6 Tips On How To Create Characters In eLearning

How To Create Characters In eLearning

It’s a proven fact that emotionally compelling eLearning courses are highly successful. And one of the most effective ways to transform a boring or dry eLearning course into one that is immersive and engaging is the utilization of a character. Whether you are designing a deliverable intended for a tenth grade science class or a group of experienced physicians, characters can ALWAYS add a touch of realism and relatability to an eLearning experience.

  1. Create a character profile and a script.
    Before you begin integrating characters in eLearning, you’ll want to have a detailed idea of exactly who the character is going to be and how it will deliver (or interact with) the subject matter effectively. To do this, you can create a profile that highlights the personality traits, mannerisms, tone, and even the back story of your character. You’ll also need to write out a script ahead of time, so that you can ensure that you’ve integrated all the important lesson points of the eLearning course. If you aren’t willing or ready to write your own script, you may want to get some help from a subject matter expert or a professional content writer who specializes in your niche. Just bear in mind that you don’t have to include all aspects of your character’s profile into the eLearning course, this is just a planning tool that can help you moving forward.
  2. Decide which role your character is going to play.
    There are a variety of roles that an eLearning character can play. They can be the narrator or the guide if you’re trying to walk your learners through the eLearning course in an entertaining or engaging way, or they can be the one who poses questions that your learner may want to ponder throughout a module. You can also have them point out tips that might help the learners to more effectively acquire information or develop skill sets. Whatever the case may be, you should have a clearly defined idea of what purpose your character is going to serve. By giving them a set role, you can help to ensure that they serve the primary learning goal rather than serve as an unnecessary distraction.
  3. Choose your character image wisely
    Characters in eLearning courses can be depicted in photos, cartoons, or even be live actors, in the case of videos or webinars. If you are using an image, you’ll want to choose very wisely, as this can either determine the eLearning course’s success in many respects. For example, if you’re including a character that is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and has a rather disheveled appearance, this would probably not be the ideal image for a business man who is supposed to be organized, polished, and confident. Beyond that, you’ll want to opt for images that are of high quality and, of course, appropriate for your target audience.
  4. Research your audience to fine tune your character’s dialogue and personality.
    One of the most invaluable tips for how to use characters in eLearning is to find out as much as possible about your audience. Do some research to pinpoint any jargon that you should include, the tone you may want to convey, and any other important dialogue points that should be considered. Try to survey your audience, or even observe them on the job, so that you can get an accurate sense of what your character’s personality should be in order to improve relatability with your learners. Figure out if there are any stereotypical personality types within their industry that you can integrate into your character’s profile. For example, if you are trying to create an antagonist for your eLearning course, you can incorporate various negative personality traits that your specific audience may be familiar with. This makes the character recognizable and helps the learner to connect with the subject matter in a more meaningful way.
  5. Make audio realistic and relevant.
    If you are including audio in your eLearning course, such as character dialogue or narration, you’ll want to make it as realistic and relevant as possible. Have the character use language that is natural and fitting for the environment. Don’t go off into tangents that will only distract the learner from the key pieces of information they need to acquire. If at all possible, enlist the services of a professional voice over actor who can narrate scenes for you or play the part of the eLearning character, as this will make your eLearning course more believable, and therefore more powerful.
  6. Opt for several different images featuring the same character.
    Rather than using just one image to visually represent your character, why not use a handful of images that feature the same character in order to enhance the realism of your eLearning course. Often, having several images on hand that depict different emotions or poses is ideal, given that you can accurately portray your character in different scenarios or scenes. You can also use photo editing software to create close ups of your character or to highlight different aspects of the image, such as cropping the photo to give up an close look at their hands during a task or zooming in on one particular character that’s featured in the photo.

