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