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

So often eLearning is perceived as being tedious at best and at worst 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. Thankfully, Articulate Storyline makes the creative process an enjoyable task due to its ease of use.

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

The Brief

The brief was to build eLearning that would:

  • re-enforce vehicle information and selling points for dealers
  • give them an enjoyable experience,
  • let them know that the experience would not take much time, and
  • would 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 to 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.

story tellling

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 the latest technological advances in authoring tools, it is becoming 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.

eLearning Levels of Interactivity and Articulate 360

This post is adapted from a webinar – register here to view the recording.

They say for eLearning to be engaging, it needs to be interactive. 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! So how much interactivity do you require for your content?

Great question!

How interactive your module needs to be, comes down to the definition questions you asked prior to entering into the development phase of your module.

Questions such as:

  • Who are your learners?
  • What are the expected learning outcomes?
  • What do they need to be able to ‘do’ as an outcome of this module?
  • Are we talking simple tasks, or complex skill sets?

An interaction is a learning activity where an individual is presented with a problem or scenario, and must work to achieve an outcome or goal. Interactions should be designed to maintain the learner’s interest, and if required, allow them to practice the task or skill they are learning.

If the learner is able to apply their knowledge through interactions, it will assist them in processing the information in more depth, and they will have a higher likelihood of recalling the information and transferring it to a real-world setting.

Articulate 360 has many tools available to assist you in crafting your interactions, and in encouraging your learners to interact with their computer screens.

No matter what type of interaction you are after, you can be guaranteed that one of the tools out of Articulate Rise, Storyline 360, Studio 360, Replay 360, Peek or Preso will be able to assist you in building your interactivity. Bet you never would have guessed that even Articulate Review and the Content Library can help promote interactivity in your e-learning? Curious? Read on to find out how.

But first the big question…How interactive does your interactivity need to be?

Over the years that our industry has been around, research has supported the finding that there are generally four levels of interactivity available to you, when crafting your e-learning masterpiece.

Level 1 – Passive Interaction

The first level (conveniently named Level 1) is your entry level interactivity. The level of interactivity is relatively passive. In passive interactions, the learner reads information on the screen, and navigates backwards and forward throughout the course. The types of things you would expect to see at this level include text, images, diagrams, auto-played videos/animations; and the standard next and previous buttons. Nothing too ‘flashy’, fairly minimalist and functional. Level I interactivity is great for simple information.

For example, here is module I whipped up about a breed of dog called the Alaskan Malamute. It’s an overview of the breed, their key features and some videos and images to support the information. A quick little Level 1 passive interaction.

The primary thing to keep in mind about Level 1 interactions is keep them super short, with free navigation for your learner. This means they can jump in and get the information they want and spend as long or as little in the module as they want without the risk of boredom and disengagement kicking in. Level 1 is also great for short updates or ‘Just in time’ information.

Articulate Rise is a superstar for this kind of interaction! Here’s why:

  1. It’s extremely easy to work with, copy and paste your content into any one of its pre-built lessons, or use its custom lesson blocks for a bit more control and variety
  2. Upload your own videos, or embed videos from a number of different websites
  3. Most importantly, Rise content is automatically optimised for any device used to view it. So no matter whether your learner is viewing the Rise course on a desktop, smartphone or tablet; it’s going to look amazing

Rise is not alone in its superstardom though! If you want to grab a quick screen capture of an app to share with a learner, or coach someone through using a new software application, you can also use Articulate’s Peek to grab your screen capture or use Replay to grab the capture and add picture in picture footage of yourself as a coach, virtually guiding your learner through the program. But wait! You can also import your Replay and Peek output videos into Rise enabling further content to support your learning objectives, all automagically responsive to the screen it’s viewed on. Want to capture a quick level 1 interactive informal training course on your iPad? You can do that with Preso! Working directly on your iPad’s screen with annotation tools on a series of PDFs. You can share that via a link anywhere or publish it to Articulate 360 and it becomes a downloadable SCORM compliant presentation for you LMS. Again, if you want you can upload it to Rise for further enhancement and responsiveness

How cool is that!? Articulate is already killing it, and we haven’t even got to Level 2 interactivity yet!

