Interactive Education for Lazy Professionals

Over the past few  years I have been involved in creating 50 or more CEU (continuing education) courses for professionals. Most of our courses are between 6 - 8 hours in length, but can go as high as 25 hours per course. (These are long courses. I feel it is different than many of the other short 5 - 30 minute courses I see).

I am looking to make our courses more interactive. For me, this means using more articulate engage in our presenter. However, there are some issues...

Pros:

  • Interactive helps keep people interested
  • Aids in education and memory retention of the content
  • Is good for marketing, because it helps to set us apart

Cons:

  • People taking CEU courses get lazy. They want their CEU credits, and dont want to have to do alot to get them. Especially after the first few hours.
  • It requires clicking the screen, instead of just listening. (After a few hours, people want to just sit back).
  • Its possible to miss essential content (if viewers dont dig through and click all the buttons).

I feel like I am in a bit of a catch 22. Some customers come because they really want to learn. Some come because they just need CEU credits. The first group I feel would benifit from more interactiveness. The second group I feel would be "annoyed". This could result in  bad ratings (which in the end hurts business, and less people end up taking courses). I do need to consider both.

Have others encountered similar problems? I wish I could just think about the quality of the education, but in the end of the day, it is a business and I don't want to alienate customers.

10 Replies
Jeff Kortenbosch

Hi Eric,

I add interactivity because I feel it makes my courses better, not just because I want them to wake up and click something... Off course sometimes animations and interactions serve as "eye-candy" but in my courses, never without purpose.

I guess this is all about meaningful and motivational content. If the delivery of your content gets better (meaningful and motivational) by making it more interactive why not do it? I suggest you try what you have in mind with a small test group and see how it lands with them.

Pam Jones

Hi Eric

This is something that i think we all face...you could do some "market research" on your audience and ask them what they want from the course too. For example are the courses too long - could they be chopped up into smaller units so they don't feel they have to do too much in one learning session. More examples? Scenarios? In essence what will motivate them to complete it? Also what's the feedback from people who have already completed? Including "what happens if you don't complete this course" in terms of applicaton to work or "why you should complete it" might help?

If the elearning is self paced then have to bear in mind there is a responsibility on the learner for ensuring they do actually work through the material. Many training companies think elearning does not work because there is no teacher present but forget that even if you do attend a traditional classroom based, the attendee could be paying no attention at all.

Eric V

Thank you for the feedback.

Yes, our courses are broken down into smaller units within the larger course. Usually 45 minutes to 1 hour in length. Much of the course material is presented by the "instructors" and I am hired by the client to create the courses within a certain framework. More scenarios, etc would be ideal, however I am not in the position to add those myself, and the client will not do so.

I am in many ways in a typical position, of doing my best to educate the client, who educates the speaker, to try and improve the final outcome.

All of our courses are followed by online feedback forms and an online quiz. I will introduce more interactivity slowly I think, but creating even a single course that does not do well because of an "un-liked" element, means thousands of dollars of lost revenue. So, I need to do it one step at a time I think.

Personally, a little eye candy doesnt hurt I think, as long as it doesnt detract from the function, content and learning as well. We live in a materialist world, where the way things look matter. But in this case, I am talking more about interactivity to aid in learning, as you mentioned.

The thing ive found about asking people about what they want, and  about what they need, its not always the same. Ive recently started adding more review questions within the courses themselves rather than at the end. As expected, it has really helped with student knowledge retention. However, it has also led to many of these same people complaining about how much work it has become to take these classes. (Despite the fact that in the end they know more, and really the difference in minor). This has hurt sales of these courses, and in the end made the client a little upset.

Its a tricky balance.

david stokes

Eric V said:

I am looking to make our courses more interactive. For me, this means using more articulate engage in our presenter. However, there are some issues...

