The Advantage of Interactivity
They say that content is king. But in the world of eLearning, it takes more than content to make a good training program. You must first have a way to get learners engaged and then keep them engaged. In other words, you need interactivity.
Unfortunately, interactivity is one of those buzzwords guaranteed to make a non-trainer's eyes glaze over. In our eLearning design firm, we found that we were spending way too much time talking to clients about the benefits of interactivity and not enough time showing them good examples. So this year, we decided to put together a demo course that would
- showcase a range of interactive techniques
- let clients experience for themselves how interactivity can get them hooked and get them learning
- fit within a tight development budget and two-week production schedule.
The topic we selected was office ergonomics because it is somewhat technical in nature while still being universally relevant. We had also once been told by a subject matter expert that this content could only be taught in a lecture format, and we wanted to prove otherwise.
We chose to use the software Articulate Studio Pro, a widely known suite of rapid eLearning authoring tools. We often use Articulate for repurposing PowerPoint presentations into eLearning.
Our workflow began by creating PowerPoint slides. We enhanced the slide text with staff-drawn illustrations. Next we ported the slides into Articulate and added non-professional voice-over. Where it was critical to show motion, we built in Flash animations, but due to budget considerations we opted not to use video for our demo course.
Most of our design and development energies went into building the interactive features.
Interactive self-assessment tools. Rather than lecture the learner on whether they needed to pay attention to ergonomics, we let them prove it to themselves. A suite of self-assessment tools got learners involved from the get-go, self-checking their arm positions and evaluating their postures.
Choice of fast-track or in-depth content. Nothing is worse than being forced to read through too much content detail--except going through a program that doesn't have enough detail! To demonstrate how a single course could be set up to serve audiences with varying needs-to-know, we layered the content, then built in mechanisms that let learners choose for themselves how deeply into the subject matter they wanted to go.
Simulation-type quiz questions. In one section of our program, the objective was for learners to find and correct ergonomic issues. In that section, we set up hot-spot interactions that asked learners to point out the problems they saw on the screen, then simulate how they would reposition items on the screen to be more ergonomically correct.
Action trigger. When are learners most willing to take action based on something they learn in training? Probably during or just after the program, while the topic and the urgency are still fresh in their minds. In our program, we incorporated two types of interactions that would not only prompt the learner to take action, but make it easy for them to do so. One was a downloadable, action-plan type checklist. The other was an online evaluation form.
Reactions, results, and repercussions
We were pleased with the way our demo course turned out. In fact we were so pleased that we entered it into Articulate's 2007 Guru Awards competition. And it won the Gold Medal!
As a result, Articulate has posted our course on their site for public viewing.
Of course, our original goal was to design a product to serve as a "gallery of interactivity" for clients. Here, too, we have been delighted with the success of the course. Now that we are able to show rather than tell clients about interactive techniques, they "get it." In fact, clients who have viewed the demo now come to us with suggestions for adding interactivity and jazzing up their content!
Finally, publicity about the course has caused a number of fellow instructional designers to contact us with ideas, questions, and even propositions for collaboration.
The response to our course has been so positive that we have decided to add to our "gallery of interactivity." Our next venture will be a suite of software simulations, a scenario-based branching exercise, and a couple of case study variations. Stay tuned!