On May 7, I attended the 2015 E-Learning Symposium in Austin, Texas. It was a great day, with so many interesting and inspiring speakers!
One of these was David Anderson of Articulate. He gave us a presentation on using interactive video as an elearning designer. Organizing and presenting information is at the core of designing elearning. You want your learner to absorb what they need to know, and not be distracted or overwhelmed by extraneous material. At the same time you want to engage them. Even the right information can be presented in a dry manner.
Engaging the learner means you have their attention. A course that uses primarily text, where they just read through and take quizzes to fulfill a quota or get a credit, can fail to engage. You learn better when you are interested in what is being presented. One way to gain attention and interest is by using video.
A picture is worth a thousand words. What if that picture is moving and changing over time? And talking to you besides? How many words is that worth? Say your goal is to train a repair tech how to do a field replacement of a part on a mechanism. You can put a bulleted list on the screen and go step by step to tell them how. Or you can play a video that shows them, while giving running commentary on what is happening and how they can do it themselves. Involving multiple senses in this way helps the learner absorb the information in a more connected way.
David told us about ways to bring this sort of enhanced presentation of material into our elearning courses. For example, your repair techs are required to learn a procedure to take apart a machine and replace a part. They may be given a manual to read, but end up learning by the mistakes they make when trying to do the job in the field. It can be hard to visualize from text. Maybe they see a series of pictures with instructions, better. Even a link to a YouTube video, where they can watch it being done. Pretty good, huh?
But then they sit down to an elearning course with that same video. Instead of just watching it through, they can interact with the video. You, the designer, have gone into the slide or page where that video is and set interaction points. In Articulate Storyline, for example, buttons can be placed along the timeline at key points in the process where additional information is needed, or choices could be made. These buttons might come up and show over or near the video, and if the user decides to click them, offer additional information. The learner has control, and when they have control, they pay more attention.
Maybe it is a more remedial instruction, and the video pauses at key points. Buttons show up for additional information or text boxes point out details and offer explanations. The video continues playing when the explanations are complete or the learner clicks the continue button.
Or, you let them select which level they want to see, from being required to view everything to having options to opt out of some of the additional information. If the test results show they have not learned the material, you may require them to retake the course with opt-out options removed.
If you have a course that does not lend itself to this type of procedural instruction, videos can be used in other ways. A video, even a talking head, has a face interacting with you, and creates an implied relationship between the person on the video and the viewer. David described ways to use video clips as feedback in quizzes. For example, use video clips of your SMEs to let them tell the user why they had the right answer, or why they didn’t. That can add not only interest, but authority. Or have three videos on a quiz page for them to watch, and select the correct one to answer the question.
As another type of video interaction, consider branching scenarios. Scenarios can tell a story, and storytelling is a classic and proven method of instruction. Scenarios can help a learner identify with the situation by playing a role, putting themselves into the situation and seeing how they would handle it. With branching scenarios, learners get to choose which path to take to reach their desired destination.
A very simple branching scenario David showed us was how to get to Starbucks. You can set this up in a few hours, production time and all! Assume you are on a street corner, and in one direction there is a Starbucks full of sweet, sweet caffeine. Take out your smartphone and make a short eye-level video of the path ahead, look left, look right, look ahead again. That is your first video. Then video the short walk down each direction to the Starbucks, or to show there is not one. Three more videos.
On your page, describe the goal (getting to Starbucks) and show the first video. Then ask which direction you should go to reach that goal. The user selects left, straight, or right. The appropriate video shows and leads them to the goal, or lets them know that it is not that way, try again. The whole thing can be put together very quickly. For your repair tech, it may give a choice of which part is replaced next. Do they put the plain washer on before the locking washer? Once they choose, show them what happens as a result. They can redo the step if wrong, or progress to the next step.
He showed us another use of this technique with many more levels of branching in a manager-training scenario. This was all filmed in the office on an iPhone. Most smartphones have editing software that will do the job you need. The point is that you can do this without expensive equipment and setups.
In this scenario the manager receives a complaint about one of his employees. The choices throughout are how they deal with the situation. Each choice has at least two possible outcomes that are filmed, and the learner can go through these choices as often as needed to see the different ways their decisions play out. Some slightly advanced editing was done on this by having the try again button run the most recent video backwards at high speed to bring the user back to the decision point. It is a good use of an effect, running time backwards to “take it back.” Something we all have wished for at one time or another.
Look at your elearning. Take a screen or section of a course and make up samples of various ways to implement it: text, text with pictures, interaction, audio, video, interactive video. Then you can work out your tradeoffs in time and costs for each type.
It can be more difficult to quantify the effectiveness of the different types. Test scores are one measure, how many times the learner has to take the course to pass tests or complete certifications is another. How well the training is reflected in better job performance is a subject beyond the scope of this topic. But as video comes down in cost and complexity, using it to enhance your online instruction just gets easier every day.
Check out David’s blog on How to Create Interactive Video Quizzes in E-Learning for more details.
Mary Word is Senior Course Developer with MicroAssist’s E-Learning Team.