eLearning: Adding Value with Your Interactions
I generally define interactions in one of two categories, utility interactions and engagement interactions. I think it’s very important to make a distinct difference between the two as only one of these increases the effectiveness of your elearning content. But, before I go on to explain the difference between these, I would like to first tell you how I define the term “engagement”.
Engagements in elearning are things that cause the learner to think or react to the content. It could be the presentation of the content, through a scenario or presentation elements. It could be the appearance of the content, such as choosing thought provoking images and design elements.
A utility interaction is an interaction that does not help reinforce the lesson content or increase engagement but instead is used for things such as navigation and utility functions. An example of this would be play/pause/next buttons. These buttons don’t help learners engage with the content, but they are required for navigation and to pause and resume the lesson if the learner is interrupted.
An engagement interaction is one that requires learners to think or react to the content. To me these are interactions that add true value to the elearning. Engagement interactions usually require thought and careful placement.
Here are a few good examples of what I would consider engagement interactions:
A choice in a branching scenario – The learner has to make a decision in a scenario. A correct choice will result in a successful outcome for the scenario whereas an incorrect choice may have a negative outcome and provide feedback as to why that choice was not advisable.
An expanding diagram – The learner is presented with a diagram of a machine or job situation and can click on key elements to learn how they work or how they apply to the environment. This helps learners internalize the key components while giving them a high level view of the scene as a whole.
Are your interactions engaging?
I think there’s been a lot of emphasis on adding interactions to elearning without thought as to how those interactions actually add value to the content. Many built-in interactions from popular rapid elearning development tools feature off the shelf templates which allow you to expand and contract text accordion style. A good example of this is a page with six key points where you must click on each of the points in turn to expand text underneath. When you have expanded all six key points you may continue with the lesson. In my mind, interactions such as these don’t really add any value to the lesson, all they do is allow you to use space more efficiently and take some of the learner’s time. These kinds of interactions don’t cause the learner to really think about the content or increase their immersion with the material.
Before adding any interaction that is not a required utility component, I like to ask myself a simple question: How will this interaction help the learner? If I can answer honestly that the interaction is worth the learner’s time to do, then I think it’s worth my time to build.