85 Replies
David Anderson

@Shelly - good point around making the course look better when all other options are lost. Most Hollywood movies get that, right? Some of the worst movies star the A-list actors - guess they figure we'll stay and eat popcorn if the actors are good looking.

@Steve - [quote]best thing to do in cases where there this question exists is to work to make it relevant. There's a WIIFM in there somewhere.[/quote] One of my favorite quotes is from Michael Allen and it speaks to your point. He said something around "There's no such thing as boring content, only boring treatment of content." That's an empowering statement and also one that makes it tough to shift blame to the content for bad courses.

@David - well said as always I like your "lean forward" definition for engaging.  You can call it the BPI: Body Posture Index. Normal engagement is 12 o'clock. 

David Anderson

Kevin Thorn said:

So, what you're saying David is we need to figure out how to build scratch-n-sniff eLearning to engage an additional sense?

Sorry, couldn't help asking that...but you left it soooo wide open


LOL I actually had to think about that for a minute...but yes, olfactory learners should be included in every elearning strategy.

Kevin Thorn

David Anderson said:

@Shelly - good point around making the course look better when all other options are lost. Most Hollywood movies get that, right? Some of the worst movies star the A-list actors - guess they figure we'll stay and eat popcorn if the actors are good looking.

@Steve -

best thing to do in cases where there this question exists is to work to make it relevant. There's a WIIFM in there somewhere.
 One of my favorite quotes is from Michael Allen and it speaks to your point. He said something around "There's no such thing as boring content, only boring treatment of content." That's an empowering statement and also one that makes it tough to shift blame to the content for bad courses.

@David - well said as always I like your "lean forward" definition for engaging.  You can call it the BPI: Body Posture Index. Normal engagement is 12 o'clock. 


Now that is a fine infographic! The next time I conduct a usability test to measure the effectiveness of an eLearning course, I'm using the Body Posture Index!

Bruce Graham

I think "engaging" has many levels.

1> WIFM (What's in it for me?) has already been mentioned. When creating sales training, for example, we have to understand what that MEANS to the learner. Salespeople are (generally) Pavlovian, motivation comes from the sound of jingling coins. So, the "WIFM" has to be created, but it's NOT just "our new product", it is "What are the opportunities", Whare are the sector values", "What issues was the product created to solve", Which early adopters do we have, and how can I use them as Case Studies". If we do not understand the business AND BRAIN morivators for these learners, (David Becker may have a really good psychological description of that...  ), we will fail to "engage".  HOW WILL VIEWING THIS COURSE AND THE COLLATERAL PUT EXTRA DOLLARS IN YOUR POCKET

2> The Health and Safety course will be completely different. I LOVE the concept mentioned earlier - (basically, "How to Stop Yourself dying"). I would have probably approached this the same way. "10 Ways to Kill Youself", "When I go BANG honey, you'll get the truck" etc. Shock (excuse the pun...) is good when used in small powerful blocks. I recently created two new (stupid) "Company Mission Statements" and had them read out in a course. They were absurd, but they proved what the client's staff were - in effect - saying when they did NOT do what was being suggested. It worked nicely as a technique.

3> Visuals. Good, relevant visuals.

4> Storytelling. "Come closer, come on, come closer still....Do you want to know what happened next? OK - then let's carry on". IMHO, a good course should reveal, in layers. Just had a nice idea for an image involving a stripper removing large cards with section headings on as go through course.....anyway.....  A good course should Recap, Build, Recap (all sections so far), add more, Recap etc. (perhaps not that "formally"); but reveal the hidden truths as you go along.

Just some thoughts.

Bruce

Kevin Thorn

Speaking of recap, and going back to Gerry's original question, this is what I've gathered so far from this thread on defining "engaging eLearing."

1. WIFM - How will this course add the collateral?

2. Shock & Awe! Get their attention no matter how absurd it initially sounds.

3. Peel back the course in layers to build anticipation. (see Bruce's stripper example)

4. Storytelling - not a new approach, but one I see often overlooked.

5. Usability: Pay attention to the BPI

Did I forget anything?

Gerry Wasiluk

Tom - Adam - David A. - Kevin - Stephanie - Zara - Steve - David B.

Thank you so much for "being with me yesterday."  (What's that you say?  With you in Mounds View, Minnesota at Medtronic?)

I actually used quotes from some of your posts in this thread (as well as your avatars and "All About's") in my presentation yesterday to a local ASTD chapter on creating engaging e-learning. 

