This article was originally published on trainingzone.co.uk on August 24, 2017.
There’s no denying that eLearning is making its way into every industry and field. Aside from the fact that eLearning offers learners effective training options like mobile accessibility and immediate feedback, eLearning is becoming more and more cost-effective and consistent. It’s really no wonder that everyone wants to make eLearning a part of their training regimen.
However, too many people get caught up in the false belief that they can just put their existing training materials online and expect great results. When companies do this, they’re missing the point by neglecting one of the greatest strengths of eLearning, which is interactivity.
What is Interactivity?
Dictionary.com defines interactivity as “the extent to which a computer program and human being may have a dialogue.” With interactivity, you can actually create a sort of dialogue between learners and the computer. The drawback of this analogy is that, for this dialogue to work, both the learner and the computer program need to fully understand one another. With the correct preparation, this back and forth will seem natural to your learners and it will work to reinforce their learning. This dialogue works much like an exchange between human instructors and learners in the classroom. In this way, interactivity brings the strengths of traditional instruction methods to your eLearning course, so you can get the best of both worlds.
When eLearning is truly interactive, it makes learning easier. According to research done by Dr. Thomas Reeves, a professor of instructional technology at the University of Georgia, interactive learning motivates students and helps them meet their goals in less time. Interactive learning has also bridged the gap between higher education and corporate training—companies have been seeing the advantages of interactive learning for the past several years.
Those are some pretty huge benefits, and when you’re looking to get your new employees up to speed as quickly as possible, it only makes sense to try out eLearning and interactivity. But how do you make sure that your eLearning program is using interactivity in the best way for your learners?
The Four Levels of Interactivity
elearningindustry.com breaks interactivity into four distinct levels: No Interaction, Limited Participation, Moderate Interaction, and Full Immersion. At the first level, “No Interaction,” learning is completely passive. Learners can easily glide through the course without ever really having to engage with the material. Often, when companies first try their hand at eLearning, they simply transfer their existing training materials to an online platform. When this happens, they neglect interactivity and end up with a “No Interaction” course. Because No Interaction courses fail to engage learners, you likely won’t see the results you had hoped for. However, results can be improved by building interactivity into the course.
For your learners to get the most out of their experience, you want to reach Full Immersion. The difference between the third and fourth levels of interactivity—Moderate Interaction and Full Immersion—is not the number of interactive activities. Both Moderate Interaction and Full Immersion courses will incorporate video, audio, knowledge checks, and role-play scenarios for learners to engage with.
Making Your Course Fully Immersive
There are two things that take a learning course to the Full Immersion level. The first is the level of control learners have over their learning experience. When learners are free to jump from one activity to the next or to learn first about what interests them most, a course becomes Fully Immersive. With this level of freedom in a course, learners naturally become more curious and more engaged.
The second thing that takes a course to the Full Immersion level is the quality of activities. While the activities in a Moderate Interaction course and a Full Immersion course may be similar, the activities in a Full Immersion course take things to another level. While Moderate Interaction course may tell stories, Full Immersion courses often have an entire story arc that learners can become invested in and engage with. Full Immersion courses often have custom games and feedback as well. With these sorts of activities, learners are required to interact with the course to complete it, which is what makes it fully immersive.
Interactive elements not only help engage the learner, but they can help streamline the training process. Through storytelling or custom games, you can combine knowledge checks and the instruction to make things more seamless and easy for your learner. Role play scenarios allow your learners to try out new techniques and learn from the feedback they receive. These elements of interactivity make a course better. It’s just a matter of finding which interactive elements work best for you.
If you have an existing eLearning course, take a minute to honestly examine it. Does your course give learners the freedom to explore the content on their own terms? Does your course require interaction from the learners? Are the activities in the course truly engaging or do they feel like busy work? Chances are, there’s somewhere you can improve. So go ahead—take the leap and start the work to get your course to the next level. You’ll find that when you do, your learners will benefit, and you’ll see quicker and better results.