that students had to wade through.
We introduced interactive pages of content to give students a better experience. For example, there is a section in one of the courses discussing the worldwide history of the Global Business Service industry. Rather than pages of information, we created an interactive map - the student clicks on different countries and continents to learn more about the history of that area.
Another example is in a section about the structure of the IFAC board and its committees. Again, this could have just been pages of information - but we chose to lay it out as a slideshow carousel. This gives the student a lot more control. They can now move through the content in the order they choose, and they are presented with less information to digest at once. You can see some screenshots of this below.
The best is yet to come
These are just some of the myriad examples we could give you of significant improvements we've made to the courses this year.
Far from exhausting our creativity or instructional design expertise, this work has given us wider horizons and higher ambitions. We are already excited about next year's updates, and the opportunity to further enhance the learning experience for ACCA's students.