It really went well and some of the audience liked the way that I brought in other e-learning folks--you guys!  Wish I could have used more of the posters' quotes here.  Only so many slides and so little time.  (Sorry, Bruce!)

What a great way to extend the forum and community.  A "collaborative" presentation.  Darn this community is GREAT!

Ended up presenting somewhat along the lines of what Stephanie said.  We do the best we can with the tool and techniques we have (many of which were mentioned here) and hope we can engage some of the target learners with what we produce.

Then, for some of techniques, I used Tom's excellent blog post (giving him full credit) with a little of my own spin.  Since he couldn't be here, and since he suggested me to them as a speaker, it was the perfect way to "have him here" in some way.   

Thanks again everyone!

James Brown

Kevin Thorn said:

Speaking of recap, and going back to Gerry's original question, this is what I've gathered so far from this thread on defining "engaging eLearing."

1. WIFM - How will this course add the collateral?

2. Shock & Awe! Get their attention no matter how absurd it initially sounds.

3. Peel back the course in layers to build anticipation. (see Bruce's stripper example)

4. Storytelling - not a new approach, but one I see often overlooked.

5. Usability: Pay attention to the BPI

Did I forget anything?

Think you covered it quite well.
David Becker

Hey Gerry, glad the thread was useful to you. I have a follow up question for everyone:

Do you use a specific structure or set of devices to build engagement? For example, a Hitchcock movie are shown in an FMRI study to engage people more than pretty much any other film tested. They use the same techniques in holywood to edit together a trailer for a new movie being advertised.

In both these examples they are very carefully selecting a sequence of content and scenes to build engagement. It may be an arc or a slow burn that builds as a crescendo, a series of peaks and troughs. He uses devices like  voyeurism PoV, Suspense,  ordinary hero's, Freudian themes etc.

I keep coming back to the twin themes of advertising and film making techniques as the keys to unlocking the real power of eLearning and would love to know what specific sequences and devices you use to engage your audience.

Kevin Thorn

Kudos! Gerry, that is by far one of the best examples of how a little ole forum community can truly add value and impact to a larger audience. Next on your to-do list is to follow up with some of those who attended and perhaps write a case study on the value of community?

And yes, please share the preso if you can. Love to see it!

On a side note, #elearnchat is a weekly live video conversation and Twitter chat hosted on a Justin.tv channel, RELATE Live. Rick Zanotti and Terrance Wing co-host the episode/podcast every Tuesday at Tuesdays at 12:00/1:00 PM CST/EST.

I've been invited to be on their show April 19th. When they asked what subject(s) we should discuss, I listed off several potential topics that are of interest lately. One of which is this topic: "What defines engaging elearning?"

I have committed to the show, but I haven't committed to the topic yet. May I request ya'all's permission to carry this conversation (as Gerry did) to a live podcast video chat?

Gerry Wasiluk

Bruce Graham said:

I feel unloved.....

You were only scared I'd start quoting Monty Python and its relevance to eLearning....

Actually, that gives me an idea....

Bruce


Well, to be truthful, adding the folks and their quotes was a last minute idea, done quickly about an hour before I had to leave for the talk.  So I was in hurry. 

Always amazed at sometimes what you throw in at the last minute without a lot of thought often turns out to be the best thing.

But, just to throw a pre-emptive strike . . . 

Reed Burgan

Hey guys, I'm new to this forum, and I don't know if what I am going to say has already been discussed, but if it has please forgive me.  I  have been on Articulate.com for a few weeks now, and today I saw this forum, and I wanted to make the following comment:  You must include a printable certificate of couse completion.  With any elearning course.  Of all the elearning courses I've seen and been involved in, nothing attracted me more to them than being able to have something in my hands immediately after finishing and passing the course.  This may sound elementary to you, and mabe this is common knowledge, but I have experienced several courses that only provided a confimation number and/or website link for verification.  Printed certificates are nice, but they usually cause you to have to charge extra or mark up your courses price.  I beleive you will find that most students don't mind that their certificates are not professionally published, and for the ones who do, you could offer it, and they would be the ones who would pay more, than the ones looking for courses to fit their budget.  You could even set it up to provide printable only certificates, and offer the "gold seal" sent to them by mail for extra cost, to those who want their certificates to look more professional.  I am saying this because I have both print-at-home certs. and proffesionally printed certs. and when you frame them, you can't really tell the difference between the two.  This will also save time and money in the certificate creation and shipping process of your courses, making students/customers happy quicker, and saves them mabe enough money to consider starting a new course.  You also don't have to worry about the certificates being bent or damaged otherwise in the mail.  Just a quick thought I had to share with you.

