Creating interactivities in e-Learning: 10 ways to challenge and engage your Learner

Lets be honest – Learning is not always an activity we look forward to. Trainings can be monotonous, especially in the context of ‘pure’ technology-aided learning. You do not have an instructor talking to the class, cluing in when attention flounders and suitably interjecting relief from time to time. Neither can you discuss and thrash-out concepts with fellow learners or have heated debates. For e-learning developers, this poses to be a continuous challenge. Interactivities built within e-learning can effectively provide relief as well as challenge the learners to think and apply assimilated learning.

There are many types of interactivities that can be built in an e-course. From ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ and multiple-choice questions to ‘true or false’ and ‘match-the correct’, simple and straightforward interactivities encourage factual and conceptual learning for a variety of learners. A little off the beaten track, here are some innovative ways of building experience in e-learning –focused on instruction but aiming to make learning as enjoyable and intriguing as possible.

  1. Story-based questions

    Stories and scenarios are the simplest ways to build up a real-life scenario that kindles the learner’s imagination and forces him to her to think in practical terms. There are various ways that a story can be utilized to create an engaging interactive exercise within an e-course.

    • A story can be told using different mediums – text, graphics or audio-visuals – as well as a combination of any or all of the above.
    • For an immersive experience, the learner can be made part of the story and given the authority to take decisions. The steps to reach the decision could be given as options that the learner can ‘check’. Alternatively, an open text field may also be provided, where the learners can write their responses.
    • Descriptive feedback supports this type of an interaction, where instead of a simple ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’, the feedback includes how the response was correct or why it wasn’t.
    • ‘Fix-it’ stories can be shared to encourage quick and critical thinking among learners. A scenario can be described, where the learner needs to make quick decisions and think on his toes – often what is required out of them in the real world.
    • Incomplete stories can also provide ‘food for thought’. The premise of the story can be given and the learner can take it forward through single or multiple branching. This type of interaction also builds the decision-making capabilities of learners as the story reaches multiple conclusions as per their choice of actions. An interesting example of this can be found here  http://www.worldwarfighter.com/hajikamal/activity/
  2. E-learning coursesUsing a character

    Mascots or mentors are often part of e-learning, providing relief and the much needed ‘human touch’ in e-learning. They can be utilized to provide interactions as well.

    • The mentor can introduce new topics and create an informal atmosphere of learning.
    • At the mentor can narrate own experiences, increasing the learner’s comfort with the situation presented.
    • The mentor or mascot can also ask questions pertaining to course content, giving intelligent feedback as per the response of the learners.
    • Though surely interactive, some learners however may get distracted by external stimuli that the mentor provides. Keeping the option of muting or hiding the mentor can be the effective solution to let the learners choose if they want to learn along the mentor or not.
  3. Exploring diagrams

    Graphics can also be utilized to engage and stimulate the learners. 2D or 3D diagrams explaining a process or procedure within an organization can be created to encourage interactive learning of complex/multi layered processes.

    • The 2D or 3D diagram can be made interactive through simple animation and text. As the learner moves the mouse through different parts of the diagram, they pop up and spring to life.
    • Instead of simple text explanations, the different sections can be explained through animations (like fade-in/fade-out) and audio.
    • To increase interactivity and the choice of personalized learning, simple tools like a ‘magnifying glass’ icon can be provided that enables the learner to see a particular section in detail.
    • After a few initial steps, learner interactivity can be increased by encouraging them to predict next steps or explaining certain parts of the diagram in their own words.
  4. Question based e-learningAudio-visual based questions

    Audio-visuals are now part of modern corporate training. When inserted to provide interactivity, they provide visual/auditory stimulus to engage the learners effectively

    • An audio-visual clip of a task being performed could be shown to the learners. Their response on whether it was done right or how can performance be improved, can be then be taken.
    • Alternatively, an audio-visual can be shared and the learners encouraged critiquing it through a series of questions that follow the clip.
  5. Changing perspectives

    For corporate learners, especially from sales or client-facing profiles, a change in perspective does a whole lot of good in terms of understanding the problems faced by their customers. They can thus be better prepared to handle and solve the problems effectively.

