How to Build and When to Use Microlearning

To learn more about Microlearning, watch Matt Blackstock recorded webinar here.

Too often developers are told a learning program is needed, get dumped with a whole heap of resources and hopefully they get a Subject Matter Expert to help and away they go.

This process is missing some fundamental requirements – some developers might ‘fluke it’ and create a learning program that does a good job. Others create a ‘click next, click next, do a quiz’ and the program gets lost into the annals of time.

This is not good enough for Microlearning (and certainly not good enough for normal L&D either).

In our other post we learnt what microlearning is and what it is not. For microlearning to be successful, it’s going to need a few more things.

  1. All learning programs need a measurable goal otherwise you’re just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. What’s the goal of the program and how are you going to know if it has been a success?
  2. What do they actually have to do to achieve the goal? Is it a behaviour, action or process. If you’re not sure ask yourself “What does this physically look like? If someone is doing this behaviour, action or process, what would you see?” The answer to that question is what is going to assist you in identifying your key takeaway ie what the microlearning is going to be about.
  3. Determine the practical activity the learner can do to practice the key takeaway. This is what they can practice or apply during/after the microlearning.
  4. What’s the mode of delivery going to be? eg screencast, module,  job aid
  5. Give them the option to ‘pull’ additional information if they would like to, but don’t make it compulsory to complete the microlearning.
  6. Make it easily available via desk/phone/tablet/other.

Examples when to use microlearning

  • Time savers, handy hints or guides
  • Best Practice – People sharing what they have done in a particular situation – experiences that demonstrate a particular learning point.
  • Just in time – Information about changes that learners need to know ASAP.
  • Troubleshooting – Common issues and problems or FAQ’s.
  • Post sales service – e.g. flow charts to identify problems and provide solutions.
  • Compliance – Common issues and/or quick wins (Examples of compliant interactions)
  • Company updates – Change of Executive, statistics regarding how company is going with sales, service, new product uptakes, success stories etc.
  • Performance support – Processes, remedial training, ‘How to…’ guides etc.

Which Articulate 360 apps to use for microlearning

All Articulate 360 apps are ideal for developing microlearning. The tools won’t do the job for you, you still need to define, develop and deploy an instructionally sound learning interaction, but they can certainly help when you are deciding on the mode of your project. For example:

  • Articulate Peek – Performance support, How to…, troubleshooting etc.
  • Articulate Replay – Product focus, ‘guide on the side’, best practice, podcast
  • Articulate Rise – Flow charts, reference guides, interactive tours, simple scenarios, quizzes, curated videos/best of…, document repository.
  • Articulate Storyline – Branching scenarios, mini modules, quizzes, games, infographics.

Here is a great post from eLearning Heroes that may help with some more ideas 10 Things You Could Create Instead of an E-Learning Course.

Need help building your microlearning? Contact us to discuss how we can help.

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Design for Non Designers

There are some basic principles, rules and methods, which allow you to produce some top looking designs in your eLearning.  This series of blog posts will explore these basics and allow you to get your designer hat on!

The C.R.A.P. principles of design (yes ok let’s all snigger at the rude word)

These 4 principles lie at the heart of visual design.  Everything else builds from, or on top of these when you are creating a design. Visit the links for posts on each one.