Level 2 – Limited Interaction

Level 2 is mostly the same as Level 1 but the learner can also interact with multiple choice exercises, pop-ups, simple animations and even the occasional drag and drop activity. Limited interaction examples include interactive timelines, drag and drop activities like matching, sequencing and so forth, application simulations that follow a procedure or process, quizzes, interactive games/stories and audio narration.

You can crank Articulate Rise up a notch to Level 2, and add all sorts of interactivity via its pre-built lessons or custom blocks. It will allow you to add timelines, interactive markers, matching activities, multiple choice quizzing, sorting activities and processes, all again fully responsive and looking gorgeous for your learner.

The other option is using Articulate Studio 360. As e-learning developers we are often given slide decks to convert into self-directed eLearning modules. Now, not all slide decks deserve to be converted, in fact most eLearning developers would cringe and shy away from just converting a slide deck and handing it back as an eLearning module. Not a great experience for the learner! And that process has significantly contributed to the bad wrap our industry gets!

But what if the slide deck is well designed and already follows some good instructional design processes? It can be converted easily to a Level 2 interactive eLearning module using Presenter and some instructionally sound Engage interactions.

Engage will give you the interactions you need like conversations, FAQs, guided images, labelled graphics, processes, timelines, tabs, checklists etc.

Then using Articulate Quizmaker you can add any number of interactive knowledge checks like multiple choice or multiple response answers.

Got a great Level 1 interaction you want to include in your module? Using the Web Object feature of Presenter you can pull it in and use it as well. All those Peek, Preso and Replay videos can be reused easily by importing the video outputs. Why reinvent the wheel when you don’t need to?

With Level 2 interactions you can hold and maintain your learners interest a little longer than Level 1 because you’ve got them, as Tom Kuhlmann says touching the screen and interacting with the content. You can usually push the time of your module here out to 10-15 minutes or so.

A good rule of thumb is to get the learners to interact with the screen every 3-4 slides. This assists in maintaining interest and reducing the boredom factor.

Level 3 – Complex Interactions

The learner will make some of the responses in Level 2 but in addition, they will also be expected to enter text and experience consequences for wrong answers.  Scenario-based branching logic is introduced at this level. Branching logic allows the learner to experience some kind of penalty for incorrect responses, and their progress is determined by their decisions. Complex interaction examples include branching scenarios, viewing video and identifying faults, problem solving activities etc.

Want to create a course with decision-making scenarios, custom interactions, and quizzing that is highly interactive?

Calling Articulate Storyline 360. You’re up.

By using Storyline’s layers, states and triggers, you can create complex interactions easily, and by using SL360’s variables you can personalise courses by capturing and tracking the learners inputs and actions, creating a dynamic experience for the learner.

By combining all these feature you can build fully immersive scenarios that draw in and engage your learners. For example are you teaching counselling skills? By using Storyline’s triggers you can not only get text feedback on how you are going, but the body language of your virtual client can also change from positive to negative and back again depending on the choices you select. A great way for a would be counsellor to practice their skills in a safe environment with coaching and feedback available for their actions.

Storyline is also quite capable of producing Level 1 and 2 interactive experiences, but its power really shines when you are creating more complex situation for you learners.

Again, you can import and reuse Rise, Replay, Peek and Preso content via a web object, and if you’re really keen, you can push Storyline created interactions even further by utilising JavaScript.

Level 4 – Full Animation or Real Time Interactions

This is the ‘top end’ of interactivity when it comes to eLearning development. Real time interactions include enhanced gaming technology, real life 3D simulations, virtual/augmented reality, interview/interrogation simulations with extensive feedback and multiple branching options, interactive spreadsheets, solving a mystery, interacting with a virtual product and so on.

