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Aug 2013

Making more interactive elearning

Blog posts

Cammy Bean

Cammy Bean

Senior Solutions Consultant at Kineo US

What does interactive elearning mean to you?  Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine…

We’re guessing you didn’t see a NEXT button when you closed your eyes (if so, you may not have opened them again). It’s not about clicking the NEXT button. And then the NEXT button again.  It’s about what happens in between. And it’s not a fancy animation with lots of whizz and bang. So that’s what’s it’s not. Well then – what is it?

Let’s look at some simple tips for including more meaningful interactivity in your e-learning programs without blowing your budget on expensive programming and complicated exercises. But first, let’s think about what interactivity means.


Inter-action - let’s break this down

Interactivity defined: two things that work together.  In human-computer terms that means you touch it and something happens.  There are inputs and outputs.

There is also the interactivity of human-to-human communication.  There’s nothing more interactive than a group of people talking together, laughing, collaborating on a project.  This social interaction is at the heart of our world and it’s something that a lot of people neglect in online learning experiences. 

Beware the dangers of Clicky-Clicky Bling-Bling!

Including gratuitous interactivity for interactivity’s sake—we call this Clicky-Clicky Bling-Bling or CCBB —is a seductive road that good interactive designers resist. 

CCBB leads to learner fatigue with too much clicking; distracts the learner by taking attention away from the points that really matter, drawing it instead to that flashing eye candy on the screen; and generally doesn’t promote deeper understanding.  We’ve written an entire guide on avoiding CCBB that you can read for more on this.

Our basic tip on making better interactivity: engage the brain and make ‘em cogitate! That’s right – get the learner thinking.  Ultimately, that’s much more powerful than clicking.  Here are some simple techniques you can try:

Hold the mirror up: reflecting is good

Build in pauses in your program to have the learner stop and think.  This can be a simple text and graphic screen that asks the learner a question: What do you think about…? How are you doing this now…? How do you think you can improve in this area? How confident are you about your skills…?

Provide open text input screens where the participant can actually write down a few words. If they take the time to complete the exercise, that’s great.  And if all they do is stop and look at the screen and consider the question, well that’s also great.  What you’ve done is created a reflective moment in the action, allowing the learner to internalise the content and integrate it into their own way of thinking.

Get them feeling

Emotional experiences can cause reactions in our body—changes in our breathing, our temperature, our mood.  If that’s not interactive, then what is?

Hooking someone in with a strong emotion—through a powerful story, a shocking statistic, or a provocative question—creates cognitive sticky points, allowing the content to embed itself more deeply in the individual’s mind. 

Find ways to tell those powerful stories.  Put the learner into the story, and make them sweat, if you can.

Get them acting

Of course, it’s not inter-active if we don’t ever get them acting.  “Learn by doing” as the old saying goes.  Short of creating a truly immersive interactive role playing environment, think of ways that you can get the learning doing something. 

Drop the learner into the action so they can start practicing the skills right away. Goal Based Scenarios are a simple way of doing this—open the experience with a challenge: "You are the project manager on a new oil rig."  Give them some background information and then ask them what they should do.  We’ve done this very successfully with text screens followed by multiple choice questions that force the learner to think about applying what they know to a situation.

Another idea to get them doing: have the learner create their own action plan. As the course progresses, have them fill out fields in an onscreen form, download and complete a Word document, or simply have them write down their actions on a piece of paper.  At the end of the exercise, they have listed the steps that they need to take. For example, in a sales program they might have to identify three leads they will follow through with next week and so on.

Get them connecting

And even though you’re creating a computer-based training program, don’t forget that human-to-human communication.  How can you take the program beyond elearning and into the realm of social interaction?

You may want to try building a worksheet into the course that the learner completes, prints out, and then shares with a manager. Try building a short survey at the end of the program that gets sent to their manager, prompting a discussion.  Find ways to make use of social business tools already in use at your organisation (like Yammer or Jive) to unlock your content from the computer and take it into the realm of human conversation.

See more…

And if you’d like to see some examples of these points with screen shots from courses we’ve built, take the time to watch our webinar recording.


Come and interact!

What simple tips or strategies do you have for adding more meaningful interactivity to your elearning programs?  Come on – interact with us!  Share your ideas in our eLearning Professsionals Group on LinkedIn.

Cammy Bean

Cammy Bean

Senior Solutions Consultant at Kineo US

Cammy has been collaborating with organizations to design online learning programs since 1996. An active speaker and blogger, Cammy gets fired up about instructional design, avoiding the trap of clicky-clicky bling-bling, and ways to use technology to create real behavior change.