Course descriptions are one of the most powerful and underutilized elements of most corporate training sites. We often think of a course description as only being useful when a learner is self-selecting a training opportunity. While this a critical role that course descriptions play, they can do so much more to help a learner be in a learning state of mind.
Course descriptions are powerful tools to help to “Pre-suade” a learner before they enter the course. In describing the concept of Pre-Suasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini argues that one of the greatest challenges communicators face is getting people to pay attention to their message. Even a great message has to compete for the attention of an audience with multiple options. That’s where Pre-suasion comes in. A communicator must set the stage and get their audience in the right headspace if that audience is to hear and receive the message.
How can we do this with our training courses? What context can we provide in advance to the learner? There are more opportunities for Pre-Suasion than you might think:
- What is required to complete a course?
- What will they gain by completing the course?
- Why is a required course required?
All of these elements will go a long way towards supporting the learner’s acceptance of the training content to follow.
The Persuasive Design Strategies subscribed to here at Remote Learner focus on achieving the “Gentle tap of good sense” level in the Nudge Continuum as shared by Behavioral Science Online Magazine. And our suggestions for writing course descriptions are no different.
Entice them with a well-written course description
Poorly written course descriptions typically fall into one of the following areas:
- They are dull.
- They repeat themselves and are repetitive in what they say over and over again.
- They are uninformative.
- Totally way TOO casual, dude.
- They are written in such a way as to present layers of critical information with multiple levels of details that convey the experience of the course such that it is simply “too complex”.
Note: #6 signifies the most common example of a poorly written course description – one that is missing altogether.
Before you write a course description…
…you must know the following:
- The stated course outcome statements.
- What a learner must do in order to achieve the outcome.
- What will be taught and how – that will help the learner achieve the outcome.
- The timeline for the course, including total durations of learner time on course content.
Elements of a good course description
- Title (Short but informative)
- What topics and contents is covered within that course
- What will the learner learn once they have completed it
- What credit or recognition comes with completing the training
- The logistics – Where, when, and for how long
Some of these elements may seem obvious but you’d be surprised at just how frequently little things like a meaningful and informative course title are taken for granted.
Another element of the magic of course descriptions in a well-designed digital learning LMS solution is their support of discoverability. Course descriptions become “meta-data”, so to speak, within your own site about each course. Well-written course descriptions support keyword searches of complex course catalogs. Tagging is a powerful tool as well but why not use both if it supports getting learners in a learning state of mind and ready to learn?