Level 4 interactions can look good and be extremely high-tech, but that doesn’t necessarily always produce a ‘meaningful learning experience’ as they may have been created by animators/coders etc. who don’t have instructional design experience.

Level 4 interactions can be awesome, but are usually quite expensive and time consuming. They may also rely on technology that learners do not have access to e.g. VR goggles.

Again here Storyline can assist you in achieving this level of interactivity. Take the above counselling interaction to another level by adding multiple branching outcomes based on each and every decision you make, keep the decision by decision coaching or leave it out until the very end of the interaction and receive a personalised ‘report card’ based on how you went, with suggestions for improvement and reinforcement of the correct skills used.

You can also use a high level animation app like Vyond to create videos to import into Storyline.

Additionally, want to make it even more real time? Add a countdown timer to put the pressure on and mimic an actual consultation time frame. If you aren’t done by the time the counter reaches zero, the client will walk out on you.

Further customisation can be added with Storyline’s variables, giving the course a personal feel for the learner, including lost opportunities if information isn’t followed up on (True-False variable), a personalised experience where the client refers to you by your actual name (text variable) or even a ticking clock showing time remaining for a successful consultation (number variable).

Did you know that Articulate Review can also support a Level IV interaction? Articulate Review is great for garnering feedback from stakeholders via its comment system, but what if you used that comment system for a Level 4 interactive, asynchronous learning event?

Upload a module to review that poses a number of questions or review a particular learning skillset, and encourage your learners to comment on the learning presented, or answer the questions you have posed in the module. Learners can also respond to other’s comments on Articulate Review creating a real-time interaction for learning.

In rapid eLearning the ‘sweet spot’ to aim for, is a level of interaction set between Level 2 and 3. This is usually achievable with regard to time, money and resources and still obtain a quality output that addresses learning gaps.

Articulate 360 can help you with whatever level of interactivity you want. If you’re dry on inspiration have a look at the Articulate Content Library which is available with the Articulate 360 subscription for some ideas. Or check out any of the links below for interactive inspiration.

Want interaction? All you need is your imagination and Articulate 360, and you have the winning combination.

Handy Links

E-Learning Heroes https://community.articulate.com/

E-Learning Challenges https://community.articulate.com/series/e-learning-challenges

Why you need the tools in Articulate 360 and when to use them – Nicole Legault (Community Manager E-learning Heroes)

https://community.articulate.com/articles/why-you-need-the-tools-in-articulate-360-and-when-to-use-them 

Articulate 360 https://bonlinelearning.com.au/articulate/articulate-360

Articulate Rise

Articulate Peek Vs Replay

What is Microlearning?

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

Microlearning is “A short piece of learning, that addresses a specific practical skill, that is just ‘long enough’”.

So what’s the big deal about microlearning? Why are organisations investing time and resources into it? What’s wrong with a good old-fashioned workshop or eLearning module? There’s nothing inherently wrong with a workshop or a self-directed online learning module, they both serve a purpose. Whether you utilise one or the other depends on a whole number of things which is a debate for another time. We’re just interested in the ‘why’ of microlearning. The simplest answer is: we have terrible memories.

Back in 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus did some research on what he called ‘the forgetting curve’. The forgetting curve indicated that without some form of reinforcement over time, we forget a large percentage of what we have learned. For example, you attend a day’s learning workshop and after 4-5 days you have forgotten 80% of what you covered. That’s a pretty big loss of new information!

To combat this, researchers have proposed that learners should use the ‘spacing effect’ to assist them in remembering what they have learnt. The spacing effect is the phenomenon whereby learning is greater when studying is spread out over time, as opposed to studying the same amount of content in a single session. That is, it is better to use spaced presentation rather than massed presentation.

