So far, e-learning has prevailed primarily in adult education. Further training offers, learning-on-the-job, refresher courses and some training content are often (also) digital. Face-to-face classes are reserved for children. Times have changed and so e-learning for children is increasingly coming into focus – and with it the need for child-friendly digital courses.
Children’s attention spans are shorter than adults. They are much more visually influenced and remember things particularly well that appeal to them visually. In general, content that inspires is better remembered. True to the motto “all of life is a game”, playful approaches in child-friendly e-learning are immensely important: children do not yet differentiate between leisure and work, they learn constantly and best when they remain active. In addition: They grasp their world with all their senses. E-learning for kids should take this into account and incorporate many different types of media. This can result in a complex understanding of new content.
If you adapt pedagogical insights like these to the field of e-learning, ten tips emerge that are indispensable when designing effective courses for kids.
Tip 1: Integrate playful elements
The keyword is gamification. Communicating learning content in a playful way is already a hot topic in adult education. It motivates children just as much and even more: without appropriate elements, e-learning for kids will not be successful. Gamification ensures playful learning fun, track behaviours, communicates data and facts in an entertaining way and thus ensures that they are better remembered. 2
Tip 2: Interaction and action
Frontal teaching is reserved for older semesters – and in many cases only partially successful. Children want to participate. The participants take part in interactive courses, can put questions to the teachers or put their knowledge to the test. Bonus: the learning success is immediately noticeable and this maximizes motivation.
Tip 3: Bits of knowledge are trumps
Be brief: This applies to the individual units, which should be no more than ten minutes long, so-called microlearning. In addition, concise language is essential. Short, simple words are easier to remember and easier to understand than word deserts.
Tip 4: Keep structure and overview in focus
A logical sequence helps to make the relevance of different content clear. This includes, for example, highlighting important information. Visually, details are to be kept smaller or are conveyed by a virtual assistant who is on hand with helpful tips and fun facts.
Tip 5: Learning together leads to success
Although the children in homeschooling often sit alone in front of the computer, this does not mean that they should not have any (learning) contacts – on the contrary. Programs such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom have established themselves for video conferences and are already being used by elementary school students. Important: The course should be structured in such a way that communication and learning units alternate. In this way, focused learning and a lively exchange are possible in a controlled manner – similar to in a real classroom.
Tip 6: As simple as possible, as complex as necessary
The degree between exciting, new content and being overwhelmed can be narrow. The challenge is to design e-learning for children in such a way that it is adapted as precisely as possible to the level of knowledge. It is therefore helpful to have the content created by an author with a primary school education background.
Tip 7: Set the right incentives
Children often perceive stimuli more strongly than adults. In this way, information is often better and more lastingly memorized – as long as it is tailored to the respective type of learner. There are visual, adaptive and haptic learners. Consequently, some children learn best through visual stimuli, others through audio content or their own actions. Ideally, the e-learning unit picks up all types of learners.
Tip 8: Avoid text deserts
Elementary school children in particular are not yet able to comprehend long blocks of text. Short sentences, garnished with images, videos and audio content convey knowledge in a clear and child-friendly way. If lengthy texts are unavoidable, have them read to you. This is particularly eye-catching when a well-known person, such as the teacher, or an animated character takes over the audio part.
Tip 9: Colorful learning worlds
Children love colourful pictures, cute animations and cartoon characters, imaginative stories and trips to foreign worlds. This circumstance can be used for child-friendly e-learning. Adapt themes in fable worlds and stimulate the imagination of the participants. They link what they learned to something they were excited about – and that sticks in their minds.
Tip 10: Install learning controls
motivate success. For this reason, child-friendly e-learning should contain short tests at regular intervals. You can use them to query the previously learned content – ideally in a playful way, for example in the form of quizzes or fill-in-the-blank texts. Dividing courses into different levels and making them a single gamification building block can also be motivating. The child recognizes their learning progress at all times. This, in turn, engages the reward system in the brain, arousing emotions and maximizing knowledge absorption.
Conclusion: e-learning for children – more than short courses for adults
Whether as a replacement for face-to-face teaching or as a supplement: e-learning units for school children ideally address the special needs of the age group. Clear learning bites, an eye-catching visual design that attracts and receives attention, playful elements and interactive communication are the cornerstones for successful digital learning at primary school age and beyond. In particular, they lead to what is probably the most important factor: children should have fun while learning. What arouses enthusiasm and thus intrinsic motivation is easier to do and promotes the willingness to deal with the content, to grasp it and to want to keep it.