Beyond the Next button

We’ve written recently about treating the Next button with a bit more love. At Learning Technologies, we listened as Andy Jones from Thomson Reuters shared his experiences of pushing beyond it. To where? Let’s find out...

Andy’s presentation dealt with one of the biggest pitfalls of template-driven content. One of the traps that we tend to fall into when creating content rapidly is excessive use of the ‘Next’ button, and that can sometimes stand in the way of making the content more interesting. Rather than creating a dull ‘page-turner’ of a course, which is more of a knowledge dump, he spoke of the strategy he adopted when working on a recent project that involved delivering a great amount of detailed knowledge.

The project in question was for the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). It dealt with training learners in the process they needed to follow when archiving information. So how did he do this? Good to see it’s a kind of greatest hits of our Top Tips down through the years:

Step 1: Tell a story

Andy began by asking himself why people will happily spend an hour watching a TV documentary that they aren’t interested in, but not 15 minutes doing e-learning they need for their jobs. The answer is stories. If the story is engaging, it drawsyou in and youll end up with spending an hour watching a TV documentary your'e not interested in.  So, the first step was to tell a good story. He did this by drawing on the experience of the subject matter experts (SMEs) to come up with actual scenarios that had happened to them.

Step 2: Challenge the experts

The next step was to manage the SMEs in order to avoid having a traditional content dump. During the initial interaction with the SMEs, the archiving process entailed taking the learners through 200 steps. Andy went about this by challenging the experts over whether the learners really needed to know all 200 steps in order to archive information correctly. By challenging the experts, he was eventually able to cut those 200 steps down to 10-12 that were absolutely necessary for learners to know in order to archive information correctly.

Step 3: Down with the Next button

Next, Andy spoke of doing away with the Next button altogether. He did this by using stories and narrative-based learning to depict each step of the process. These stories not only showed how each step of the process worked, but also showed what could go wrong. At appropriate stages of the course, he used knowledge checks to check learners’ understanding.

Step 4: Keep them wanting more

Finally, Andy kept learners wanting more. He did this by giving them just enough information at the right time. Rather than trying to teach learners everything, he decided to focus on the things that were absolutely necessary for learners to know in order to archive information correctly.

So what does it mean for you?

To create e-learning that goes beyond the traditional content dump model, Andy suggests that designers should keep the following in mind: