Learning professionals want to create eLearning content that not only effectively meets specific learning objectives, but does so in a way that keeps learners highly engaged with the learning process. One of the best ways to accomplish that piece of the instructional design puzzle is to build in plenty of interactivity on a variety of levels and dimensions. Here’s the why and what of making interactive eLearning a priority.
Why Interactive eLearning is Important
The reason interactive eLearning should be a high priority in 2019 is because it turns out to be a highly effective strategy for boosting the kind of real learning your company needs to achieve. Knowledge retention rates can serious skyrocket from the usual 5-30% to a range of 50-90% when interactive eLearning is done right. If you go the extra mile by creating realistic environments in which they can immediately apply the content, this further helps with long-term knowledge and skill retention as well as speeds learning up thanks to making them use higher-order thinking skills instead of mere rote memorization.
Levels of Interactive eLearning
As you might imagine, there is a whole spectrum of levels of interactivity that can be built into eLearning. One framework I’ve seen includes four levels where Level 1 is Passive, Level 2 is Limited, Level 3 is Moderate and Level 4 is Simulation (the highest level of interactivity).
You might wonder why anyone would ever do an eLearning course or module that is Level 1 Passive. Keep in mind, however, that we’re talking about interactivity. When the information is really basic and must be presented in a linear sequence, there may simply be little need for interactivity with the content beyond simple quizzes and tests to verify and assess learning. But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. The content can still feature great writing, stellar video, humor, and so on to make it as engaging as possible even without interactivity. There are also still opportunities to inject interactivity into the learning process itself, which I’ll mention later in this article.
Level 2 Limited interactivity would move beyond just watching, reading and navigating to include things like clickable animated graphics, more navigation options such as expanded menus, glossaries and linking to at least a few outside resources, and more extensive exercises to practice knowledge and skills, as well as more complex evaluations for assessing the participant’s level of learning.
Leve 3 Moderate interactivity takes customization and complexity to the next level and also gives the learner more control and choice over various aspects of the process. This level is the “sweet spot” for many corporate learning departments because it represents more interactivity without the commitment of time and resources it takes to produce learning programs at Level 4. In a Level 3 approach, you would typically find more in the way of animated videos, customized audio recordings, some simulations and/or scenarios that involve learner input and so on.
Level 4 Simulation is where you engage in the highest level of interactivity by making use of such approaches as game-based learning, virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality for intricate simulations and scenarios that immerse the learner in the materials and skills for as close to real-time learning as possible. Multimedia learning assets are essential in this level, along with advanced digital avatars and lots of other learner choices around how the content is engaged. Because this is a highly sophisticated learning experience, it’s going to take much more time and resources to create.
Choices About Pace, Sequence, Identity and More: Interacting with the Process
One way to think about interactivity in eLearning is to view it as presenting opportunities for the learner to make choices and decisions. At the highest levels, you want to give learners choices about where they start in terms of engaging topics so they can jump in at what they think is the most relevant point for them. The would also enjoy making choices around how quickly they move through the material, and also around creating their learning identity in terms of creating or selecting an avatar. These are ways that learners can interact with learning process itself.
Short Sims, Scenarios, and Videos: Interacting with the Content
When it comes to interacting with the learning content, the best way to do this is through scenario-based learning and simulations. The problem with simulations, of course, is that the best ones are those that are full-blown immersive, but those are also very expensive to produce. But there are ways to up the level of interactivity without breaking the bank. One approach is to develop brief simulations or “short sims” that get the job done without requiring an inordinate amount of resources. A recent article from the Association for Talent Development (ATD) gives a great overview with detailed examples of how to make interactive eLearning with short sims. And if you need to remind yourself of how you can boost engagement with scenarios, check out this article on The Basics of Scenario-Based eLearning from eLearning Industry.
Another approach to get more interactivity that doesn’t take much in the way of resources is to take existing “static” video content and add interactive elements to it. For some great tips on how to add interactions to existing video content, check out this article from eLearning Industry: 6 Steps To Create Interactive Online Training Videos.
Collaboration: Interacting with Other Learners
Another way to make interactive eLearning a priority in 2019 is to build in opportunities for learners to interact with each other. Chat rooms and forums where learners can ask each other questions is one obvious way. Another technique often used in traditional classrooms is give learners the opportunity for peer review and feedback, which helps build a sharing culture among learners. Building in “social” features that allow learners to comment and “like” on content from others learners and get to know each other through online profiles help build an interactive learning community.
Feedback: Interacting with the Learning Professionals
Giving learners the opportunity to interact with the learning professionals who developed the eLearning course or module is another way to make eLearning more interactive. The way to do this is to build in various feedback members where learners can provide feedback about their learning experience, the content, the instructors and so on. You want this information anyways in order to revise and improve the learning experience. Just keep in mind that to make it truly interactive, you have to also respond to the feedback in a meaningful and engaging way.
Ideas for interactive eLearning from Cathy Moore’s Let’s Save the World from Boring Training website can be found on her eLearning Samples page – a great place to get a little inspiration for what you can do to make your eLearning programs more interactive. Just remember to keep the core learning content and learning objectives in mind – all the bells and whistles are meaningless if your participants don’t learn what you need them to learn. But when it’s done right, making eLearning interactive can achieve great results for your learners and your company.