The important thing to keep in mind when developing and integrating eLearning characters is that they must add value to the learning experience, rather than distract the learner from the overall objective or subject matter. By using these tips you can ensure that your character serves the learning goal, rather than stealing the spotlight.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

scil on tour: Exkursion zu CYP (Zürich) zum Thema “Mobiles Lernen”

Das CYP, das “Center for Young Professionals in Banking”, setzt schon länger auf Mobile Learning, hat bereits vor einigen Jahren komplett von Papier auf elektronische Lehrmaterialien und Tablets umgestellt und ist daher eine willkommene Adresse für Erfahrungsberichte aus erster Hand. Diese fasst Christoph Meier (scil) hier zusammen. Die Rede ist von technischen Herausforderungen, neuen Prüfungssituationen, von fehlenden Medienkompetenzen und überhaupt von einem großen, andauernden Veränderungsprozess. Wenig ist jedoch in diesem Teil des Beitrags die Rede von neuen Lehr- und Lernkonzepten. In der Schilderung des daran anschließenden Workshops versucht Christoph Meier, hier noch etwas gegenzusteuern.
Christoph Meier, scil-Blog, 31. Oktober 2014

KOA012 KnowTech 2014 Spezial

Hut ab! Mit diesem “KnowTech Special” ist Simon Dückert und Ulrich Schmidt wirklich ein Podcast-Highlight gelungen. Ein kurzweiliger und informativer Überblick über Konferenz und Szene. Mit kompetenten Gesprächspartnern: Matthias Weber (BITKOM), Joachim Niemeier (centrestage), Hans-Georg Schnauffer (GfWM), Stefan Holtel (brightOne), Katharina Perschke (Bosch), Dirk Dobiéy (SAP) und Heiko Beier (Hochschule für Angewandte Sprachen). Und interessanten Stichworten, u.a.: Cognitive Computing, Wissensarbeit, Wissensmanagement & HR, Community Management, Kunst & IT.
Simon Dückert und Ulrich Schmidt, Knowledge on Air, #012, 19. Oktober 2014


Seven ways that video can transform learning at work

Eine kurze Handreichung: Video, schreibt Clive Shepherd, “is very much the medium of the moment”. Die Technik ist da, die Software, es läuft auf allen Geräten. Der Rest ist Routine. Bleiben die (Lern-)Formate und Szenarien, in denen Video eingesetzt werden kann: Interviews, Presentations, Drama, Physical Demonstrations, Documentaries, Screencasts, Explainers. Für Einsteiger.
Clive Shepherd, Clive on Learning, 31. Oktober 2014

Story-Based Learning Strategy In A Course For Instructional Designers

Case Study: Course Based on Story-Based Learning Strategy for Instructional Designers

My father was a master storyteller. He had a dual major in History and Education (specializing in teacher training) and used his storytelling skills to weave narratives with learning. As a result, I learnt about our values, our ancient culture, and our heritage through many of these stories. No surprises that I am a firm believer of using storytorials (story-based learning strategies) to create effective learning experiences.

As we know, a storytorial (from the words “story-based tutorial”) combines the following two elements:

  1. Compelling power of storytelling
  2. Scientifically proven principles of Instructional Design

Pairing these two elements produces a learning solution that provides learners with an immersive learning experience. Storytorials feature a single fictional storyline with a beginning, middle, and an end. While a story may have more than one plotline, depending on the content, we take great care to keep the story focused on the content, avoiding extraneous details that don’t contribute to the training.

A story-based approach or storytorial is an effective tool to engage learners with the content. Who is not interested in a good story? This strategy delivers not just for the K-12 segment but also among adult learners.

Advantages of a using a storytorial are:

  1. It grabs and retains learner attention throughout the course.
  2. Learning becomes fun as opposed to meeting a list of objectives.
  3. It establishes the content flow and engages learners at every juncture.
  4. It enables high retention of the concepts covered in the course (the logic being, you will always remember a good story).

Ref: This content is from my blog, Learning Design Series Approaches featuring Storytorials, that was featured on our website in June’14.

With this backdrop, let me move to the case study of Content Types and their Visualisation Approaches course that we had designed for our Instructional Design team. Now, this is also available as a product.

Learning mandate

The aim was to explain the content types and how each can be presented visually to build an engaging and interactive course. The five content types are factual data and each type presents its own challenges during ideation and visualization. This course ties-in information on each content type, recommended visualization approaches and interactions that can be used for each. The content is presented from an Instructional Designer’s perspective.

The challenge and our solution

The content posed a significant challenge. The repetitive format of information for each content type made it difficult to retain learners’ interest.

