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When to use interactive PDFs in elearning

A key challenge L&D professionals face is continually turning content into courses which are easily digestible and navigable for learners. One medium which can help solve this problem – particularly when a learning programme contains a substantial amount of material or dozens of slides to read – is interactive PDFs, a format which essentially entails a multi-faceted document including active links.

A businessman looking at interactive PDFs for elearning on his tablet

How can interactive PDFs help organisations?

Interactive PDFs are most likely to be useful when:

  • Face-to-face or online delivery needs to be supplemented with an in-depth resource
  • The learning objective is to build awareness rather than test skills and competency
  • Learners lack time and need to be able to refer to information quickly and easily
  • The learning provided does not require tracking and scoring of pathways
  • Bandwidth is low or learners are in an offline environment

When the narrative of a learning course needs to flow over a longer period, an interactive PDF can accommodate more content and detail on each screen than an elearning course.

In some cases, interactive PDFs have been successfully styled on a magazine layout, with a combination of short and long articles to hold the attention of learners while maintaining an attractive and consistent design.

At a time when bite-sized learning is being increasingly embraced as an important way of engaging time-poor learners, this ability to create short, specific modules on a variety of topics is a great opportunity for learning teams to reach learners with concise content and a ‘just in time’ reference resource.

Effective courses for offline learners

In one course LEO created for a global oil and gas provider, the online version included interactive video content and a game, while the offline version included reformatted versions of this content within an interactive PDF resource, available to thousands of employees without access to the Internet or technology.

As part of this, LEO created an impactful, attractive infographic to grab attention and translate the company’s top-line messages quickly and succinctly, as well as engaging accompanying visuals and suggested real-world activities to further enhance the learner experience.

The design utilises active links by making each section of an illustration clickable. Learners are directed to information about different departments within the organisation, depending on which part of the picture they select.

The PDF allows the offline material to be carefully organised and indexed through features such as tabs and dropdown menus, giving learners quick access to the content they need.

Interactive PDFs work on all browsers – not something you can always say about formats such as PowerPoint. They tend to be well-suited to online and offline learning, which means learners can carry out self-paced learning and refer to training PDFs when they are on the move.

Below is an example of an interactive PDF which LEO created for a large pharma company on social media policies.

An example of an interactive PDF designed by LEO for a pharmaceutical organisation

Incorporating interactive PDFs into a blend

Interactive PDFs can become the basis of a larger project, provide easily accessible pre-course reading material or act as precursors to virtual classrooms, face-to-face training and fuller elearning courses.

Learners can use them to familiarise themselves with subjects before attending a webinar, classroom session or module, and the built-in search functionality they can offer helps when learners need to access a specific piece of information or section of a course quickly.

Once sections of training have been completed by a learner, interactive PDFs can provide a highly effective reference document. After systems training, for example, an interactive PDF can remain available to support learners when they have questions, with a searchable format enabling them to access the information they need quickly and easily.

This accessibility is one of the reasons why interactive PDFs are an increasingly popular choice for learning designers. As a valuable option within a toolkit or blended learning programme, they also offer affordability, ease of use and versatility to organisations seeking a new way to present in-depth learning.

Want more ideas on the blended learning elements which can transform your organisation’s learning programme? Read LEO’s free ebook, ‘Why blended learning works (and can work for you!)’

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