  • Contrast simply means ‘difference’. A boring design is where everything looks the same. If you want to draw people’s attention to something specific, make it look different.  Not just a little different, but a lot different. Our brains look for differences all the time “which of these things are not like the other…and why?” It engages our brain and gets it thinking. We notice things that look different.
  • Repetition simply means reusing graphics and elements, to give a sense of unity to the information you are communicating. Good repetition is when you use consistent colouring, typefaces, image styles and (to a degree) layouts.  If you use a template or style guide to design a course then you have repetition already built in. Repetition shows that the slides belong together.  An example of poor repetition is when every slide in your course uses different styles, fonts, or colours. Another example is when you mix photos, clipart and line drawings, all in the same course with no sense of unity between them.
  • Alignment. Nothing in your module design should look like it was placed randomly. A prime example is that if you left align your text on a page, make sure you left align ALL of your text items. Having text boxes thrown around with random alignments (left align here, fully justified there, centre aligned over at the side.) looks unprofessional, messy and forces the learner to process extraneous stuff that is not relevant to what they are learning. Beyond text alignment, all of the assets on your slide are connected by an invisible line. Even items that are far away from each other. Always try to align assets (graphics, text boxes, shapes) with other assets. A grid is your best friend when it comes to aligning items on your page. One of the best kept secrets in your authoring software, is the ‘align’ menu option. Practice using it all the time. Having everything aligned on your page, registers subconsciously in the learner as a much cleaner layout, and is easier for them to process as a whole.
  • Proximity is simply moving things closer or further away from each other to achieve a better ‘look’. Items that relate to each other should be grouped together, so they are viewed as a whole, not as individual components. The learner shouldn’t have to translate what subtitles or captions belong to what images, videos or media. By grouping the relevant caption with its item, the learner doesn’t have to think about what belongs with what, and their brain power is focused on what they are learning, not on what they are viewing. Cognitive overload is something we as learning designers, need to avoid at all cost.  Doing so increases engagement, and gets the learner focusing on what they need, not trying to understand what they are looking at.

Beyond these basics we also need to be aware of:

Finally, and one of the most important things we need when designing anything is this:

Inspiration.

Where do we get our ideas from for a design?  How do we get creative? Everyone is creative at their core.  Even those who don’t think they are.

The crux of creativity is having the courage to explore, experiment and learn!

By utilising the basic principles, on top of your creativity, you will create some amazing designs.

How To Immerse Learners With Realistic Scenarios

Studies have shown the amount of information and practical knowledge retained by adult learners who undertake training that includes life or role specific scenarios to re-enforce key points, show significantly better knowledge retention than learners who completed the same training using a purely linear, read some information and remember it style of course.

The simple fact is that we retain knowledge far better when it is presented to us in a context that fits the subject and in a form we can directly relate to physically or emotionally. We learn by doing.

A scenario provides us with a direct part to play and shows us how to decide on a course of action typically from a number of options.  By playing the scenario out to the end, we learn if our choice or choices provide a positive, negative or indifferent outcome. This correlation between our actions and real world consequence is what cements the knowledge.

Here’s a quick outline of the theory behind designing a great scenario.

What you will need:

  1. Content – refers to the actual learning outcomes and knowledge to be transferred. The content must be clearly defined and understood.
  2. Context – is the real world overlay, how the content will be presented to the audience, what characters will be used and what situations will those characters find themselves in. The more relevant the context to the learners life/work the more engaged they will be with the scenario.
  3. Coaching – is the feedback on choices made in the scenario and for every choice there should be some form of feedback. This feedback could come in many forms, as a score, as a subtle hint or observation or even as a sledgehammer knockdown.

What you will build:

  1. Challenges – A scenario is where the learner assumes the persona of a defined character. This character needs to be presented with challenges that relate to the learning concept being addressed.
  2. Choices – From these challenges the character then needs to be given a set of multiple choices with each of the choices providing a relevant method of dealing with the challenge that has been posed.
  3. Consequences – Behind each of the choices provided will be a consequence, a tangible outcome for having made that particular decision.

How to build it:

  1. Create a detailed plan of how the scenario is going to operate, what choices go with which learning outcomes and what all of the possible outcomes from each choice might be.
  2. Use Articulate Storyline 360 or Rise 360 to create your scenario based learning.

The Plan

The plan should include:

  • An outline of the key concepts the learner should take away
  • A break down of these concepts into individual actions where the learner will need to make a choice between a number of options
  • A break down of the consequences that might arise directly from each of the possible choices. (This will form the basis of the feedback to the learner)
  • As in real life, the consequences of our actions are sometimes immediately apparent and sometimes they are not realised until some point in the future. When designing the feedback for your scenario you should consider when and how this feedback is given. Should it be immediate? Like an angry customer leaving the shop following poor service. Or should it be delayed? Like receiving a performance evaluation at month’s end.
  • Determine whether the actions (learning outcomes) will work as:
    • a complete continuum where one action leads directly to the next and the choices made will affect subsequent actions and choices
    • a grouping of linked actions where some learning outcomes share or build consequences  but others will not
    • distinct actions and outcomes that encapsulate an entire concept in one set of choices
  • Now overlay a real world context onto the actions/choices map you have produced.

Using Articulate 360

Now that you have your plan you can go ahead and build your scenario.

If you want to immerse learners in a realistic scenario and be able to design the look and feel to whatever you want then we suggest Articulate Storyline. There are no limitations on the number of choices or how the results of each choice resonate with the learner.  The built in quiz features and templates allow you to build a branching scenarios easily.  Take a look at these workplace bullying examples we built.

If you are looking for a fast and responsive design then Articulate Rise now has a scenario block that allows you to easily create branched scenarios. Here are the examples of our workplace bulling scenarios in Rise.

For more tips on when to use Rise or Storyline from the Articulate community.

Finally, for more help on building scenarios then you may be interested in our Certified Articulate training delivered online and in capital cities.

Using the AIDA Model to get ‘buy in’

We meet a lot of eLearning developers when we’re on the road delivering Articulate training. One of the common concerns a lot of these developers have is how to make their content look good and make sense.

Most of us are not graphic designers. I myself started my career as a primary school teacher. However when creating online courses we need to know how to make things looks good. We know that we process visuals nearly 60,000 times faster than we process text. Therefore should we look to other disciplines and how they use certain models to hook and engage the audience?

AIDA model is a traditional communication model used in advertising. AIDA is an acronym for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.  Advertisers use this model to get people to buy-in to a product or service  Most eLearning designers are not trying to get our audience to buy something but we are trying to get them to ‘buy-in’ to what we have to say. So shouldn’t it make sense that we look at incorporating or thinking about models such as AIDA to get our users attention. Let’s look at what AIDA is and how to use it with eLearning.

  • Attention – The attention portion of the message occurs at the beginning and is designed to give users a reason to take notice. Presenting a shocking fact or statistic that identifies a problem which can be solved by the product or service is one common method of gaining attention. Other methods can include asking a thought-provoking question or using the element of surprise. The purpose is to give the users a reason for wanting to learn more.
  • Interest – Once you’ve gained the their attention, the next step is to maintain interest and to keep the recipients engaged. Explain the problem you’ve identified in the attention step is adversely affecting how they work. A demonstration or illustration can help the users to further identify with the problem and want to actively seek possible solutions. By personalising the problem, you’re making it hit closer to home
  • Desire – In the desire stage, your objective is to show the users how to solve their problem.  For a compliance course demonstrate the procedure or process to follow to ensure the meet the organisations standards or if it is product or service explain the benefits and demonstrate how the benefits fulfill the need.
  • Action – Now that you’ve created the desire about the compliance issue/product/service, the final step is to persuade the users to take immediate action.

In his books, Michael Allen notes that our eLearning courses should have the 3Ms:

  • Memorable
  • Meaningful
  • Motivating

For me this ties in well with the AIDA model. It also relates to changing the way we think about presenting our content in our courses. It took me a long time to get rid of my PowerPoint baggage and my love affair with bullet points, layout, etc.  I pity people who had to take some of my early attempts! Now my focus is on visuals and creating an engaging user experiences rather than just regurgitating content on a screen

AIDA works for me. It forces me to think outside the box and pushes the realms of what I can do.  In the eLearning world we need to get our message across efficiently and effectively. Using techniques like AIDA can help get closer to the Holy Grail…..elearning courses that are engaging and worthwhile!

Instructional_Design

Integrating Motivation with Instructional Design

As an Instructional Designer, motivating learners is an important consideration because in reality learners are not always motivated to learn. They are busy, have other things to do, don’t see the course/session as being important or have had a bad learning experience in the past. We use Dr. John Keller’s motivational design model known as ARCS.

The ARCS model comprises four major factors that influence the motivation to learn – Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction. It’s described as a problem-solving model and helps designers identify and solve specific motivational problems related to the appeal of instruction. The model was developed after a comprehensive review and synthesis of motivation concepts and research studies. It has also been validated in studies across different education levels.

The four categories of motivation variables consist of sub-categories along with process questions to consider when designing:

Attention = Capturing the interest of learners, stimulating their curiosity to learn.

  • Perceptual Arousal: What can I do to capture their interest?
  • Inquiry Arousal: How can I stimulate an attitude of inquiry?
  • Variability: How can I maintain their attention?

Relevance = Meeting the personal needs/goals of the learner to affect a positive attitude.

  • Goal Orientation: How can I best meet my learner’s needs? (Do I know their needs?)
  • Motive Matching: How and when can I provide my learners with appropriate choices, responsibilities and influences?
  • Familiarity: How can I tie the instruction to the learners’ experience?

Confidence = Helping the learners believe/feel that they will succeed and control their success.

  • Learning Requirements: How can I assist in building a positive expectation for success?
  • Success Opportunities: How will the learning experience support or enhance the learners’ beliefs in their competence?
  • Personal Control: How will learners clearly know their success is based upon their efforts and abilities?

Satisfaction = Reinforcing accomplishment with rewards (internal and external).

  • Natural Consequences: How can I provide meaningful opportunities for learners to use their newly acquired knowledge/skill?
  • Positive Consequences: What will provide reinforcement to the learners’ successes?
  • Equity: How can I assist the learners in anchoring a positive feeling about their accomplishments?

The following link is to a YouTube video where Dr. Keller discusses the ARCS Model, some background in its development and the addition of volition to the model. ARCS: A Conversation with John Keller

Apart from the motivational aspects of the model, what I really like about ARCS is that it puts the learner at the centre of the design process. After all, that’s how it should be.

For information on B Online Learning instructional design and eLearning content development services visit our page here or contact us mail@bonlinelearning.com.au

Using Gamification in Articulate Storyline

Sometimes eLearning is perceived as being tedious and sometimes detrimental to actual learning. But with some imagination, any course can include interactions and design that engages the learner at a higher level than just their ability to read information then click the next button. The tool to bring your vision to life easily is Articulate Storyline.

Let’s take a look at a course we built for Toyota where we revamped a simple quiz into a Race Track, click here to have a look at it live.

The Brief

Build eLearning that would:

  • re-enforce vehicle information and selling points for dealers
  • give them an enjoyable experience,
  • let them know that it would take much time, and
  • tap into a motor dealers innate competitive mindset.

The Solution

It was this last point that we focused on in the course design as this insight immediately suggested a course theme. If we combine a competitive mindset with a car company what do we get? A car race.

We built an interface where the learner moves their car around the track by correctly answering a sequence of questions about the model of vehicle in question.  To personalise the eLearning learners choose from 4 characters each with their own car. Each question is accessed by clicking on the numbered markers on the screen. These markers are protected so that you need to do each question in turn starting from 1. The protection for the markers is removed in turn, when the previous question is complete correctly by the learner. A timer was added for pace.

Feature #1 The Race Track

  1. Adjusting a True/False variable for each question, from false to true, only when the question was answered correctly.
  2. This same True/False variable set at each question was also used to “move” the car around the track as the questions were completed successfully.
  3. The car itself as seen in the image below, was set up with a series of states that depicted the car at various angles and at various points around the track. We have circled state q5 which shows the position of the car on the track when the learner reaches question 5.
  4. To move the car we have triggers that “Change the state” of the car to match the question on condition that the True/False variable for the previous question is True.

The same True/False variables were also used to update the achievements panel on the left of the main game interface. The achievements panel gives the learner stars as they complete each question successfully.

Feature #2  Achievements

These stars work in a very similar way to how our racing car moves around the track. Each star has 2 states one grey and one yellow, as the questions are completed successfully, the True/False variables are updated to true and when the learner arrives back on the race track there is a trigger to change the state of the stars from grey to yellow if the corresponding question variable is True.

Feature #3  Avatars

Another “fun” feature is the ability for the learner to select an avatar of themselves at the commencement of the course. Following the selection of the avatar, which also included a different colour car for each one, the learner sees that specific avatar throughout the course.

Clicking on each avatar sets a “Number” variable from 1 to 4. (Each number 1, 2, 3, 4, represents each character from left to right)

Here is an example of the trigger:

Once the variable is set to that specific number you use it on any other screen in the content. For instance, the screen image below shows one of the quiz screens and the character has been selected on the screen to show the states for that character in the states panel.

You can see that in this quiz screen the character has 4 states.  Now all we need is a set of triggers to change the characters state, when the timeline starts on the slide, on condition that the variable is 2, 3, or 4.

Feature #4  Visual Design

Putting aside, the client branding requirements for font, colours and logo etc, inspiration for a visual design usually follows on from the agreed theme for the course, in this case a race track.

Once the theme is agreed, then the designer can go in search of inspiration, by looking at stock images, print advertising, websites and Articulate eLearning Heroes. We found a graphic for the race track on Shutterstock that only took a small amount of tweaking to match the illustrated look and feel of the Articulate Storyline characters we were using in the course.

Learn how to use Gamification in Articulate Storyline

To learn how to build something like this consider our Certified Articulate Training workshop held in capital cities and client onsite.  It covers all the basic development building blocks:  Slides, States, Layers, and Triggers as well as more advanced functions such as the variables we used in this course to track the progress and to change the visual appearance of things such as the car and the character.  Check out our open enrolment training schedule here.

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Key Elements of Storytelling for eLearning

Everyone loves a good story. We are surrounded by stories in social media, movies, advertising and the news. People love to share anecdotes and jokes as a way to connect with each other. The best presenters use stories to capture the audience’s attention at the start.

What about eLearning designers? Do we need to be good at telling stories? Some people would say – ‘no we are creating courses not stories’. While that is true, there are many things eLearning designers can learn from the art of storytelling.

Storytelling is defined as “The telling of a happening or connected series of happenings, whether true or fictitious; account; narration.” (Denning, 2005)

In this post we look at elements of a good story and how we can apply these to eLearning design.

1.  Good stories are cohesive and well-structured.

There are conventions in the way stories are structured – the opening to hook the reader, the middle to develop the story and the end to reach a satisfying resolution.

An eLearning course also needs to be cohesive and well-structured. When planning a course, ask yourself:

  • ‘What elements will hold the course together?’.
  • ‘How will I hook the learners on the first few screens?’
  • ‘What is the most logical way to sequence the course content?’

Certainly visual design is important to create a cohesive look and feel. But what about the course structure? Do your screens jump from topic to topic with no common thread? Is there a story that you could use to hold the topics together?

For example if you are designing a course ‘Provide Coaching and Mentoring’, you could introduce two characters at the start – Jan, the mentor, and Sara the mentee. The characters can introduce each new topic and talk about their experience of the mentoring process…how they met, how they planned their first meeting, how they set goals with each other and so on.

I like Articulate Storyline because it encourages eLearning designers to think in terms of ‘telling a story’. It features ‘Story View’ where the designer sees an aerial view of the course (the story), including scenes (the chapters) and slides (the pages). This helps to make sense of how the course is going to fit together. Screens and scenes can be easily rearranged. Story View encourages creativity because there are so many different ways that you can structure the course; for example using branched scenarios.

2.  Good stories are memorable.

Usually it is the people in a story that we remember the most. You can certainly design an eLearning course without people in it, but it might not be very engaging.

I like the way Articulate’s Storyline provides characters that you can insert quickly and easily. Sure the learner might not remember the characters like they remember Harry Potter, but at least they are more likely to relate to the character and this can assist learning.

Here is an example from the Articulate 360 content library. The characters come in a range of poses and expressions so you can use the same character throughout the course.

If you are designing a course for the health sector, insert images of a nurse or doctor in different poses throughout the course. Give the security expert a name and put him or her in different work situations that the learners are likely to face. Talk to the Subject Matter Expert if you need details to make the situation more realistic.

3.  Good stories are often about overcoming problems.

We are social creatures who like to relate to other people. This is why scenarios are so fantastic for eLearning courses. For example a workplace scenario typically presents a challenge or problem that the character faces – and then the learner is asked ‘What would you do?’. This encourages the learner to think for themselves. All the best stories are about overcoming problems!

Imagine you are creating a course about Equal Employment Opportunity. You could think of a central character who faces a struggle. The obvious one is that she faces discrimination on the basis of her disability. Introduce the character to learners and insert an image of her. Return to her throughout the course. Describe her experience at job interviews. Ask the learners questions about how prospective employers communicated with her. And if you like, make it a happy ending where she finally lands her dream job. The learners are likely to remember the character in your course.

Final Word

Of course story telling is not going to be appropriate for all eLearning courses. It will depend on the purpose of the course, the target learners and other considerations.

I would like to finish with two quotes about the power of stories:

“Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best – and change – from hearing stories that strike a chord within us.” John Kotter, Harvard Business School Professor

“Stories are how we think. They are how we make meaning of life. Call them schemas, scripts, cognitive maps, mental models, metaphors, or narratives. Stories are how we explain how things work, how we make decisions, how we justify our decisions, how we persuade others, how we understand our place in the world, create our identities, and define and teach social values.” Dr Pamela Rutledge

Interested in learning more about writing brilliant stories using Articulate Storyline, visit our Certified Articulate training webpage here 

Three eLearning Design Challenges and Solutions

There is no doubt that eLearning designers need strong problem-solving skills. In the early stages of any design project, we need to wear our analytical hats and work out how to transform training content into an engaging learning experience.

When faced with 100 slides of content from a client, it can be a daunting task to organise the material and then build an eLearning course. Then again, some of us just love a challenge!

Here are three design challenges that I have faced and the steps I took to meet the challenge.

Condense large amounts of learning content provided by the client.

Recently I had a client provide material that included 6 PowerPoint slides covering all the legislation that learners needed to know. If I just added a few images and kept the content on 6 different screens, imagine how the learner’s eyes would soon glaze over reading screen after screen of legislation. My challenge was to present the material in a succinct way and to keep the learner’s attention.

Using Articulate Storyline, I condensed all the content into one interactive screen with tabs to reveal a layer for each piece of legislation.  The result is an interaction that is far less daunting for the learner (one screen of legislation looks better than six!). In addition, learners are more likely to get involved by clicking on the various elements on the screen. If the client insists that the learner reads every item on the screen, you can set the interaction so that she or he has to view each item before progressing to the next screen.

Create consistency in the eLearning course without making it dull.

As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. But when it comes to eLearning course design, too much variety is confusing for the learner. Imagine an online course with 10 different fonts, 10 different characters, 10 types of animation and every colour of the rainbow. How would this affect the learning experience? Most likely it would confuse the learner as the course would appear disjointed and hard to follow.

The best practice is to design with consistency in mind. Here are some ways to create a cohesive course:

  • 1 or 2 fonts only – We like to use one font for the screen titles and another for the body text.
  • Templates – Player templates and slide masters create a cohesive look and feel (while saving you time).
  • Colour scheme – Stick to 2 or 3 key colours for elements on the screen.
  • Activity boxes – Keep the same colour and format for special activity boxes in the course.
  • Symbols – This is a good way to provide recognisable markers for learners (e.g. a question mark icon to indicate a discussion question).
  • Main character – Introduce your character at the start and bring them in throughout the course, but not every screen.
Encourage the learner to stop and take a closer look.

Adult learners are usually time-poor and so they might be tempted to rush through an eLearning course. The challenge for the designer is to create courses that encourage learners to slow down, interact with the material and to think more carefully. There are many ways to do this—case studies, scenarios, quizzes, activities. The key is to draw the learner into the course through interaction.

Let’s say the learning material includes a flow chart. You could just copy and paste the flow chart onto the screen. Using this approach, some learners would stop and read through the flow chart; but many would just skip the screen because there is nothing to draw them in. The challenge here is to create an interactive screen. Again using Articulate Storyline the learner can click on each of the flow chart elements to read about that stage of the process. This is a great way to encourage the learner to take a closer look and digest the information at a deeper level.

Final word

If you are ever stuck with a design problem and need help or inspiration, I encourage you to go the E-Learning Heroes website. The E-Learning Heroes community has over 700,000 eLearning professionals who exchange ideas, solve problems, share resources and inspire each other.

If you are not already part of the community, it is easy to join up and find the help and inspiration you need. For a more formal training approach you could also try B Online Learning’s eLearning Design Essentials Course or our Certified Articulate Training.

Ways to Present Content in eLearning

There is a whole range of ways that information can be presented online. Most eLearning courses use a combination of instructional methods to provide information to the user.