Researchers such as Will Thalheimer have taken this concept a step further and proposed a learning technique called spaced repetition that incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material, in order to exploit the spacing effect. By having a spaced review of something we have learnt over time – less of the learnt content is forgotten.

So, does microlearning fit into this idea of spaced repetition? Yes, it does. Microlearning allows us to provide short review pieces that allow a learner to embed what they have learnt over a period of time.

Best practice microlearning in the workplace

What has best practice shown from corporate learning that might give us more information about why we could use microlearning?

  1. Microlearning is no good if it’s too short. People can’t and won’t engage fully. That’s why it’s impossible to give a time limit to microlearning, and part of the reason why our definition says that the learning should be ‘long enough’. That may be 3 minutes or it might be 10. The learning still needs to grab the learner’s attention. What’s in it for them? Why should they care?
  2. Content must be able to ‘stand alone’ It’s not just breaking an existing program into smaller units. This turns the training into a ‘start/stop’ process. The learning becomes inconsistent and fragmented, and there is the added effort on the learner to remember “where am I up to?” and “what did I review last time?”
  3. Workers have limited patience – they want to be able to finish a task and move on to the next one in a reasonable time frame. If they feel something is bogging them down and preventing them from getting on with their day, they will get frustrated and negative towards it fairly quickly.
  4. Even if they have more time for a task – it generally won’t happen – interruptions continue in the workplace because they have their ‘real jobs’ to do! Projects, customers, clients, meetings, communications etc. all are clamouring for their attention.

When microlearning keeps these practices in mind it can be effective and not add any additional burden on the learner. Heck they may even enjoy it!

What is and what is NOT microlearning?

Microlearning is NOT:

  • Chunking, breaking down, and ‘to be continued’ – Microlearning has to stand alone. If you’ve just chunked down a full program into smaller pieces with a ‘too be continued’, it’s too fragmented and too much of a cognitive demand for a learner to remember where they left off. Chunking down a 20-minute video into ten 2-minute videos just provides an increased annoyance factor of ‘what did I watch before?’ and ‘which video am I up to?’ Both questions eat into their small window of patience.
  • Video only – It could also be a job aid, a scenario, a couple of quick questions, a podcast, a mini module etc.
  • Less than 5 minutes – It could be if you discover that 5 minutes is ‘just long enough’, but time should not be the deciding factor.

Microlearning IS:

  • Just in time (not ‘just in case’)
  • Short and specific
  • A single focus – One idea/objective/concept/behaviour.
  • Immediately applicable – no theory/no extensive history/no backstories.
  • Available for the learner to access on their In other words, accessible on any platform – phone, desktop or even tablet, available at work and at home – what suits them?
  • Easy to find – not buried in the depths of your LMS/Intranet.
  • Great for review, practice or extension, all of which fit into spaced repetition well.

Check back soon to read my other posts on how to build microlearning with Articulate tools and how to use Birch Learning Platform for microlearning.

eLearning Tools Empower Your L&D Experts

One of the biggest concerns for organisations adopting an eLearning approach is that it will devalue the learning experience and overwhelm learners with poor quality programs. But we believe the exact opposite is true.

Instead, eLearning tools get your subject experts back on the front foot and delivering their expertise directly to those who need it. It removes complex, overly technical and long winded development from the equation. It allows your specialists to easily develop programs which are tailored specifically to their learners’ needs. Being directly engaged in the course development and design is great motivation and leads to a better quality course and better results.

Here are some benefits of having your L&D team take the in-house eLearning approach:

  • They know your audience and they know what works. On aggregate this leads to better outcomes.
  • Ease of use for those who don’t have a sound knowledge of IT. (although they still need to know how to structure a good learning experience!)
  • By making minor updates themselves, their courses can stay current whilst keeping costs down.
  • Speed of development means fewer resources are required both in terms of time and expertise.