We felt that instead of listing out or describing various content types and their visualization techniques, it would be better for learners to go through a story that presents this information in a much more engaging and interesting format.

We decided to create a storyline that treats the challenges of the content as an actual business problem and outlines the solution through a series of real life situations. This approach helped the learners relate to the content, and apply their learning practically.

The story introduces us to a team of Instructional Designers, who have been assigned the task of creating an eLearning course. Their analysis of the storyboard, its review and discussions around the ways to present the content for the eLearning course form the basis to present the information on the content types.

Cast of characters

We identified the following cast for our story:

  • Sandy, ID (Trainee)
  • Ruth, Sr. ID (Reviewer and Mentor)
  • Ken, another Sr. ID (Brings in innovative ideas)


Against a mandate of creating a cost-effective yet engaging course for a Fire Fighting Institute, Sandy readies a storyboard that maps to the content accurately to the required learning outcomes. Yet, this is rejected in the internal review by Ruth who notes that the instructional strategy is not engaging enough.

Story-Based Learning Strategy In A Course For Instructional Designers 02_image

The learning happens through brainstorming sessions between Sandy, Ruth, and Ken. All three come with their assessment of the storyboard and discuss their ideas about the possible approaches (that can be used to create a significantly better learning experience).

The story has learning components that are illustrated through examples (featuring an analysis of Sandy’s existing storyboard) followed by inputs on how it can be re-done to create an immersive learning experience.

Story-Based Learning Strategy In A Course For Instructional Designers 03_image

The discussion leads to Tips that map to each content type.

Story-Based Learning Strategy In A Course For Instructional Designers 04_image

After understanding the five content types, we introduce various levels of interaction. The course wraps up with a summary on how to map the content types to the interaction levels.

Story-Based Learning Strategy In A Course For Instructional Designers 05_image


By taking a story-based approach, we were able to mitigate the intrinsic challenge to present content (that was dry and had repetitive information) in an engaging manner. The characters (Instructional Designers) resonated well with the target learners and the challenges that they faced were very real. This kept the learners hooked. Easy, narrative style makes the learning fun. Finally, as I said earlier, we all remember a good story!

I look forward to your feedback.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Interview with Rachel Challen, #EdTechBook chapter author

The Really Useful #EdTechBook, edited by David HopkinsAs part of a new series of posts, I will be talking to authors of The Really Useful #EdTechBook about their work, experiences, and contribution to the book. In this fourth post I talk to Rachel Challen, eLearning Manager at Loughborough College.

DH – Hi Rachel. When did you first realise that technology could have a positive effect on learning and teaching?

RC – I returned to education many years after I had first left, to do my PGCE at Wolverhampton University and did a module that was based on online resources. At that time we were only encouraged to develop PowerPoint presentations, but even so the opportunity with even the basic interactivity to engage students, blew my socks off. When I was at school, chalkboards were for dragging your fingernails down and board rubbers were for crowd control! 

I was extraordinarily lucky that my personal tutor on the PGCE was the wonderful Julie Hughes, renowned for her ePortfolio pedagogy practice and research, who gave me so much inspiration for thinking about things differently, putting the student first and just not to be scared about trying something out. I also have to admit that I used the OHT layering technique (that is technology right?!), but for me, technology isn’t just about technology, its about using the right tool for student impact, engagement and achievement.

DH – I can still remember my geography teacher at school, his drawings on the chalk board of glaciers and volcanoes were second to none, but don’t ever let him catch you talking or that board rubber would be heading straight at you … he didn’t even need to turn around, his aim was awesome!!

So, trying to ignore supersonic chalk board rubbers, what has been the ‘right’ tool in your arsenal of software/hardware box-of-tricks that has made the biggest impact for student engagement or achievement?

