Interactive learning is at the core of what we do here at INTEA, it is even the basis for the company’s name. INteractive TEchnologies for learning [LV: Apmācībai]. So, what do we mean by interactive learning? Is it as simple as having a course online where learners get to click on icons? No, not quite! There is a lot more to it and a lot of factors need to be considered to make the interactions in an e-learning course meaningful. Here are some good and bag examples.
Placing a game in an e-learning may seem like a good way to engage the learner and make the experience more interactive. However, this can have the complete opposite effect if the interaction has no relevance to the material. For example, if you are trying to teach learners about the risks of money laundering, having a game about shooting balloons using a bow and arrow does not have any relevance to the topic and worse, it undermines the seriousness of the content. Congratulations, you hit all the balloons, now explain the definition of money laundering. These games are aimed more towards primary school children, not employees at a bank. Yes, it is interactive, but it serves little to no purpose when it comes to teaching. There are vast libraries of this types of content available for purchase online and without proper guidance one may believe this is an effective way to implement interaction into an e-learning.
Interaction for the sake of interaction does not benefit an e-learning course, the way in which the learner interacts with the material needs to be meaningful.
To show that interaction is not always meaningful for the learner, take a simple timeline slide for example, yes you can click through the dates to reveal information, but does the actual interaction teach the learner anything? The learner does not need to put any thought into the actions, just click the icons to get the information to appear and move on. This is a step in the right direction, it is not engaging, but it is a good way of displaying the information.
How to make interactions meaningful? Imagine you are designing a course with a learning goal to improve customer service skills. You need to carefully consider how you want to present this information to the learners. You want to make it as relevant to them as possible and by grounding it in their reality you will help them to connect with the content more effectively. The role of a customer service agent is heavily related to dealing with customers, we can present the learning to them in the way of an interactive scenario based on a believable customer interaction. If we design an interactive scenario with multiple paths the learner is given a choice and they need to decide based on the knowledge they have gained so far.
Yes, like the timeline example they are still clicking, but now they have to pause and consider their interactions. In these interactive scenarios it is important to allow the learner to make mistakes, the scenario should be allowed to play out, even if an ‘incorrect’ answer is picked. This ‘incorrect’ choice could alter the path of the customer conversation in an undesired, but natural way. Allow the learner to see the error and if possible, give them the chance to correct it and steer the conversation back to a more desirable outcome. Use a lot of feedback. It needs to both explain why some options are good, but also why some are bad and how to improve on these.