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Interaction is an engagement of the mind not the finger

by Susan Dumas - December 13, 2016

This blog is about improving the quality of eLearning content. Whether you buy in eLearning content development services, or your develop your own, it is important to strive for best quality. Many of our clients ask us to help with improving their quality of eLearning - and in particular, they talk to us about eLearning interactivity. They want to get beyond click-next boring presentations and really engage their staff. 

Understanding eLearning interactivity

Many moons ago I was at a conference in the USA – Florida, to be specific. It was my first international eLearning conference. I was a little bit nervous, as I was about to meet some of the people I had only just read about – at that time, it was reading their books that got me more interested in what we could do to improve eLearning (there was no Twitter then!).

One of the things I used to think about in my early days as an ID was how to define ‘interaction’. I knew intuitively that, in order to be able to learn or understand something, you needed challenge – something to make you think in different ways about different elements of the subject matter. This is what good teachers excel at: they ask great questions, come up with engaging activities to stretch students, and generally make it a pleasure to learn. But most of the eLearning that I saw in my early career was poorly designed and constructed. The bar was set quite low in terms of learner engagement, and the concept of immersive learning wasn’t really on anyone’s agenda. Back then, I couldn’t help but wonder – are we dumbing down learning just to get it out to the masses? (Some would say, we still are!)

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I asked myself:

How could we add the good teacher’s vibrancy, enthusiasm and challenge to the average eLearning resource?

Luckily, I heard a quote at the eLearning conference that I have repeated many times since.

“Interaction is an engagement of the mind not the finger.”

How do you design good interactions?

First, let’s look at what an interaction is.

  • It is an opportunity for the learner to stop and think about some aspect of the content
  • It should help to make the learning ‘sticky’ (memorable) and move the learner to a deeper level of understanding
  • It should combine strong visual design and good writing skills, and provide timely learning insights

I've got it!

If designed well, good eLearning interactions should help the learner experience that ‘eureka moment’. But it takes good work from the eLearning designer, working alongside the client’s Subject Matter Expert, to really get under the hood of the content and explore what will make good interactions. And - interactions don’t have to be complicated to help people learn. Sometimes strong visuals and good questions are enough to get the neurons firing. It is all about the content!

Here’s an example interaction:

simple interaction

Going big - what if we created more advanced interactions?

More advanced interactions can include multimedia elements – music, voiceover, animation and other elements such as interactive video, games and scenarios. No matter what, though, you must keep the learner in mind – what is it that you could present that will really make that learning stick?  At Logicearth, we use a special acronym to help us come up with great interactions: DIF. When we talk to a subject matter expert, we ask these types of questions:

DIF - what do learners find...

  • Difficult about the new topic
  • Important to cover
  • Frequently coming up as a challenge or perhaps common misunderstanding

Armed with this information, we can look at the content in a new light and construct interactive elements to assist learners with these challenges. And remember what we said a good interaction should have: (1) strong visuals, (2) great writing, and (3) timely learning insights. 

Here’s an example of a more advanced interaction that combines a few learner insights, challenges and activities.

Learning about office health and safety – sitting well on your chair

Advanced eLearning interactions

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We'd love to help

We specialise in high impact, engaging and interactive eLearning content. We can design it for you, or work with your content development team to add to your skills. We also specialise in medical communications and medical and scientific digital content. Our in-house medical writers are qualified to Phd level. If you produce a lot of content, we can help you to streamline your process and take away many of the old headaches of eLearning development


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