I’ve been creating e-Learning since 1999, when we output our courses to CD-ROM, if you can believe that. In that time, I have developed hundreds of e-Learning courses and other performance support products from static text all the way to full-blown software simulations. Here are a few things I’ve found along the way.
Text and Next
By now, I’m sure you’ve seen a course like this.
- Title slide
- Objectives slide
- Followed by 10, 15, or 20 slides of content with one or two paragraphs of text, 3 or 4 bullet points, and, if the learner is lucky, a picture of some kind which may relate to the content, but is only there to “pretty up” the page.
- Maybe a quiz
- Click It, Click It Good!
Early on, we added interactivity for interactivity’s sake, following the loose rule that every third screen should have some type of interaction, no matter what. The images the learner clicked on had nothing to do with the course content . . . they just looked pretty – and it was a nicer experience for the learner as opposed to clicking just on a word or two.
While we still have button interactions today (albeit more meaningful), we have so much more. First, we’ve learned to use graphics that support the content – that relate to the content and mean something for the learner so they can better visualize the content. Through a variety of interactions such as tabs, sliders, dials, markers, hotspots, and input items, we’re now able to organize and structure the content for the learner – using the most appropriate interaction to enhance knowledge transfer.
Hey, Watch This!
Next month will be ten years since I began work on a 150+ performance support video series. Video takes knowledge transfer to a whole new level. These videos are related to in-house software application training of a very complex system that is broken down into more than 150 multi-step processes. Shortly after we started releasing the videos, we discovered that learners would have the video open on one monitor, and the software application open on another. They’ll watch a part of the video, pause it, then do what they just saw, then come back to the video. Very effective indeed! (Side note: We also provide a written transcript of the video for Section 508 compliance. Our learners told us they print off these transcripts to have a written list of the steps for next time.)
Video, of course, is optimal for other types of learning because it allows learners to see which behaviors to model – and which to avoid!
Let Me Try!
Finally, what I consider to be the holy grail of training – and that is simulation! Using a show, try, test approach, the learner interacts with simulated software screens in a safe environment where they are free to make mistakes without actually messing up – their greatest fear. Some programs tell the learner immediately when they’ve done something wrong. While other programs, let the learner proceed down the wrong path for a bit – especially if it is a common error – so that he or she can see the resulting consequences.
In other types of simulations, you can build activities that show two or more on-screen characters, and see what happens to each based on the choices the learner makes.
Keeping each simulation short and focused on just one or two steps lets you structure them into a system where the learner can access the learning the moment they need it.
While the interactivity and visuals have changed over the years, our goal always remains the same – that learners walk away with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to achieve success.