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How interactive should your elearning be?

October 12, 2015


by Tess Robinson, Director, LAS

These days it’s widely accepted that learners don’t really learn much from just sitting passively in front of a screen. It’s all too easy to switch off whilst you’re supposed to be concentrating on what’s in front of you if you’re not required to be an active participant, I’m certainly guilty of popping off to make a cup of tea or feed the cat in the middle of a webinar.

But what if there is a need to just impart information, with compliance issues for example? Is there a place for click-to-continue elearning? Maybe; if you really need to use it, stick to the essential messages and keep it short – let’s face it, no one wants to sit and be lectured at for an hour. Consider using videos and animations and mixing delivery up a bit. This can be more impactful and interesting for the learner than straight text and audio but still needs to be used shrewdly and kept short. Design in repetition and reinforcement of key facts and always keep in mind that most people can hold between one and five pieces of information in their working memory at a time. How many pieces of information are in your module?

But what about the nitty gritty that you won’t have time to cover? Well you could create a resources hub or section and provide the detail as documents that learners can access in their own time and at the point of need.

We often find it useful to think in terms of a suite of interventions with varying levels of interactivity. You have your short information-giving piece, your resources, your way of practicing what you’re learning through scenarios or goal-based real-world tasks, and a way of keeping that knowledge accessible and fresh, for example through a job aid that can be accessed on a mobile phone to help people put their learning into practice. All this needs to be balanced against the budget that you have available. Looking at what you want people to do, the behaviours that you want to influence and change and the characteristics of your audience – when and how they will access the learning, how technically competent they are etc.. – will help you narrow down the best approach.

We’re fans of giving the learner autonomy over their learning through an active learning experience. If they feel more in control, they’ll invest more in it. After all, it’s usually more important that learners know how to put their learning into practice than just ‘knowing stuff’.

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