This guest blog post was written by Raffaello Allegrini, Training and Learning Expert of Nestlé Digital Adoption Group. With more than 22 years of experience in IT and Training. Currently, he is in charge of designing training strategies for many global projects.

The end objective of any eLearning course should be to provide interactive, structured, and dynamic content. Let us begin with a short introduction before discussing the best practices for writing an engaging eLearning course.

The world of professional education is changing profoundly. The pandemic has challenged proven models and priorities. Months of smart working have made us reflect on the importance of delivering training in a short time with precise information. Alongside changes in training models, technology and digital platforms are also evolving on a regular basis. Applications such as DAPs, allow you to deliver aids and learning content directly when needed. The concept of providing assistance at the point of need in the live business application is becoming more and more prevalent in large and small companies.

Legacy scenarios like push-only mode where eLearning blew hot and cold are quickly transforming into a pull and push mode. Here the pull part is covered by the resources typical of the world of Performance Support.

What may have seemed like a new golden age for digital learning is proving to be a path full of challenges where eLearning is no longer the only savior. Demand to offer training in ever shorter times, and having to share the budget with other actors leads us to review the approach used in previous years that emphasized quantity more than quality. It’s vital to hit the mark on the first shot.

But what does it mean in practice? The first thing to do is to bring the analysis phase back to the center. Whether you are an Instructional Designer or a Learning Experience Designer, it is important that you identify, define, and share the goals you want to achieve throughout the learning process.

Any element that is part of your online training course, be it a video, an exercise, or anything else must always pass a simple question: “how does it participate in the achievement of the overall objectives?”. If you are unable to answer this question, it is probably not necessary and should be removed.

“Let's Do Some Order.”

When we talk about interactivity, we always refer to a heterogeneous galaxy of elements that are difficult to classify. Below you will find a classic classification based on complexity and some usage examples. But please be cautious, the same type of interaction can be part of more than one category based on the context of use.

Low Complexity

In this category, we can find the most used and often overused interactive elements. They don’t require specific and complex applications and all the modern authoring tools support them natively. Relegated to the function of making poor eLearning less of a “PowerPoint presentation” they actually have more to offer, let's see how we can better use the most iconic low complexity interactions.

Videos and Animated Videos

As you probably know there is abundant research showing how learners benefit from stories and how they stick. Using the right eLearning authoring tools, videos and “animated videos” have enormous potential in delivering stories. We all know how great they are at creating learner engagement, but do you know they can be used for helping people to remember a sequence of information?

A story can be used as a framework where the information can be dropped and delivered in a rich and novel way to make it easier to recollect. The golden rule? Always tell stories that matter to your participants. How do we know what stories matter to people? Interview them, and empathize with them because you can’t design an effective learning experience without understanding the people for whom you are designing it.

Flashcard and Click to Reveal Activities

These interactive elements are widespread in eLearning activities. They were born within the “spaced repetition” technique, but they have almost completely lost their function of memorization tools, to assume more of a purely aesthetic function.

So, if you don't work for a company that still uses flashcards for the purpose devised by Landauer and Bjork, the advice I give you is:

  • Keep the message simple and topic-oriented.
  • Put the key point first.
  • Tell the user what you want. The use of phrases like “don’t forget to” makes a concept more difficult to understand, sometimes encouraging unwanted behavior.

Classic Assessments and Quizzes

Assessments must be used wisely with an approach to assist users to recollect and understand important concepts and not to test them. Adding a quiz at the end of an eLearning course without proper planning does not capture the effectiveness of the online training.

Learning is too complex and you cannot reduce the complexity by putting a few questions in a quiz. But a well-done assessment can help you to draw attention to the most important contents of your training, reinforce learning through corrective feedback and keep track of the student's progress.

In digital learning, we mainly use three types of assessment:

  • Initial assessment: also known as a pre-test. It is usually used to find out how much the learners already know about a topic.
  • Formative or intermediate evaluation: aims to highlight the difficulties that learners may encounter during the course. In this case, it is possible to implement corrective actions such as suggesting to the learner which training chapters to review.
  • Post evaluation: it is aimed to confirm the learner’s understanding of the overall content.

All the evaluations should have:

  • A learning objective: it clarifies exactly what you want to test.
  • Validity: it is necessary to ensure that the test is in line with learning objectives; to increase validity try to write a quiz focused on the application of the knowledge and not only on the memorization of topics.
  • Reliability: it must be ensured that the results obtained are consistent over a period of time. This is obtained by evaluating that the number of questions and their complexity is consistent with the training objective.
  • Of course, this classification contains many other interactions that it is almost impossible to give a complete list of. However, here are some: UI and navigation elements, glossaries, Watch–Try–Do Simulation, screencast videos, drag and drop interactivities, etc.

Medium-High Complexity

In this category, there is a greater level of customization, and learners are free to learn and practice a new skill. All of this obviously has a cost in terms of both time and money. You must plan this interactive learning well in advance & post planning you must start implementing them!

Gamification

Gamification is frequently confused with its most famous elements such as Points, Badges, and Leaderboards (PBL). Gamification can be defined as: “The use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts.” Designing gamification is a complex process with its rules and models. It requires you to think like a game designer but without forgetting the educational objectives.

The second thing to remember is that the elements that make up the game are not the game itself, but it is the interaction between them as they interact with the player that creates the magic. So, if you think it is enough to give some badges at the end of training to do gamification, you are in the wrong.

Simulation

Simulation and branching scenarios are interactions that allow learners to experience different situations in a “safe way”. Simulations can be open-ended, or story-driven. In both cases, it’s essential to develop stories and settings that the learner can relate to and engage them in interactions they would most likely encounter on their job.

How MadCap Flare Can Interact in a Complex Training Strategy

It's time to move from the single interaction level to the more strategic one, this is exactly where MadCap Flare shines. MadCap Flare is an important factor in many of our hybrid learning strategies

Thanks to its simplicity in the knowledge management and content reuse capabilities, MadCap Flare is the perfect solution to help us create and maintain the single source of truth that can support our Digital Adoption strategy.

It’s ability to import personalized content as online courses and standard routines thus expanding the range of resources that can be delivered to our employees in the moment of need.

Summary

Some of you may have noticed that I have not talked about Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality, I didn’t do it because I still consider them to be in a “Discovery Phase”. But we cannot be sitting on the fence too long, soon we’ll be required to handle and deliver a whole new set of interactions with specific needs and uses. How to manage them? Easy just remember, if interactions are the rope, the training objectives are the pitons and hooks. So don’t start developing interactions if you haven’t placed your pitons firmly.