Tips on Guiding Your Learner
Not sure how to lead your learner through your e-Learning course? Use these tips to ensure he or she doesn’t get lost in the woods!
Is your e-Learning course looking a little bland? Characters are a great way to add a visual element. You can use a character to introduce your learner to the course, or to serve as the narrator or “avatar” who guides the learner through the course. Using the same character to guide your learner from beginning to end adds continuity to your course.
Many vendors provide character packs that are perfect for creating avatars. For example, the eLearning Brothers offer tons of characters in their Template Library. Even better, Lectora® is currently including a free Template Library subscription with every purchase of Lectora Inspire!
Here a few things to look for when choosing a character pack:
- Characters with the backgrounds removed—usually a transparent .png file or an Adobe Photoshop file—so that you can put the characters on any background and mix and match to create your own scenes
- Many poses per character, so you can get more interesting options and tell a visual story
- Multiple angles, not just facing forward, so you can make the characters interact with more things than just the learner, such as objects on your page
Using a simulation is a good way to guide your learner through a complex process or walk through an important compliance form that needs to be filled out correctly. Simulations allow you to set up a scenario and then recreate it for your learner. The great thing about simulations is that you can allow the learner to take them over and over until he or she feels comfortable with the concept.
Take a look at this e-Learning Lesson in Lectora on how to easily create a form-based simulation.
Unless you’re playing hide and seek, it’s usually good to help your learner find the important information on a slide. You can do this with visual cues in your design, like adding subheads and bullets to make important information easy to find. We’re big believers in content chunking over at Lectora!
You can also use your character to point out important information to the learner.
These are just a few of the ways you can guide your learner to the information he or she needs to get from an e-Learning course. What are your favorite ways of guiding the learner? Tweet them to @Lectora or share them in the comments below.
For more e-Learning tips and free resources, subscribe to the Lectora e-Learning Blog.
This post was first published on eLearning Industry.
Over two years ago I wrote about a few experiences I’d had with some online courses / MOOCs, and why I ‘failed’ (according to the general headline figures of engagement, attendance, etc. that are used in mainstream press).
I want to revisit this, in light of more experience in both designing MOOCs and being a student on them.
Disclaimer: This is based on courses I’ve taken on the FutureLearn, Coursera, Cloudworks, EdX, and WordPress (OcTEL) platforms. I also highlight whether is was a student on the course, or part of the development team.
1. Comments and Engagement: For the most part I’ve been a silent students. This is both deliberate and accidental. Where it’s been a deliberate choice to not engage in the comments and discussion it’s been because I knew I didn’t have the time or inclination to trawl through the hundreds of fairly uninteresting posts to add my two-pennies worth or find the one nugget of insight that is worth anything. It’s also because, for some courses, I didn’t have enough interest to take my engagement further.
Example – World War 1: Aviation comes of Age. (learner) A wonderfully rich and interesting subject, I’ve always loved flying and it’s history. From visits to Farnborough and Yeovilton Fleet Air Arm Museum as a kid to taking my own boys to air shows (and hopefully next year on their first flight). The course was brilliantly put together with a great use of archive resources from the BBC with interviews, audio and video, from surviving pilots and workers from the factories. However, I started to get really annoyed as almost every step asked for a comment, an opinion, feedback, etc. on the video or piece to be read. And that was before the discussion steps. And then there was the ‘how is it going so far?’ step at the end of each week! Too much, sorry!
2. Video: I have found the quality of video to be, for the most part, excellent on all the courses (especially the ones I’ve worked on [wink]). But its not always necessary. A 90 second clip of someone introducing the weekly topic and wider context of the subject is really useful, but a 30 second clip of someone reading a quote or abstract from the paper we’ve been asked to read is pointless. The actual content of the videos are also varied and really interesting, but there are some examples of green-screen is over used.
Example – Shakespeare and His World (developer). Amazing use of on-location filming with the rarely-seen and non-public archives and collections of Shakespeare artefacts. With Prof Jonathan Bate showing, and sometimes holding, the artefacts he is able to bring the topic and people to life.