We all sometimes get a bit ‘dry’ on inspiration, and you may have a preferred presentation method that you always fall back on by default. If it’s achieving its purpose of meeting the learning gap, and you can see so via your post course evaluations then ok; however other times we may just be repeating a presentation method ad Infinium slowly boring our learners to a long quiet death of boredom!

How do we keep things interesting and engaging? The short answer is we ‘shake it up’, using a mix of presentation styles to communicate the learning.

Before we careen away on throwing in as much variety as possible though, keep a couple of things in mind:

  1. A single type of presentation is repetitive and gets boring fast.
    Using slide after slide of text on left and picture on right will get the learner to the ‘kingdom of snooze’ on the ‘expressway of ludicrous speed’. Respectively, having slide after slide of interactions, where the learner has to interact with the screen every single moment can also get irritating as well – sometimes learners want to just read, pause and reflect. Look to balance the variety of the ways you present information. A great ‘rule of thumb’ that works when you are starting out is to aim at some sort of interaction every 3-4 screens.
  2. Keep in mind who your learners are. You should understand this before you even start authoring. Would they prefer ‘get in and get out’? If so you may need to limit the amount of complex interactions you are planning to use to a really good one, that hits the learning need directly on the head, as opposed to multiple ones that drag the process out. Quality over quantity. Or if they like games, journey and discovery; use gamified learning, or a learning adventure/journey to engage them rather than an extremely well designed infographic.
    Who your learners should always influence how you present your information and activities.

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but is a good starting point for thinking about the variety of ways you can present your content.

Presentation

Short chunks of material presented to the learner. Think text and image. A good example of this type of presentation is your stock, standard PowerPoint presentation slide. Now a lot of people groan the minute you mention PowerPoint, and if your entire course looks like that, I would agree. However a single slide here or there to consolidate learnings or to summarise information is appropriate. The key word here is ‘short’. Don’t provide a page of text for them to read, if you do, you might as well have given them a PDF to review. Use an active voice, and focus on removing any extraneous words, like excessive adverbs.

Check out my previous blog post 7 Steps for Writing for eLearning for more information.

Demonstrations

Using video or animations to demonstrate tasks and procedures. Video is great for this kind of presentation. Check out my blog posts on Enhancing Digital Learning Experiences with Video and Using Video in Articulate Storyline for more information and ideas.

Graphics and Illustrations

You can also use still or animated graphics, charts and diagrams to reinforce content or illustrate processes. Infographics are great for this type of presentation because they allow information to be communicated visually while generating interest factor in the content.

Interactions

Integrated opportunities throughout the course that allow users to explore content, apply knowledge and check understanding through questions games and activities. Interactivity is the key that keeps the learner’s interest, and assists them in embedding new knowledge once they have completed a learning module. It also helps to make the e-learning experience a little more fun! Check out my post on Aligning eLearning Levels of Interactivity with Articulate 360 for more ideas.

Sound

Sound in eLearning engages and motivates the learner. Whether it be via audio narration, different voices bringing a case study to life, or a rockin’ soundtrack! I’ve seen some movie quality soundtracks and soundfx added to modules that really draw learners into a learning journey or a gamified interaction! Can you create an audio soundscape to engage your learners?

Simulations

Whether they be a software simulation, where the learner can watch and then try a process onscreen, or even a product simulation like replacing virtual cartridges in a virtual printer, simulations have the advantage of letting the learner practice a process in a safe environment where it is ok if they don’t perform to the best of their ability, or if they do it incorrectly. By ‘failing forward’ it allows them to see where they went wrong, receive coaching or remedial training and then how they can apply their learnings to do better in the future.

Case studies, stories and scenarios

Reality is the ultimate learning situation. Learners engage with real life stories, case studies and scenarios much better than with bullet points. Tell a story about what you are covering, show them how it applies in their current situation.

One of the best ways we learn is by hearing what has happened to others and how they dealt with a particular situation.

  • Is what they did something that we could do? If so, what did they do?
  • How can I apply their discovery to my current situation?
  • Is what they did the worst possible scenario, and by viewing the consequences of their actions does that allow us to modify our own?

