I just finished watching Cammy Bean and Steve Won’s webinar “Is Your E-Learning Interactive?” and got some really valuable ideas from them — including the importance of getting students reflecting, feeling, and acting. If you have the time, it is an hour well spent. They spent a bit of time at the beginning discussing what is meant by interactivity, and warned against relying simply on a “Next” button that allows students to proceed to the next slide as the only form of interaction.
At the same time, they also warned against what Cammy called “clicky clicky bling bling” — overusing interactivity through flashy games or other elements. These can be too distracting and are often done out of context of the learning at hand. One person asked if interactive e-learning can sometimes be too childish for the workplace, and I agree that it can, and that more thoughtful forms of interaction should always be created.
What I particularly liked was their use of real world e-learning examples. I found the opportunity to see what others have done well to be very inspiring. I’m not a graphic designer, so my e-learning modules will never be as beautiful as some of the examples, but the fundamental learning design concepts can certainly be implemented.
I also appreciated their focus on more cognitive forms of interactivity (“get them reflecting“), such as asking questions and pausing to get people thinking. I have found this kind of activity very powerful in face-to-face classrooms, and was pleased to see it being recreated online. Cammy noted that much of the activity is going on in the brain, so it can appear passive. Good questions, an opportunity for reflection, and sharing with others can be much more effective than pushing a Next button or clicking on a graphic.
The video also describes the effective use of storytelling for more interactive e-learning. I’ve been reading about the power of storytelling lately, and found its appearance in this video very helpful. Stories can engage learners by involving their emotions (“get them feeling“) and making it more human. One example used was of a workplace behaviour e-learning module, which told the story of “Screaming Ruth”, who yelled at her employees. Her behaviour is demonstrated, its effects revealed, and there is an opportunity for reflection on what happened, why it was inappropriate, and what alternative forms of behaviour would be more appropriate. The result is much more engaging, emotional, and cognitively interactive than a straight list of policy definitions, dos, and don’ts.
Other ideas that I found interesting included having students build their own action plan as they work through the e-learning (“get them doing“), so that when they are finished the class they have a document they can take away with them and immediately start to work from. In a similar way, you could also get students to start building their own job aids as part of the activities for the course, which they will be able to refer back to later. You can also ask students to do an activity offline, including the creation of an accountability document to take back to their supervisors. Not everything needs to happen in the web browser. Send them outside, get them talking with people face-to-face.
I also appreciated the modeling of interactivity throughout the webinar. Although this video is just a recording, the live audience was continually asked to think about a question, reflect, and write down their thoughts. Watching the video, you can either fast forward through these moments, or actually pause and reflect yourself on the question. It was in these moments of reflection that I started to think more deeply about the topic and decided to start writing down all that I was learning — which led to this blog post.
I’m currently working on some new e-learning modules for work and knew that I wanted to increase the interactivity over what I’ve done before. I found this webinar to be really helpful in inspiring some fresh ideas, and encouraging me to follow some directions I was thinking about going. I’m quite excited now about trying to pull this all together, and will write a follow-up post once I have some of the work completed.