Elearning Strategies: Clicks with Meaning

With the advent of rapid elearning development tools, individuals who have never been exposed to elearning are now being tasked with developing courses. These people come from varying backgrounds and most of them have no development experience whatsoever. This poses a problem when it comes to the interactivity aspect of elearning.

Interactivity in elearning is paramount. The biggest disadvantage of elearning is the fact that you do not have a captive audience. People have a myriad of distractions during the workday and these distractions can easily disrupt the elearning experience. Because of that, you must uncover ways to engage your learner somehow; and the way to engage your learner is through interactivity.

This is where clicks come in. Having a learner click something on the screen is a way of getting them involved in the course. It is your most powerful tool as an elearning developer. However, there are clicks with meaning and clicks without meaning. What do I mean by this?

Let’s start with clicks with no meaning. Meaningless clicks provide no value to the learner. In other words, they do nothing to promote comprehension. Basically, these are clicks that are only included to keep the learner busy. And a busy learner does not equal an engaged learner. Most click and reveal interactions are examples of meaningless clicks. The learner is simply clicking an object to reveal text. Although this breaks up the monotony of reading somewhat, it does not lend itself to comprehension of subject matter. Most drag and drop interactions include meaningless clicks as well. The learner is simply dragging something to reveal something else. This, once again, does not promote knowledge comprehension.

So what is an example of a click with meaning? Ironically, these same interactions I just mentioned can include meaningful clicks. A click and reveal interaction can be meaningful if the clicks are guided in some way, as in a scenario. Here’s an example:

In a Managing Conflict elearning course, the learner is presented with pictures of an employee and a manager. He is presented with a question on the screen and is required to click on the appropriate answer text. Once he clicks this text, feedback is presented along with another question that is based on their previous answer, and so on.

This type of scenario promotes comprehension. Comprehension goes one step beyond the simple remembering of material and measures the learners understanding of what was just presented. In turn, the clicks are meaningful because they allow the user to make sense of the information that was just presented.

What about drag and drop? Here’s an example of a drag and drop scenario with meaningful clicks:

A mortgage company requires all new underwriters to take a course called Credit 101. The learners view a brief video that addresses credit worthiness of customers. After the video, they are presented with a drag and drop interaction that asks them to drag individual credit factors and arrange them by the order in which they affect credit scores, with the factor that most affects credit score on the right.

In this interaction, the learner takes what she just learned and applies it immediately using the drag and drop; she is not dragging for dragging sake. She is dragging while, at the same time, processing information. This type of cognitive processing leads to comprehension and retention.

I’ll end this entry by saying that any interactivity is better than nothing. Too many “elearning courses” today are simply glorified PowerPoint presentations. The learners click through a course, using the next button, and take an assessment to determine if they actually learned anything. They have not been engaged in any way and have not retained any pertinent information. That is not how elearning works.

I’ll also state that I understand that bad clicks are a necessary evil. Time and budget constraints don’t allow us to create effective and meaningful clicks at every conceivable opportunity. We pick and choose our battles. But, when given the time and opportunity, we should put forth our best effort and give some kind of meaning to our clicks.

For more information about adult learning, instructional design or elearning, visit www.learntoelearn.com.

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