Cons:

  • People taking CEU courses get lazy. They want their CEU credits, and dont want to have to do alot to get them. Especially after the first few hours.
  • It requires clicking the screen, instead of just listening. (After a few hours, people want to just sit back).
  • Its possible to miss essential content (if viewers dont dig through and click all the buttons).


Hi Eric,

One thing to be wary of when using interactivity is to avoid "learning loops" (point 3 of your cons list). If you force people to click every button (an option in articulate engage), it gets very annoying when a user wants to skip something they already know? I've previously built academic Postgrad courses and the student feedback certainly indicated their enjoyment of interaction to break up the heavier elements of the course?

Ditto Jeff and Pam's comments above.

David Becker

If you base a course on sound education principles, but equally, make it realistic, relevant, fun and entertaining, then the people who are turned off by gratuitous interactivity will enjoy the learning and learn.

So use storytelling, humor and punchy fun, underpinned by good pedagogy. Don't 'add interactivity'. it leads to bad eLearning.

Fred Marquez

Hey Eric,

You're in a precarious situation where you want to improve the learning product but you can't, because your Subject Matter Experts, the people you rely on for content,  aren't willing to put in what it takes to develop interesting and engaging learning. 

I've been there too, and you need to educate them.  Show them some examples of great elearning like these;

http://www.articulate.com/blog/and-the-winners-of-the-2010-articulate-guru-awards-are/

and tell them what makes these courses so much better (It's all in the design).

Then you need to lay out a plan showing them how you can help them re-design the boring courses and end up with way better ones.  By doing this you are building cred, trust, and infuence with your client and improving the overall product, which is what you want.

Adding a few interactions here and there to existing content won't fix crappy, boring, lazy course design.

I click right through those courses too.

AM 

Helen Tyson

Hi Eric,

Reading your last comment about different people wanting different things and the client becoming unhappy if people are complaining about the amount of work a course involves, I'm wondering if there is a way of delivering a range of options in one course.

Could you build in a 'Skip' option at the start of an interacte element, for example a hyperlinked shape as a button on a quiz slide, that takes those who want to just read and/or listen to a set of slides that provides that.  For those who want to interact they can do so and then be branched past the 'spoon-feeding' onto the next section.

That way the courses cover a variety of learning styles, and possibly reduces negative feedback from both sides so the client can keep up the sales numbers.

Cheers

H

Craig Wiggins

David Becker said:

If you base a course on sound education principles, but equally, make it realistic, relevant, fun and entertaining, then the people who are turned off by gratuitous interactivity will enjoy the learning and learn.

So use storytelling, humor and punchy fun, underpinned by good pedagogy. Don't 'add interactivity'. it leads to bad eLearning.


can't say it any better than this.

see http://www.brokencoworker.com for an example of all of the above.

Melissa Madden

Helen Tyson said:

Hi Eric,

Reading your last comment about different people wanting different things and the client becoming unhappy if people are complaining about the amount of work a course involves, I'm wondering if there is a way of delivering a range of options in one course.

Could you build in a 'Skip' option at the start of an interacte element, for example a hyperlinked shape as a button on a quiz slide, that takes those who want to just read and/or listen to a set of slides that provides that.  For those who want to interact they can do so and then be branched past the 'spoon-feeding' onto the next section.

That way the courses cover a variety of learning styles, and possibly reduces negative feedback from both sides so the client can keep up the sales numbers.

Cheers

H


Hi Eric,

I really like Helen's suggestion - think of it as the learner taking the "express lane" vs. state or backroads.  Ultimately, both paths will arrive at the same destination, but by creating both you allow the learner who already has some contextual knowledge to move through rapidly, while at the same time appeasing those who want to drill down into more detail.

One of the key components to this path if you will, is to make sure that both types of users can demonstrate their knowledge at the end.  As such, your assessment questions need to be valid and realistic applications of the knowledge. No fair quoting obscure parts that only the detail group would get, and no fair aiming questions to the high level of expertise that may already exist in your fast lane learners.