You can find a couple of well known companies that offer free courses and free cert. of completion at  www.education.us.mn

Bruce Graham

Hi Reed, and welcome to the forums.

Not to be intentionally negative, but in my opinion, a certificate does nothing to prove learning, they are more (IMHO) of an "ego-item" in most circumstances.

With online, it proves you clicked through, and maybe remembered enough to pass a badly designed and somewhat irrelevant test of retension, rather than a well-designed test of understanding.

I would agree that a certificate of some sort is a useful tool where there is some sort of internal or external certification involved, but in may cases, I am not yet convinced, and I first had this debate 15 years ago.

Welcome aboard.

Bruce

Gerry Wasiluk

Steve Flowers said:

Too cool, Gerry. I'd love to see your preso. Is it posted somewhere we could have a peek?


Hi,Steve!

Here's a link to a PDF version:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/21556107/Engaging-Elearning.pdf

It's pretty big (71MB).  No speaker notes as I mainly "winged it."  Remember--it's a preso and not a course.

Only had less than a day to work on it and it's in our "corporate style," which we are supposed to follow when delivering inside or outside the company.  So don't expect an "e-learning work of art."

My one regret is not noticing some of the cool stuff in the "Projects and Workshops" section in the Downloads area here.  Jeanette has a neat "engaging e-learning" tutorial and Tom and Dave have some other wonderful stuff.

Steve Flowers

Reed Burgan said:

You must include a printable certificate of couse completion.  With any elearning course.  

I think a certificate can represent a sufficient reward for taking a course in some cases. It doesn't work for me as a learner personally, but I can see how this reward mechanism can work for some audiences. I think the conditions of including a certificate as a consideration might include:

  • Your audience loves to frame them up and post on their "love me" wall.
  • The course posed a serious challenge not easily completed by all those who attempt it.
  • The certificate is required for some parallel process, certification, or compliance record entry
  • The certificate can be used as some kind of currency -- exchanged for some other reward (ACE equivalent)

This *can* be a powerful carrot. But I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for *every* course. Internally, we've moved to an official transcript based system. We just found that the majority of our users could honestly not care less about a printed certificate of a compliance course that they were only bothered to take because they were forced to do so. 

For courses where we want a certificate (in consideration of the conditions listed above) we may add our certificate generation template (pulls name, date, and date/guid from LMS).

Reed Burgan

Hi Bruce, thank you for the welcome, and your response to my post.

At the risk of sounding even more irrelavent, I felt compelled to further explain my reasons for my opinion on the relevance of course completion certificates.  I do understand, that a sheet of paper, with your name on it, claiming the person has qualified for recognition in completing a course online, sounds a little insulting to the intellegence to a seasoned educational professional or employer, but without it, all you have to verify your time and effort completing an e-learrning course, would be somewhat similar to someone claiming "I'm practically a doctor, but I'm only 4 credits shy of completing my MD, and I have no diploma yet...you can trust me to take a look at that gushing head wound."  Now I know I'm comparing apples to grapefruits here, but are we to trust the presumed "doctor" over the poor e-learning "webdesign" student ( with certificate of online completion)  just because the only way the doctor could have received his ligitimate education is through an institute of higher education?  He has no diploma yet to verify his studies thus far, yet if he's telling the truth, he's been learning in a university setting for quite a few years.  You might ask him a few questions to verify what he knows about medicine, but I've known a few pill-heads who can prescribe you(recommend medicines that will cure anything that ailes you.  There are also many medical courses online, that can teach you a lot of the lingo, but  I beleive that "doctor" is not going to land his internship until he has that diploma in hand.  And if he does, please let me know what hospital he's working at so I can steer clear of it.  Now the "webdesign" e-learning graduate has his certificate, his interviewer can put him in front of a computer and have him start designing, and in about 15 or 20 minutes, he'll know if the prospect has what he's looking for in his webdesign team.  If he's found to be adequate, he could have designed his own certificate, but in this case, the proof is in the output.  There are no lives on the line.  The boss is happy to welcome him aboard, it seems his certificate and his skill level matches up. 

Don't forget your post from 2/7 Bruce, shown above, the WIFM concept, that is 100% true.  Students do have the WIFM attitude, as well they should.  They are taking the time to learn the material, and putting other things off in their lives to earn their certificates, and if they are just clicking through, and trying to somehow cheat their own education, we all know they will be sorry when that prospective employer sets them in front of a computer, or hands them a comp. test and embarasses them.  Just another lesson in life.