The following steps are not an exhaustive list of how to’s, but a good starting point to aim for when developing any eLearning package. If you can tick most of these then the eLearning package will be far more interesting to the end users and they will benefit more from it.
Its important to let learners feel they are in control, even if you make an eLearning package guide the user, ultimately they need to make the decision where to start and or the direction they want to learn (e.g. let them choose from a series of case scenarios). A linear style of learning is something users can do by reading a book. eLearning provides a more engaging way to learn and its up to us to make the most out of it to help!
Quiz the user as they progress. This helps them to understand if they really are ready to move onto the next topic. You could do this at set points, creating a repetition that the user quickly becomes used to so there are no shocks. Or you could manage the process with quick fire single questions before proceeding then a main quiz at the end to wrap up. Doing this allows the user to learn at their own pace whilst allowing them to cover some previous content before continuing.
Creating an interactive way for users to test is more beneficial than simple multiple choice answers, particularly for set scenario’s. Where possible, create a case of content about the subject, then create a problem the user needs to solve based on that content. This could be something like a simple drag and drop test ordering tasks based on importance or cost. Or a hazard perception type interaction where they have to do things in the correct order. The point is to try and go the extra mile to recreate textual questions into a more interactive manner. Users will appreciate this more and are more likely to recall the information from this later as its more visual.
Try always to make the content they are learning, relevant to their needs. This may sound obvious, but procedures change so its always likely content will eventually become dated. So even if your updating a resource then its important to keep it fresh and current, otherwise the users could be put off. A carefully considered scenario of content could make or break the confidence they have in exploring further and actually completing and recalling all this information. Try to make this also tie to any objectives listed at the start.
A bit like problem solving, you can create decision points throughout which the user has to stop and think before they proceed which direction they think they want to go or that they need to go based on the content they’ve just worked through. Its important at this stage to provide feedback for each answer, especially if they are wrong. However creating decision points doesn’t have to be clear cut answers, they can all be right but maybe there’s a preference to which you want them to choose for a particular scenario that they just looked at.
Depending how well a scenario is defined and providing decision points are used, you could well allow the user to proceed even if they haven’t chosen the preferable answer. With each answer the scenario can play out slightly differently to reveal the consequences of the choices made. With a detailed evaluation provided at the end. This is a powerful way for a user to learn realistically in the safety of an eLearning package. An example of this would be Virtual Patient systems such as the dental Virtual Patient system developed at TELMeD.
Its common when building something new like a new eLearning package, that there are some questions about how beneficial it is to the end user. One of the areas I feel eLearning benefits users is how it empowers them to engage with the content in a more meaningful, structured and fun manner. Rich information is created through animation and simple interactions through quizzes, drag and drop and video can massively increase retention through doing. It avoids the risk of the user skimming content and coming away assuming they’ve taken it all in. Feedback throughout can be a powerful method to keep them on track and if the package is tied to something like SCORM or TINCAN, they can keep track of their progress via a DLE/LMS very easily.
Next blog post in this series: 3/5 Let learners pull content
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2/5 Add meaningful interactions