People already use their computers for things like checking email, surfing the web, and sharing the latest news on Facebook. Since that’s the case, why not design a course structure that mimics how they already use their computers?
I see a lot of elearning courses and I’d say that most of them are linear and almost exclusively focused on sharing information. They are also usually light on interactivity. I’m not going to stand on my soapbox and tell you that these courses are the worst thing since not slicing bread. Because sometimes it’s all you need, or all the customer wants.
With that said, there’s no reason why you can’t change up how you share the information by mimicking a technology the learner already uses. So instead of clicking a next button to get to new information, you start inside a page that looks like Outlook and click on an email link to open a new message. Or explore a fake Facebook page to collect information.
Even if there’s little interactivity, it’s still more interesting than the standard linear course. On top of that, things like email and Facebook have a personal element to them. By trying some of the following ideas, you are also able to bring a different perspective to the content and possibly wrap it around a story or something that is both relevant and engaging. It might also trigger some ways to make the content more interactive for the learner.
Here are three ideas to whet your appetite.
Mimic an Instant Message Experience
A lot of people use some sort of instant messaging application like Skype, AIM, or Messenger. Use an instant chat screen to make it look like two or more people are chatting.
To do this you need to create two or more people who will chat. They represent different parts of the information. You also need to create a reason for their conversation. And then make the information that you share conversational. You can have them click the forward button to advance or add a hyperlink on the actual chat interface.
I did a quick version of this on the blog post about building elearning courses in PowerPoint. The chat section is only a few slides. Click the play button to advance.
Click on this link to go right to the Skype slides.
Dig Through Someone’s Email Inbox
I read an article a couple of years ago about the Internet and new technologies. They interviewed some college students and one of them said that “email is what you did with old people.” So let’s say you have to train some of those old people. Why not create a screen that mimics an Outlook inbox?
Then have the learners click through email messages to collect information. The message titles could match what would have been the slide titles. And in the body of the email you’d present the information. If you really wanted to make it engaging wrap the emails into some sort of interesting story where each one builds off of the other.
I took that old soap story from the Internet and built a quick prototype to show how something like that could work. I just added all of the emails to the inbox for you to click through. In a real course, some would be in the sent box or other folders. Then I’d create a case study that required the learner to collect information through the emails. You could even bury links in the body of the emails to provide additional resources and information.
An Outlook type interface makes progressive storytelling a good approach. Think of it like a virtual scavenger hunt. Let the learner dig through someone else’s emails. You could even add distracters or funny emails to make it a little more interesting. Of course, if you’re training financial analysts then you’re kind of out of luck because it’s hard to make what they do exciting. 🙂
Create a Facebook Scavenger Hunt
A Facebook screen is kind of cool because of the types of information you find on a Facebook page. There’s the information wall, an inbox, pictures, and a host of files and applications. It’s a great way to integrate all sorts of media and information in your courses.
What I’d do is create some sort of reason the learner needs to click around the screen to collect information. Then assess them based on the information they should have collected. For example, say I was doing a course on workplace violence. By using a Facebook page I could add more interest than a series of bullet point slides.
I’d start with a story about Kelly Christopher, a disgruntled financial analyst, who attacks a well known blogger that happens to be visiting the analyst’s work location. Everyone is in shock and not sure how such a thing could happen, especially to such a nice blogger.
At this point, you invite the learners to visit Kelly’s Facebook page. As they click through it, they can read about him and get clues as to what triggered his outburst. Then build the assessment or case study around the clues they collected.
So there you have it, three ideas on how you can mimic everyday uses of the computer for your course design. Essentially you’re creating pages of information and just changing the way the learner navigates it. So even if you have a standard click and read course, you can still make it a bit more engaging this way. The novelty itself is more interesting.
If you want to make it more engaging and interactive, create a case study or scavenger hunt type activity where the learner collects information and then has to use that to solve a problem. This could work in corporate or academic settings. What would the CEO’s Facebook page look like? Or, what could a high school student glean from Einstein’s Outlook inbox?
I think you’d agree that this approach is more engaging than just a series o
f click and read slides. The personal connection and the ability to build a story around your content will help make the information more relevant and probably more interesting.
What are some other ways people interact with their computers that could make for an interesting course design? Feel free to share them by clicking on the comments link.
Upcoming E-Learning Events
- We'll be adding events for 2017 soon. If you'd like to see one of our workshops in your area just let me know.
- Mar 20 (Orlando). Want to learn to build courses with the right look & feel? Join David Anderson at his all day workshop on Graphic Design Essentials for Non-Graphic eLearning Designers.
- Mar 22-23 (Orlando). Come by the booth at Learning Solutions and say hello.
- April 13 (Minneapolis). Variables Made Easy with Articulate Storyline. Limited seats, so sign up now.
- April 13 (Minneapolis). Articulate User Meet Up. Details coming soon.
- April 14 (Minneapolis). PACT Meeting: Facing Today's Instructional Design Challenges.
Free E-Learning Resources
Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.
Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs
Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills
Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.