My Goal: Better E-Learning Interactivity

The Big Question

The Learning Circuits Big Question for April is

What would you like to do better as a Learning Professional?

My overarching professional development goal right now is to improve the interactivity in the courses I develop. Because we’re a small company and a small team, any interactivity needs to be something I can do myself—there’s no Flash developer to pass it off to. I’ve done a few things in the courses I’ve done so far, but I know this is an area where I have huge room for improvement.

How am I planning to reach this goal?

  • More Captivate: I’ve done some small-scale branching exercises and some short scenarios and cases. I know I can integrate more of those with these graduate courses.
  • Learning Flash: I’ve been veeery slowly trying to learn Flash for months. I put it aside for a while, but I’m trying to pick it up again now. I see Flash as something I’d probably integrate with Captivate activities when I can’t quite do what I want in Captivate. I don’t expect to be a great Action Script programmer, but knowing some of that animation would help give me more options in Captivate.
  • Reading: All the blog reading I do is certainly part of my personal learning, and I do look for information on effective interactivity. I’ve been doing my research and saving my links. Dead tree format is still helpful too; I really enjoy Michael Allen’s books. I’m reading William Horton now and expecting to get more ideas.
  • Games & Simulations: I haven’t done any games for this job, but I think there’s some possibilities. We have a course on classroom management that I’m hoping to spend time improving later this year. Right now, the course includes pages and pages of snippets of research findings on classroom management. It’s great info, but it’s so boring that I couldn’t even finish reading it myself. I’d love to see what I can do for a low-tech game that gives learners a chance to apply that research in a simulated classroom and have consequences for their actions.

Not a big philosophical goal, I know, but this question seemed to lend itself to the practical goal and how I’m hoping to work to improve.

What do you want to do better as a learning professional?

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2 thoughts on “My Goal: Better E-Learning Interactivity

  1. Christy, I have had many instances where I have not had much access to very sophisticated software. Powerpoint can be very powerful (if you use the linking and animation features), especially if you put it in a flash context.

    I think for most learners, choice allows for that interactivity that you are talking about. I am assuming that your audience are adults. However, webquests provides for the interactivity that you are talking about as the learner can choose those areas they are interested in. Also, what is the possibility of integrating tools such as a wiki or discussion board?

    Finally, there are some really good test and poll creation tools (One of my students used powerpoint for this) in which students could take self tests, then link back to areas that perhaps they needed more work on.

    When you say interactivity, what exactly do you mean? Can you create more interactivity in the design of the learning rather than the choice of technology? One of my classmates knows very little in terms of the technology, but is a creative writer. She has been very successful in developing very engaging learning objects through the use of stories and scenarios. I think in their last module, they used podcasts (which is a very cheap, very easy technology to learn and master).

    In my case, I would like to learn more of how to design to get learners to focus on the areas they need for learning. In other words, when they come to a home page, giving them enough options for them to get started, yet not so many options they are overwhelmed nor so few that they loose interest. I find this balance very difficult.

  2. I realized after I posted this that it probably wasn’t clear what exactly I’m talking about to anyone not previously familiar with what I do. I develop online graduate courses for educators, mostly K-12 teachers. We have lots of discussions in the current courses, and we’ve been doing more with wikis and blogs. For example, here’s the wiki from a diversity course that piloted earlier this year. You’re right that the Web 2.0 tools can be pretty cheap and easy to work with, and they open up a lot of possibilities for interaction.

    In terms of the interaction between participants, I feel like what we already do is pretty good. In this case, I’m making a distinction between interaction among people and interactivity with the computer. Our courses don’t have as much in the way of self-paced interactive practice, and I think that’s an area we can really improve. I want to give students some places to do some safe practice on their own, even if it’s not graded or they can simply retake it until they get a perfect score. I’m less worried about the grading than about giving students that time to practice.

    It probably will start out more with scenario-based content with multiple choice questions and some simple branching. That doesn’t require too much technically; I can easily do that in Captivate. The emphasis is on the story and the consequences for choices. I think that would integrate well with our courses.

    That balance you mention in your last paragraph is really hard. I totally agree that adult learners need choices, and I don’t want to have a course where there’s only one way to progress through the content. During our LMS usability testing, it’s been that difference between the power of multiple tools available and the simplicity of fewer options. It seemed like people were better off with fewer options on the home page as long as the choices were clear so they could easily determine how to “drill down” in the content and activities. Learners who want a linear progression especially need a clear starting point and a path to follow though.

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