Example – eLearning and Digital Cultures (learner). This course offered a great many examples of videos to watch that supported the ‘digital cultures’ element but, as I’ve written about before, the ‘elearning’ was greatly reduced. However, the beauty of these courses is the crowd-sources and student-led curation of content, and this video was a great example of what is already out there, if you know where to look. Of course, the online, open courses can only use publicly accessible videos available on Vimeo or YouTube. Oh, if only we could use Box of Broadcasts!!
The Future is Ours from Michael Marantz on Vimeo.
Example – Forensic Science and Criminal Justice (developer). Very few videos were used on this course, and those that are ‘video’ steps were just narrated PowerPoint slides. The rest of the course was made up of 20 or so audio clips, between 4-8 minutes long. These were excellent produced, great quality, and well received. We also made them available for download (before the download option was available in FutureLearn) from a DropBox folder. It just goes to show that you don’t have to have high-end video content for a course to be successful and engaging.
3. Platform: I haven’t found one platform yet that I actually like. There is plenty about each platform that works, and sometimes works well, but there’s either too much white space, unwieldy navigation, poor layout, to much scrolling, etc. If the platform is important to the feeling of security and understanding, in order to relax the student into their learning, then can something be done about the platform to facilitate this?
4. Weeks: (also see ‘hours’, below) Short courses are obviously easier to fit into my life, but even a 6 week course sounds OK, not too long. But so much can happen in any 6 week course … not to mention the 2 months that has passed between signing up for it and the thing actually starting! Ensuring the content is relevant in each week is also key to the course being, for me as a learner, successful and worth my time.
5. Terminology: I’m sure the academics are very good, and very knowledgeable. But can you please direct the terminology to the level of learner engagement or study. If it’s a subject course that people are likely to take where they have little or no understanding of already, then using advanced or complex terminology (without proper and adequate explanation) will not help them understand you or the course materials.
6. Hours: Which is better, a short course (2-4 weeks) with a high hourly requirement (4-8 hours per week) or a longer course (6+ weeks) with lower hourly requirement (2-4 hours per week)? Ideally I’d go for a shorter course with the lower expected study hours, but that’s because I’m busy. But hey, aren’t we all? I know that FutureLearn, and probably others, are looking at a portfolio of shorter courses, from a single or multiple providers, and that would suit me as a learner far better.
I realise that some courses, more in-depth or detailed courses, even ones aimed at higher levels of study, will have higher study expectations. But just to get it right on the course overview page is enough. The Edinburgh eLearning and Digital Futures course was originally flagged as (and I forget the ‘exact’ number) 3-5 hours per week, but myself and many others on the course were actively engaging in 10+ hours, just to keep up.
7. Expected engagement: If you highlight the course as being as an introduction to the subject, then the materials should be fairly lightweight and not require degree-level understanding. Also, if you say the course is ideally 3-5 hours per week, and I spend 10+ just to keep up (as was the case with the first run of the Edinburgh/Coursera Digital Futurees course) then you’ve really under-estimated the level (again) and requirement of the course.
8. Links, related reading PDFs: I don’t mind having materials available to me that are flagged as ‘essential’ or ‘suggested’, but please monitor these and keep the lists manageable? One or two links are fine, 6 or 7 tells me either the basic course is too basic, or you can’t decide how much is too much, or too little.
Example – World War 1: Aviation comes of Age (learner). Some of the related links are to video content that learners have pointed out are not available to non-UK learners. I don’t know what proportion of the course this relates to, but that’s a big design flaw in my book. Having a link to further reading or other interested materials is good, in fact you could argue it’s essential for those who are interested in more than just the bare-essentials on the course. Having 5 or 6 doesn’t work for me, it’s just too much – how do I know which ones are going to be best for me. Keep it simple, please.
9. MOOC futures: I still like the ability to join and leave these courses when I want, and really only see the downside of MOOCs as being when the courses run. It may suit the platform provider to have the course run when it fits their portfolio, or the partner institution and when the lead academic is available, but that may not suit me?
Mind you, is this a downside of the MOOC platform and the design of the course (the dreaded engagement with fellow learners again) that limits the course to run between two fixed dates -can’t the materials just be online, running all the time, and I be added to a group/cohort that started this week? Admittedly I could be in a group of 5 or 500, depending on so many factors, but at least I had the flexibility to learn what I wanted, when I wanted.
Anyway, there are my thoughts. I am still looking to the future where online learning ‘works’, for me. I have yet to find a single experience where I am truly engaged and happy – perhaps I need to find a course I really really want to do, and pay for it. Is the value to my learning linked to the impact on my wallet, and therefore perception of value of learning. Will I be more inclined to stick it out and not give up? I know I made more effort for my CMALT portfolio and submission because I could see the value to my development, profile, and employability … is a direction MOOCs need to take, a defined and deliberate link to specific development criteria, either from industry association or other such accreditation body?
(Bonus) 10. Email updates: Emails sent to me as one of the learners, or rather those registered for the course, thanking me for my participation and the quality of the engaging conversation. But I haven’t said anything. In fact I’ve not logged in to the platform since I signed up to the course. I don’t mind about the email but please don’t presume that I have been involved. Perhaps the platform needs to be able to distinguish between those engaging and those not?
Klassische Lehrmethoden sind gekennzeichnet durch die Dichotomie Lehrer/Lernender, der Interaktion dieser beiden beteiligten Gruppen und der Steuerung des Lernprozesses durch den Lehrenden. Auch die meisten web-basierten Lehrmethoden könnte man in diese Kategorie einordnen. Allerdings stehen diese Trainings den Mitarbeitern „On-Demand“ zur Verfügung und öffnen so den Weg zu selbstgesteuertem Lernen – sofern die Trainings an... weiterlesen →
This shouldn’t come as a big surprise, given the major benefit of VILT: it’s a cost-effective way to train participants in disparate locations, while still providing the guidance of a live facilitator with opportunities for classroom interaction and peer-based learning. It’s the happy marriage of instructor-led training (ILT) and e-Learning.
Yet, while many of the principles of effective in-person classroom training apply to virtual training, there are some important differences. I want to help you avoid the pitfalls I commonly see in instructional design and facilitation.
By applying some simple techniques and design considerations, you’ll be on your way to creating and delivering fresh, appealing, and engaging VILT training materials that encourage your participants to discuss and collaborate.
Avoid These 4 Virtual Instructor-Led Training Pitfalls and Get Inspired!
Pitfall #1: Your training event design is neither engaging nor interactive.
It’s bad enough to be stuck in a classroom during a long session with the facilitator droning on and reading aloud the bullet points on every slide. But when we are a captive audience, we have little choice but to pay some attention. In the virtual environment, however, the temptation to tune out is ever-present, from new e-mail pings to the next level of Angry Birds.
As a virtual facilitator, you’ll likely not even know that you’ve lost your participants’ attention. But if your presentation is not engaging, chances are you have.
This means instructional designers need to create strong, engaging, interactive materials for every virtual training course. Just presenting information is not enough to hold participants’ interest. And, let’s face it, if they are not paying attention, they are not learning or retaining what you need to teach them, and they certainly won’t be looking forward to your next presentation.
Here are some tips to make your training event more engaging:
- If the seat time of your course is on the longer side, build in a break every 45–60 minutes. For longer presentations, you might even consider scheduling the event in multiple parts on separate days.
- Add multimedia elements to your slide deck or presentation, instead of having a standard slide deck with lots of bulleted points. Add video and audio clips, infographics, animations, mini-games, and fun (but relevant) polling questions.
- Create a collaborative environment.
- In the beginning of the event, ask participants to send a text chat if they need a break or have a question.
- Include breakout rooms in your design. Depending on the delivery platform, facilitators have various options for breaking a large group into several smaller ones to work on activities, brainstorm, etc. Encourage participants to communicate and collaborate within these smaller groups.
- Depending on the size of your audience, call on participants to ask questions and / or provide answers. Open-ended questions help participants synthesize and apply the concepts being presented.