Training courses like our Certified Articulate Training allow teams to trial and evaluate authoring tools. Here, teams can play around with these tools without paying for them first, and learn how to structure a course so that it’s both meaningful and engaging. Additionally, course participants will:

  • See more clearly and from the learner’s perspective having attended a course themselves, they will get a much better feel for what works.
  • Be exposed to a wide variety of approaches. Methods and techniques are changing so fast.

What are your views on eLearning tools? What benefits have you seen? What concerns do you have?

Design eLearning That Makes Sense

When I tell people that I make my living as an eLearning Designer, some people have a blank look on their face. So I usually ask ‘Have you ever done an online training course at work?’. And the response is usually ‘Oh yes, you write those courses do you?’. This inevitably leads to a discussion about what it was like learning online and whether it was a worthwhile and interesting experience. But more and more, I have been asking ‘Did the course make sense?’. It is a simple question, but it is ultimately one of the most fundamental questions to ask when measuring the effectiveness of an online course.

In the classroom setting, teachers and trainers have the advantage of asking the learners questions like:

  • Is that clear?
  • Does everyone understand that?
  • Are there any questions?
  • Would you like me to explain that again?

In other words, when we are training face-to-face we can check that the learners are keeping up and understanding the learning material.

How can we do a similar thing in eLearning? If we use a blended approach, learners can complete an online course or module, then meet face to face or in a webinar to check understanding and engage in discussion. This is probably the ideal situation for many learners.

But here I would like to focus on those courses that are designed purely for online delivery. In this case, the onus really is on the eLearning Designer/Instructional Designer to create a course that makes sense. We need to make sure the learning experience is meaningful and that learning objectives are met.

It may help to imagine that you are the teacher or trainer standing up in front of the class. What instructions do the learners need? What is the most logical way to present the learners with information? How can you explain something as clearly as possible? These are all useful questions to bear in mind.

Here are ten ways to design courses that make sense to learners.

  1. Always include a navigation screen at the start, even if you think the learners have done eLearning before. The navigation screen should have clear and simple instructions so any learner can easily progress through the course. By making navigation easy, learners can focus on the course content.
  2. Free up navigation. Make sure learners can easily go back to previous screens if they need to revise any material for a better understanding.
  3. Pay attention to the layout of each and every screen. Avoid cluttering screens with too much information. The screen should be pleasing to the eye and designed to draw the learner’s eye to the most important information.
  4. Draw on the experience of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Many of them have experience teaching the material face to face, and so you can ask them questions like ‘What did the learners struggle to understand the most in this section?’
  5. Include a glossary. Never assume that the learners will understand jargon, technical terms or acronyms. The glossary should be comprehensive and explain key terms in plain English. I like Articulate’s Engage Interaction Glossary because it places it at the top of every screen for easy access.
  6. Include regular quizzes or case studies to check the learners’ understanding of the content. Instead of having one huge test at the end of a course, it is better to have shorter tests at regular intervals throughout the course. Regular tests and quizzes are a good way for learners to measure their own understanding and build their confidence.
  7. Give learners the option of finding out more information if they need to. You could include a box on some screens saying “Want to know more? Click on this link to learn more about …..”
  8. Provide a contact person for questions. If the learners do have questions, is there someone they can contact? For example you could include the email address of the training manager within the organisation.
  9. Ask another person to check the course to see if it makes sense. If you have access to proofreaders or quality controllers, they can point out any content that is unclear. Alternatively you can ask a pilot group of learners to go through the course. Ask them specific questions such as ‘Was there any content that didn’t make sense?’
  10. Engage in continuous improvement. Even when you have published and released your course to learners, there is still the opportunity to gather feedback and make improvements to the course. You could include a survey asking learners if there was anything they found unclear. This is a great way for you to keep learning about the learners’ perspective and to remind yourself that you are designing courses for real people.

Looking for more ideas to design your eLearning courses, check out our Certified Articulate Training and eLearning Design Essentials workshops.

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