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NogginLabs was founded on the notion that custom e-learning design and development is the ultimate horizontal industry. Time and again, each new project, client, and industry proves it. The biggest advantage of the e-learning horizontal is cross-pollinating ideas from two wildly different domains. A restaurant service simulation for iPad may influence a high-fashion online retail challenge. E-learning for financial advisors in a bank could inspire a mobile outreach program for cancer survivors. This variety also keeps the creative folks at NogginLabs fresh. Fresh learning ideas and designs come from a set of constantly changing constraints.

How to get more out of interactivity in your e-learning


How to get more out of interactivity in your e-learning

Matt Trupia

Are you tired of just having a string of standard multiple choice questions in your training? Do you cringe at sparse drag-and-drops that your learners could do with their eyes closed? Does this infomercial-style sales-pitch blog opening make you feel uncomfortable? If you answered yes to any of these questions, we've got you covered. I’ve brought this up before, but because I feel mildly obsessed about it, let’s talk about even MORE ways you can enrich online training interactions to liven up your e-learning and give folks an inspiring break from the norm.


One big way to elevate training activities is to challenge learners to make deeper connections to the concepts they are reviewing. Critical thinking strives for a level of understanding that goes beyond recall to a place where the learner can efficiently evaluate the broader implications of the suggested behavior.  Sure, some training courses have seemingly simple messages. “You have to be compliant.” “You have to know the sales process.” “You need to feel reasonably onboarded.” Which are perfectly good definitions of success. The trick is how you position them.

Even a simple message can be cleverly designed to resonate more meaningfully. Why not have people construct a bold, visual mental model of how all the key ideas in the course relate to one another? Or present some ambiguous scenarios and have the learner compile evidence that supports or disputes the mental model. Present a case study and prompt them to advise the characters on the most effective or logical course of action. Asking people to take their thinking a few steps further than the basic knowledge assessment gets them to apply higher cognitive techniques to a problem. And that is not only a satisfying human feeling, but equips them with the skills to tackle the next problem that much easier.

A lot of training provides just enough interactivity to confirm the learner’s exposure to the required content. But your instructional design should embrace the idea of pushing the interactivity past this baseline point. People can take it! They secretly crave it. Build in follow-up questions that posit a distinct variation on the circumstances they just considered. Reverse the whole situation, play the devil's advocate, or allow them to choose from several dicey options. Let them navigate through the consequences. Ask them to complete an activity from the perspective of another person - a customer, their boss, a different department - to spend some time connecting how their choices impact the other people they encounter on the job.


This goes hand in hand with critical thinking. If you want the training to ring true for your learner, take the opportunity to draw them into the experience at a personal level. Ask them questions about their perception of the content, about how it impacts their role and the roles they work with. Let them play the protagonist in a scenario. Let them make some weird roundabout decisions, then ask them why they chose what they did. Based on their pattern of choices in an activity, give them real feedback that challenges their methods or thinking. Map your key takeaways to a metaphor from everyday life that the learner can relate to. Include the small details that add creativity and credibility. The more you can give shape to the feelings learners may be having about the content, individually or as a collective audience, the more they are open to turning those feelings into the desired behaviors.


I realize we talk about this particular point quite often, but it's still fun to think about. Whether they like it or not, most people are often drawn to unique things. Shaking up your training helps keep your audience curious and up for some healthy investigation. They are eager to pass a personal judgment on it. Sometimes even slight, strategic deviations from an expected treatment can cause learners to pay closer attention and consider the course’s proposition more thoughtfully. The decision to make standard things like screen layout, tone, and interactivity bold or unusual may seem like a risk, but by and large, learners wind up appreciating it. This can be done just through visuals, words, tone, and functionality - everything can be evolved somehow. Your e-learning will certainly have some constraints, but you can still pick some spots to celebrate and enhance your message in a new way. Take this reader that adds some flair to the familiar utilitarian look of beloved site, or this inventive way to tell a story, or this entrancing marriage of motion, art, and information.

You don't have to make some crazy game to make a splash. Many profound, welcome changes can be done using the same tools and process you already have in place in your development workflow. Pick a few areas to experiment with and see how it goes. Before you know it, you've raised the bar for everyone.