Never underestimate the power of a good story. If you want to take it a step further, turn the experience into a ‘choose your own adventure’ scenario for your learner, let them see the problem or challenge and have to make their own choice as to how they will deal with it, but then most importantly let them learn by seeing the consequences of their actions.

Scenarios are highly learner centred, and are based on the concept of situated cognition, which is the idea that knowledge can’t be known and fully understood independent of its context. Learning seldom takes place by rote. Learning occurs because we immerse ourselves in a situation in which we’re forced to perform. We get feedback from our environment and adjust our behaviour. Now that’s a powerful learning experience!

As you can see there are a multitude of ways we can present information to our learners. Just make sure you understand what your learner needs, and get your imagination firing!

Learner Centric eLearning Design

Years ago when I was learning to be a teacher, I was quickly thrown in the deep end to teach a group of adult learners. ‘Prac teaching’ can be a daunting experience.  I still remember the feedback from the teacher who observed my first lesson; she said I needed to be more ‘learner-centric’.

It took me a while to truly appreciate the difference between a teacher-centric and a learner-centric approach. In this post I would like to explore the difference, and in particular how it can be applied to eLearning design.

Teacher-centric approach

With this approach, the teacher is thinking about ‘what content do I need to deliver in the lesson’ and the goal is to cover everything by the end of the lesson. In essence, the lesson becomes like a presentation. The teacher does most of the talking/presenting and the learners are more like passive recipients of the information.

Designer-centric approach

When it comes to eLearning design, there is also the risk of being so preoccupied with organising content that we overlook the needs of the learners. The focus is on pushing out the content, rather than pulling in the learner. In the field of eLearning, perhaps we could call this approach ‘designer-centric’ or even ‘SME-centric’.  This approach often results in courses that look very similar to presentations.

Learner-centric approach

Here is a useful definition of the learner-centric/student-centric approach:

“In student-centred learning, students are active participants in their learning, they learn at their own pace and use their own strategies….learning is more individualised than standardised. Student-centred learning develops learning-how-to-learn skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking and reflective thinking. Student-centred learning accounts for and adapts to different learning styles of students.”

Teachers and trainers who use a learner-centred approach are able to tune into the individual needs of learners and do their best to meet those needs.

How can eLearning designers be learner-centric?

With tools like Articulate, its become easier for designers to create engaging courses that cater to individual needs and preferences.

Here are a few suggestions for being more learner-centric in eLearning design:

  1. Think of the course as an experience for the learner. If you realise that your eLearning course is starting to look more and more like a presentation, then it is time to step back and imagine you are the person taking the course. Would you enjoy the learning experience or would your eyes soon glaze over?
  2. Use scenario-based learning. This involves presenting a realistic situation to the learners and then asking them to apply knowledge by making a choice. Each choice branches to a screen with different consequences. This is a great way to encourage the learner to actively participate in the course. You are asking them to think for themselves and make their own decisions.
  3. Give learners choices where appropriate. For example if you are including a research activity, give the learners a choice of three websites to go to. Another option is to give them a choice of topics to research. This will make the learning experience more enjoyable.
  4. Provide a range of mediums for people to learn from – videos, podcasts, documents, graphs, charts, lists, quizzes, activities and so on. This will help you to cater for visual learners, auditory learners and so on. For example you could provide this instruction: Read the PDF document attached. Alternatively watch the video which covers the same information.
  5. Give learners additional resources to branch off and explore a topic further if they need to.  Remember that each learner brings her or his own pre-existing knowledge and skills to a course. Some learners will need more information than others. I like the idea of boxes throughout a course entitled – ‘Want to know more?’ or ‘Need more information?’ – and then you can insert a link to a document or website with more details. This is not for essential course information; instead it is for supplementary material. Some people may read the additional information out of interest, others out of necessity and others may ignore it. The point is you are recognising potential differences and catering for those differences in the course design.
Final word

Of course at the most basic level, a learner-centred approach means you must have a good understanding of who the learners are. Before starting the storyboard, it is worth doing any necessary research about the ages, abilities, attitudes and expectations of the learners. With a clear learner profile in mind, it is easier to design a course that meets their specific needs.

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