Probably the most common complaint about e-learning courses is "long, boring bullet lists."

For writers, it's all too tempting to put together many lines (from the source material) on one page and segment them into bullets. It takes work to organise the info, and a little more to reduce on-screen text. But it's worth the effort!

Bulleted points should be concise. That's how they used to be in PowerPoint presentations some years ago, but somewhere along the way, we began using entire sentences – even long sentences like this one – as "points." If your course has these, here are a few tips.

Trim down
In some cases, bulleted sentences can be trimmed down, or even turned into single words. Say you have a list like

  • Bullets should ideally be words, not sentences
  • The point is, they should be concise
  • Sometimes, bullets can be trimmed down

You could change this to:

  • Bullets should be concise
  • Not long sentences
  • Possibly trim down

The intro

An important "boring" factor about bullet lists is that they run across pages. We often see pages that consist of just bulleted points. But bullets are supposed "point" to a finer aspect, or to a lower level in the hierarchy. What's happened in a lot of courseware is that bullets, instead of being a level under an introductory sentence (or premise), have taken over the text.

The simply-stated rule is, "If there's a bullet point, it should be under an introductory sentence." The intro sentences act as anchors, so this way, even if you must include a lot of bullets, the list doesn't get monotonous. That apart, you can play around with the intro sentences such that the bullets can be shortened.

Chunk content

From an earlier post: there's a tendency to use bullets as substitutes for actually chunking the content. Don't bullet each sentence – group concepts together instead. In other words, make the bullets point to the content chunks, instead of fitting the chunks to predefined bullets.

This way the bullets are lighter on the eyes, and more importantly, the meaning is conveyed better.

Morph them

Your learner sees six bullets on a page, three pages in a row, as a fixed pattern. His brain is looking at them and saying "oh, one more of those screens," even if the material is super-interesting. You could make a better screen by playing around with the bullets themselves, keeping the material unchanged.

One way is for the learner to be required to click on a bullet before the text appears, with a one-word summary appearing initially. This also helps in terms of reinforcement and recall: The learner clicks on a word (which has his attention), and he sees a sentence related to that word.