High-Context Storyline Course Example

Nov 16, 2018

Hello Heroes,

I work as part of a tiny two-person safety training team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. We are wrapping up work on a hazardous waste course for scientists who work at the Lab's Molecular Foundry, and I want to share this course with the community. The course is not quite finalized yet, so its current location may be temporary, but at least for now, you can view the course here: MFD User Hazardous Waste Training.

Could it be better? Sure, in lots of ways. But what I like about it--in spite of its flaws--is that it focuses on two of the most important aspects of a good online course: context and practice. I've been working hard to move past e-learning-as-information-delivery. Instead, to the degree possible, we are trying to simulate the relevant aspects of the researcher's job in order to give him or her the chance to learn by doing. I'm hoping it inspires other course designers to try this approach.


33 Replies
Stephanie Harnett

Hi Ray. I enjoyed your course and the thoughtful practices and activities. It's solid content with great context - easier said than done!

I would recommend that you spend time looking at the design of the course to increase professionalism and appeal. For example, 

- avoid dated techniques such as the gradient white fade on the title screen, glossy buttons, drop shadows, thick borders around the slides and drag and drop items, using animation when none is needed.

- use consistent UI/UX elements, for example, the start button is glossy. rounded with a shadow but the continue button on the next page is square and flat, and the help button is square and flat at the bottom of the page and other times sideways on the left of the page.

Creating a color and font theme and sticking to consistent use of elements goes a long way in creating visual calmness so the content is truly in focus. Perhaps consider using Adobe XD to prototype design then apply that to a template in Storyline.  : )

Ray Cole

Hi Stephanie,

Yeah, the course was kind of a Frankenstein's monster, with newer design elements built over the top of an older Storyline template. The buttons are pretty consistently square and flat except where we re-used elements from our older course template--mainly in the "boilerplate" stuff: the start slide, the slides at the start and end of modules, and some of the front-matter. Once you get into the course proper, things are a bit more consistent. But I take your point: the course would benefit from a careful UI consistency polish.

Like you, we realized we should ditch the border around each slide and have done so on subsequent courses we've developed.

As always, there are a lot of layers to the onion and one has to prioritize sometimes.  As you move to this kind of context-rich, custom interaction style of course, you also end up with the responsibility to create more of the UI. I agree with you that the more consistent the UI is, the less likely it is to distract the learner by inadvertently calling attention to itself.

Ray Cole

Hi Katie,

The original link was to a temporary build that extracted one branch from a larger course. That build is no longer available, but you can see it in the full course if you choose the right branch.

Go here to view the course:  EHS 0604 Hazardous Waste Generator Training.

When you get to this screen...

Choose "I am a Molecular Foundry User"

...choose I am a Molecular Foundry User (Affiliate) who works exclusively at the Foundry.

We have not yet updated the other branch (the one for scientists who work outside the Molecular Foundry), so it is still in an older style. 

We ended up having to put a chunk of "telling" in the Introduction module, so I recommend powering through that (just click Next until you reach the end of that module). The interesting stuff starts in Module 1 and even moreso in Module 2.

We are just starting to revise the non-Foundry branch to be more in this high-context style.



Matt Gastineau

Thank you Ray for sharing this course. Great job! It's very interactive, engaging, and even fun! Who thought learning how to properly dispose of hazardous materials could be fun! It's amazing what great instructional design can do to any subject.

As others have mentioned, I think the course could be modernized a bit. Some of the text and graphics seem a bit dated. Other than that, great work!

It has really sparked some inspiration for the hazmat course I'm working on now.