RC – Well, it won’t come as a surprise to my immediate team, :) but I’m not in the least bit technical: I definitely know how to use tools to their best advantage but I don’t have a clue how to make or mend them! I’m a Learning Technologist yes, but as we know that term covers a multitude of skills and knowledge, so my first thought when looking at something shiny is always ‘what value am I or the learners going to get from this’. I want something that will break down the barrier of collaboration, something that will help develop self actualisation through reflection and skills building, something that will invite students in and let them ‘be’ and something that will give students confidence in their digital skills for the workplace when they leave us. I think the right tool actually isn’t the technology itself, but the confidence as a tutor to have a go. Whether its using a webquest for flipped learning, a portfolio for reflection or a forum to create peer support, the pedagogy has to come first. I think a powerful example for impact, was a forum for PGCE teachers who when out on placement, met infrequently. They used an ePortfolio for communication and because of the ease of contact between peers and tutor, one student was able to get in touch quickly (almost instantly), resolve a serious issue that could have escalated and felt so supported that they remained on the course. One student saved…and thats amazing. But if I had to pick one specific approach, I would pick mobile technology. The affordances that this brings for interaction, collaboration, confidence building, flexibility in the classroom and instant access to knowledge should absolutely make it a teacher’s best friend!

DH – I know from my own experience that access and affordability of smart phone and tablet technology has changed how I work, and more importantly how I approach it. From sitting on the sofa in the evening and getting notifications of emails, meetings, mentions, etc. to tweeting, blogging, and collaborative efforts like #BYOD4L and this #EdTechBook project. But at times it’s also been problematic as it’s tough to form an effective strategy to manage not only your own expectations and FOMO (‘fear of missing out), but the expectations of others. Have you found this?

Interview with Rachel Challen, #EdTechBook chapter author

RC – Absolutely, we now live in a 24/7 communication society and thats my expectation as well, I’m no different – so it’s vital that expectations are clear. At any one time, I’m no more than arms reach away from a phone, tablet, laptop etc (in fact, i think they may actually be my arms!). If out of hours replies aren’t achievable, then as LTs we should be providing accessible help resources to help those tutors who start work after tea and putting the children to bed. Technology means we can work anywhere and anytime we wish but of course this can be totally overwhelming too. For me its definitely FOMO! I had a planned day away from twitter last week, but when I came back there were over 10,000 tweets. So I reevaluated my twitter COP, because I enjoy keeping up and seeing what people are researching, talking about and sharing thoughts between us but less is sometimes more! I can manage quite comfortably in a fast moving environment but I started one MOOC and in the first week, I got so many emails, tweets, G+’s, that it was unmanageable, off putting and I unenrolled. That was a lesson for me in online communication as a student – make the design, expectations but more importantly, boundaries clear…and then try and follow my own advice :o).

DH – Whilst an understanding of the ‘bigger picture’ can help direct development and progress, it can also be a distraction that, for some, could be overwhelming. I know your chapter will deal with more aspects of this ‘magic’ balance LTs have to manage between policy, management, and creativity, but do you feel the role of an LT needs to concern themselves with policy and management decisions?

RC – In my experience, not only should they be concerned with them, they should try and be part of the decision making process and have some influence on the direction. Working creatively is obviously key and coming up with solutions and ideas but we can’t work in silos otherwise nothing we do will ever be embedded and become cross institutional practice. Why develop a fabulous pilot which can’t go into full implementation because we haven’t understood the underlying strategies or concerns. As LTs, we have the absolute privilege of working with all departments (curriculum and support) and the ability to cross pollinate is key to bringing projects to the table which bring value and impact to all.

DH – Totally agree with you, but how realistic is it for that approach to work? Does it depend on team size, location (department, faculty or institution), and individuals at the different levels of management or is it the culture, where research is sometimes considered more important than teaching?

RC – Ooo, tricky question! I’ve worked in different sized teams in different sized institutions in different sectors and cross pollination, although really hard work, has worked successfully in all of those, but there has always been a good degree of centralisation or at least a hub and spoke model so maybe that is the key. Maybe it is indicative of our different experiences as LTs but my role now is in the FE sector, which is a fast moving and reactive environment and the balance of importance is definitely biased towards teaching with a heavy reliance on action research. So I can only answer from my experience but what I do believe that is that as LTs, regardless of where we are placed, the focus of our role or the sector we are in, we have to make it realistic; we should be knocking on doors, breaking down barriers, supporting communities of practice and just making things happen :o)

DH – I’ve often considered this, and tried many times to break down these barriers, but have always come up against a multitude of reasons (and plenty of excuses) that prevent progress. I thoroughly agree about knocking on doors, supporting progress and breaking down barriers, but do you think that can always be effective?