- Use social media in virtual training.
- Create a community space for your training event. Pre-class activities such as reading, questionnaires, and expectation-setting can be accomplished effectively via social media. Wouldn’t it be fantastic for you and your learners to post introductions in the community space and learn about each other in advance? Beyond standard introductions, you can also ask what they’re hoping to learn, and then tailor your content to meet their needs.
- Include post-training exercises to keep the synergy of your training event alive. Encourage learners to continue using the community space to discuss their experiences, share articles, and suggest links to other resources for ongoing learning and networking.
For more ideas, check out my article, 7 Tips for Using Social Media in Classroom Learning.
Pitfall #2: You are not managing the training event effectively.
Ever been in a virtual training event where the first 15 minutes were taken up by technical issues? Here is where virtual instructor-led training technology comes into play. Technology can offer tremendous benefits for interaction and engagement, as I described above, but does require a heightened level of preparation and attention from the facilitator.
Here are some tips to manage your VILT effectively:
- In the beginning of the event, request that participants turn off all phones and close their e-mail.
- Speak clearly and confidently at a medium pace, varying the pitch of your voice.
- Ensure you are familiar with the course content so you can tailor it to the participants’ needs and questions.
- Continuously scan the chat, video, and other visible pods for questions and comments. If you have a large group, I recommend adding a moderator who can watch for questions and feed them to you. (More on this below.)
- Be sure to clear participant statuses, such as Yes, No, and Raised Hands, after use.
- If you are using a webcam, before the event, check the lighting, the frame behind you, and how you appear on camera. Remember: participants may not be able to see your hand gestures.
Pitfall #3: You are not prepared to facilitate.
Did the list above seem a bit overwhelming? It can be difficult to focus on delivering the content, scanning the chat, and dealing with the technology of a virtual training event, particularly with larger groups or while using new or complex technology. As with anything, it pays to be prepared. Here are some important preparation considerations, along with my bonus checklist.
Add a moderator to assist you during the event. Especially for larger groups, a moderator can help ensure the session goes smoothly by:
- Acting as the timekeeper
- Feeding you pertinent questions and comments
- Dealing with technical and unexpected challenges offline (Don’t keep the group waiting because one person has trouble logging in!)
- Be ready! Download this free PDF of facilitator preparation tasks to stay organized before, during, and after your event.
Pitfall #4: You have lost sight of the participant.
Keep your learners engaged with these strategies:
- As noted in #1, leverage social learning by asking participants about their topic knowledge before the virtual session. You can gauge their existing knowledge level and fine-tune your presentation accordingly.
- At regular intervals, check in with your participants. Remember, in the virtual environment, participants have to rely on auditory content and cannot read your body language as it is being delivered. The opposite is true when it comes to your participants’ body language. You cannot see their looks of confusion or tell when they need more time to jot down notes. So, make sure to ask for feedback on the pacing of your delivery and their level of comprehension. Adjust your pace and the content to reflect their feedback.
- Encourage participants to relax and note that it is okay to make mistakes during the learning process. Because participants cannot see each other, they may you’re your encouragement to participate.
These are the most important techniques I have found to be effective in creating and delivering virtual instructor-led training.
My last words of encouragement: get creative! The only limit is your imagination when it comes to making your virtual training session educational, fun, and memorable.
Bonus material: Free Virtual Instructor-Led Training Facilitator Preparation Tasks Checklist
To help you prepare for you next instructor-led training we’ve put together a free downloadable checklist for virtual instructor-led training preparation in PDF format! (to download the Free Virtual Instructor-Led Training Facilitator Preparation Tasks Checklist PDF click HERE.
This post was first published on eLearning Industry.
Using Gamification Narratives Can Foster A Learning Environment – using eLearning as an opportunity to improve almost any work-related scenario. A real-life case study.
What is narrative-based gamification? It is not a superficial layer on top of enterprise applications or eLearning systems but rather an opportunity to integrate learning into your enterprise apps.
