Although the instructional design version of writer’s block may not have a special name, don’t allow yourself to slip into a creative coma (or whatever you may call it when you are simply stumped for ideas). Challenge yourself so that no matter the content, no matter the topic, you must find an innovative and interesting way to present it to your learners. Interactive eLearning is more effective than traditional, linear courses where learners simply click next to progress through static slides of content, as interactions provide learners with choices, moments to pause and reflect, and opportunities to apply their knowledge. The following examples demonstrate the power of interactive eLearning and serve as excellent inspiration when you feel yourself slipping into a creative coma!
The term “compliance training” is frequently dreaded by learners and designers alike. Although completion of compliance courses is mandatory and few topics are more important than the safety procedures they often cover, compliance courses often seem to suffer from poor design, few interactions, and insufficient opportunities for learners to apply or practice their knowledge. This example by designer Sommer Riley demonstrates eye-catching design and an impressive simulation of the testing process learners must later complete in real life. By “chunking” the content into manageable pieces and a series of microlearning modules, Sommer replaced an outdated PowerPoint-based training program that relied on learners’ passively reading and memorizing content with an engaging series of courses that offers learners real-time feedback as they practice their skills.
This course is a model of branching scenarios, meaning not all learners follow the same path through the course to receive instruction. Beginning with the main menu, navigation is open, allowing learners to explore at their own pace, based on their interests. This approach appeals to learners by offering them freedom of choice and piques their curiosity which motivates them to continue. Real-life graphics are essential for a topic such as this, which allows learners to picture themselves on the job site encountering this content in action. The various scenarios presented throughout the course ask learners to make predictions, rather than teaching and immediately testing the same content. This approach is also true to life; on the job learners will be asked to make quick decisions and won’t always have the answer readily available. The feedback allows learners to monitor their progress and learn from their mistakes, and to feel proud when they have correctly predicted the right choices.
Scenarios in eLearning courses can teach many concepts, and this branching scenario example not only demonstrates effective instructional design but challenges designers to consider the art and practice of design along the way. In this metacognitive example, the learners are intended to be other designers. By repeatedly failing the scenario, learners will be challenged to consider design principles and how to most effectively create content that will resonate with learners and achieve the intended educational objectives. Cathy points out that the chainsaw scenario isn’t meant to be realistic, although the scenario does pose the very real question of how to properly teach complex topics through the medium of online courses.
At some point, every instructional designer has been handed a PowerPoint file or written manual and has been told to turn it into an online course. Finding creative ways to present page after page of content can be challenging to even experienced designers, and sometimes simply seeing how other designers have presented information can provide the necessary inspiration for the content you’re struggling with. The Learning Artist provides several examples of interactions that reveal content in unique ways, none of which contain bullet points!
Although the same end-goal of presenting her audience with a list of local charities could have been accomplished with a simple list, this brief eLearning example is memorable and compelling because it appeals to learners’ emotions. As learners navigate through Artie’s story, they naturally begin to consider the plight of animals in need which may make them more likely to act and make a donation upon completing the course. Although this was created using an eLearning authoring tool, this example functions like a video due to its creative use of motion paths. There are a few moments of interaction, or with a few simple changes, this could be made into a video which could be featured on a website or social media. The story of Artie is not just a heartwarming story of a dog; it’s also an inspiring example of the power of a brief eLearning course.
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