RC – I’m sure all LTs have, at some stage, heard those perceived barriers you mention ‘no time, too busy, my students don’t like technology etc’, and they nearly always mask the real problem of low confidence and maybe low digital literacy. This is our challenge as Learning Technologists and also the discussion within my chapter – how do we manage all expectations, supporting strategic direction, upskilling staff, keeping the teaching and learning at the core of everything we do and getting full staff buy in. Learning Technologists as magicians? Quite possibly!

DH – I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ll agree with you, that we do indeed need a certain amount of ‘magic’ in some circumstances! Thanks Rachel. 

More news about The Really Useful #EdTechBook will be posted here, Google +, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, and on other social media platforms using the #EdTechBook hashtag. Please follow and join in.

Image source: Magdalena Roeseler (CC BY NC 2.0)

What I’ve learned in my first week of a dual-layer MOOC (DALMOOC)

Diese Woche hat MOOC-Veteran George Siemens einen neuen Open Course gestartet, über “Data, Analytics, and Learning” und auf der MOOC-Plattform von edX. Den Teilnehmern werden zwei Optionen angeboten: “Our goal was to enable learners to select either a formal structured pathway and a self-directed “learner in control” pathway.” Diese Verbindung von cMOOC und xMOOC in einem Kurs nennen die Organisatoren “dual layer”. Über 6.000 Teilnehmer haben sich in der ersten Woche eingefunden.

Die Anmerkungen von George Siemens sind ausführlich und lehrreich. Auch weil er und seine Mitstreiter sich mit den Erwartungen und Anforderungen einiger MOOC-Veteranen konfrontiert sehen.
George Siemens, elearnspace, 28. Oktober 2014


Instructional Design Models and Theories: Individualized Instruction Model

The Quintessential of The Individualized Instruction Model

The key idea behind the Individualized Instruction Model is that learners will not only be able to better understand the materials that are being presented, but that they will be able to effectively retain information for much longer. Those who have the ability to grasp a particular concept in a short amount of time can move on to the next subject, while those who are having a difficulty understanding the concept can move at a slower pace, in order to delve further into the topic. As such, every learner is given the opportunity to get the most out of the experience, even if he/she is in a group with other learners who possess different skill levels or strengths.

Another key application for the Individualized Instruction Model within the educational environment is to offer learners of various skill levels and learning styles different learning materials. For example, if a learner is more of an auditory one, instructors can use multimedia presentations via the computer, which he/she can complete at his/her own pace. On the other hand, if a learner is more of a visual one, then the instructor can use graphic textbooks to better illustrate the points of the concept.

The Method of Individualized Instruction Model

Individualized instruction is an instructional method tailored to fit the educational needs and skills of an individual learner. This involves changing the pace the information is delivered, the methods through which the content is offered, and the materials distributed.

According to the Individualized Instruction Model, learners are provided with in depth and effective educational materials, such as interactive media or textbooks. Lecture time and presentations are usually kept to a minimum, and learners are encouraged to review, research, and learn the materials on their own. This allows each learner to acquire knowledge at his/her own pace, and is particularly useful in classrooms that have a high learner to teacher ratio.

The 4 Principles of the Individualized Instruction Model

The main principles of the Keller Plan and the Individualized Instruction Model are the following:

  1. Learners should complete the work on their own, in order to grasp all concepts.
  2. Assessments should be performed at the end of each section, to determine if the concept has been “mastered” by the learner. This is known as the “unit-perfection requirement”.
  3. Learners are encouraged to use the written materials. Presentations are generally only utilized as a supplementary instructional tool.
  4. Proctors are supposed to be helping learners and to incorporate a social element into the learning process.

Join us at the Instructional Design History Journey

A New Instructional Design Model Will Be Added Every Week! You are more than welcome to let us know if you would like us to cover an instructional design model and theory that is not included at the Instructional Design Models and Theories. Simply leave a comment at the Instructional Design Models and Theories.


This post was first published on eLearning Industry.