When using gamification narratives, the use of game mechanics to encourage behavior, we are appealing to a basic human instinct: stories fascinate us, they include metaphors that we understand immediately. But that’s not all. Narratives help employees understand what they are required to do and direct employees towards self-motivated and continuous eLearning.
Below you will find a real-world example from a large US corporation. In this example we are using a car-racing narrative within a customer support call center. You may wonder if call center employees are expected to speak to customers on the phone while playing car racing on their screen (“excuse me ma’am, my car just crashed into the ditch”). You may ask yourself what is the relationship between customer support and eLearning. After all, wasn’t this post about eLearning?
The answer is two-fold: eLearning works best when integrated with work. We’ll show how this works in this case. Also, narratives are game mechanics. They aren’t games and employees don’t play them. They are just used as a means of communication of goals, objectives and learning opportunities.
In most call centers, employees are motivated through two basic “game mechanics”: leaderboards and points. Employees collect points for activities they do and there is a leaderboard that shows who is on top. Points are sometimes used for bonuses and are an important part in communicating with employees.
The use of leaderboards in this context may promote competition at the top 10% of employees and discourage all the rest. The people that aren’t at the top may find leaderboard incredibly discouraging. They know how they compare to the top performer, but not to people in their level or department.
Now, let’s looks at the first leaderboard in a car racing narrative, used by a call center rep. The difference becomes immediately clear.
This is what the customer service rep sees (on her desktop or mobile, based on no-code integration with enterprise apps). Her race car has double the points of her monthly target. Yet she is still behind the vendor leader and the worldwide leader. At a glance, she seems to be doing well... Or is she?
Note some elements of the leaderboard design here. The leader is not named – their achievement is a personal benchmark the rep can use, but there are no names. Another benchmark is the worldwide leader, but note that the leaderboard first encourages her to get to the position of the leader that is closer to her (the “vendor leader”). This design easily supports the addition of more benchmarks, such as a team performance benchmark and more.
Now let’s see how the race metaphor extends to learning. Gamification and learning go hand in hand, leveraging the satisfaction derived from assignment completion (think of the profile completion bar on LinkedIn) and creating actionable learning goals. In this case, the race narrative lets the customer service rep go to the pit stop.
What do you do at real racing pit stops? Fix stuff and get better. Rather than passively observing the sales rep results, she can dig deeper and improve. Just like a pit stop lets you change tires and check the engine, perhaps get a word of advice, so does the pit stop in this narrative. This is where corrective action takes place.
Let’s see what happens at the pit stop.
Just like a car, the customer service rep has a dashboard, showing performance.
The pit stop’s metaphor is a dashboard. The rep is doing fine on the CSAT (customer satisfaction score), renewals and on the AHT (average handling time) metrics. The dashboard shows her what is acceptable and what is not, with the green and red colors. However, on the outbound and sales metrics she isn’t performing well. Here is where eLearning comes in. The “train” indicator offers training to remedy the problems she is having, giving her an immediate opportunity to improve and furthering the enterprise’s training goals.
Instead of being let down by her performance, she is given an immediate opportunity to get better through training. She can re-learn a subject, do a simulation, learn a subject and complete a quiz and more. At this point the rep goes to her activities page, indicating the training activities she can partake. She can also review performance reports of her metrics, giving her deeper insight about how she can improve.
Narrative-based gamification is a key tool in conveying subtle messages that require balancing several metrics, integrating learning activities and more. In this respect, think of gamification as actionable performance management that is pre-integrated with eLearning opportunities.
This post was first published on eLearning Industry.
Ob Tony Bates noch aus dem MOOC-Komplex herausfindet? Drei Stichworte nimmt er sich hier vor: 1. “Open and free education”, 2. “The audience that MOOCs mainly serve” und 3. “Persistence and commitment”. Zum letzten Punkt merkt er an:
“Furthermore, percentages, completion and certification DO matter if MOOCs are being seen as a substitute or a replacement for formal education. Thus MOOCs are a useful - but not really revolutionary - contribution to non-formal continuing education.”
Tony Bates, e-learning and distant education resources, 19. Oktober 2014