    • The learner can be asked to make a call to virtual customer-support executive, with responses from a standard call script.
    • While explaining a hypothetical problem and expecting a fruitful revert, they can pin-point where the virtual executive is giving good response and where there is evident lack of clarity.
    • This assessment exercise trains the learners to try to solve problems from the perspective of the customers – thus improving the standard of customer care in real life.
    • Similarly, a learner can be asked to assemble a product using only the literature provided by the company. This helps them to assess how product documents works and identify the need for support– wherever required.
  6. Teach-back activities

    Peer teaching is an effective way of corporate learning and this technique can also be built in to provide interactions in e-learning

    • A teaching exercise can be put forward to the learner, where he or she has to train a new recruit into the team.
    • Exercise could ask them to assemble relevant material from what he or she has learnt in the e-course, in order to teach a specific topic.
    • A choice of content might be presented, from where the learner has to choose the most relevant material to make the training effective.
    • The assessment could be provided by giving a rating (gold, silver, bronze etc.) to the assembled training material, in terms of how effective it would be to impart knowledge on the chosen topic.
  7. Challenge and response

    Question and answers can be posed to the learner in the scenario of an interview or interrogation to encourage prompt and logical thinking.

    • A virtual interview can be conducted, asking questions, prompting the learners to take action and explaining their decisions through a dialogue with a person of authority.
    • For this technique to work, choose a real-life scenario that the learner would face in course of work.
    • While the effectiveness of this method is proven, take care that you do not to intimidate or confuse the learner.
  8. Interactive spreadsheets

    When you want to demonstrate the effects of actions over time or emphasize cause-and-effect relationships, interactive spreadsheets can be very useful

    • Interactive spreadsheets allow the learners to punch in figures or information into a ‘spreadsheet’ and get feedback on the direct result of their actions.
    • Learners are presented with actual business and workplace scenarios. They are expected to utilize the skills learnt and fill in numbers or information accordingly.
    • This method can be used to hone skills like budgeting, time-management and resource management.
  9. Game-based learningSimple game-based interactions

    Games provide engagement for learners of all backgrounds. The greatest benefit of inserting games into your learning initiative is that most learners have little or no resistance game-based learning and you can ride the wave of popularity.

    • Traditional games, which most learners are familiar with, can be created to impart factual knowledge where recall is of primary importance. Simple games can be modeled on existing game designs – like Hangman, Jeopardy, Crossword Puzzles or Memory Card games.
    • Alternatively, you can build your own game as well, but take care to keep it simple. A game with too many convoluted rules or levels will not go well if your learning initiative caters to a generic learner-profile.
    • Goal-based games provide a lot of excitement and a sense of competition – when the game is scored and the scores can be compared with fellow learners. Scavenger hunts or adventure-based games can be created where the learners engage in a series of activities to reach the goal or the coveted ‘treasure’.
  10. Virtual labs

    With the advent of technology, interactivities can not only stimulate the learner into thinking but encourage him to actually ‘do’ with 3D simulations and games in a virtual environment. The virtual environment is often termed as a ‘virtual lab’, where the learner can hone skills and practice actual skills without the fear of failure or irreversible consequences.

    • Procedures like medical interventions or skills like handling complex equipment can be taught very well through a virtual platform.
    • Multiple tries ensure that the skill or procedure is learnt and practiced to perfection. This also ensures that every learner has the opportunity to learn at his or her own pace – some taking more tries than others to develop confidence needed to do the job well.
    • With the development of motion-based learning through emerging technologies like Kinect, Leap Motion and Tobii, audio and visual input of the learner can also be included, that fosters real-time learning and instant feedback.
    • This promises to make the interactive experience as close to real world as possible.

In conclusions, there is a lot of innovation that can be built into an e-course to make it more interesting and fun – an exhaustive list of which would be far longer than what we have shared! Choosing one or more, you can ensure that your learners do not hit the ‘snooze’ button while learning – but are active, interested, intrigued and engaged.

Suggested further reading: http://online.fiu.edu/files/newsletter/issue07/EngagingInteractionsForELearning.pdf

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Written by Arunima Majumdar

Arunima Majumdar

Arunima is an e-learning blogger and likes discussing innovations in training & learning for the new-age corporate sector.

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