Interactivity and avoiding linear courses

Hi everyone, 

I read Tom's blogpost on How to create interactive e-learning on the 1st May and found myself disagreeing with one of his points, so wrote a quick blog detailing my thoughts.

Tom himself was good enough to find it and come on and clarify his thoughts on the matter (great investigative work) and Articulate employee David Anderson suggested on twitter that it might be worth cross posting here.

Feel free to comment if you agree/disagree!

11 Replies
Bruce Graham

Hi Robert, very interesting - thanks for posting.

In some cases, where you need to build up a certain amount of knowledge, I believe it IS necessary to INITIALLY direct the route that the learner takes in a course, allowing them to have freedon for "exploration" later on. Storyline allows for this to be easily done.

I'll be lecturing on this at Leeds at the upcoming Articulate 2012 Conference, and as Tom will be a few feet away, I'm sure I will know about it if our opinions differ at all! 

Bruce "The Heretic" Graham

shafi shaikh

Hello e-learning heroes

I agree with Bruce ,it is sometimes necessary to take the linear route.

It also depends on targeted audience , if the audience have prior knowledge of the course then we can directly put them in an interactive/open environment ,so that they can explore on their own. But if the audience are newbies then it is necessary to make them comfortable by taking the linear route till some extent.

I am from  gaming industry , and we follow the process of first linear and then interaction. We make the players comfortable by giving some help tips or tutorials at the start of game-play,which are all linear, but we keep in mind that it is not boring. As they progress with game-play they find themselves in an open and interesting interaction environment.

Robert W

Hey Shafi and Bruce,

Shafi, out of interest, have you ever collated player opinion on the tutorials? I often find them slow, laborious and tedious.

As for the linear, if you have a fully robust test at the end (and I know they're hard to do) then surely you'll know if people haven't gained all the pre-requisite knowledge?

Maybe I have had my fingers burned too many times as a learner when doing e-learning, for example having to click through screens telling me who developed a computer system, and in what year. Information that I don't care about, I just want to know *how I need to use it*

shafi shaikh

Hi Robert,

You have pop up a very good question

Lets take a scenario.

Lets assume that you are playing a game based on some historical events. Also assume that you are a professor in history ,who has the knowledge of all historic events , great leaders/kings etc etc.

So when you start playing the game ,you will be introduced to some events or some characters (leaders/kings) or some other information. But as you are aware of all this ,you will get bored  and you want to get directly immersed in game-play action.On your request, this linear information is removed/eliminated from the game.

Now suppose that Mr Bruce a professor in Mathematics ,wants to play this game. He does not have any knowledge in history. He is taken directly to the game-play, and now he is confused who are  these kings and why they are fighting with each other. Won't be it difficult for him to play/understand the game ?

Now  the solution.

We can solve this, by placing all the information in the game for new users, and for expert users we can provide a SKIP option.

Generally we use skip button on our every help/tips page, if you don't want to read  the information you can skip it by pressing the skip button.

Suppose that you have 5 pages of help/tips page and you press the skip button on very first page ,then the remaining 4 pages will also get skip, and you will be in action field.

Robert W

I agree with all of that, the problem with many designers is that they'll make such things mandatory, either through poor understanding of how adults want to learn or due to pressure from a stakeholder (e.g. the subject matter expert or manager who is adamant that everyone must review certain chunks of material.

There's plenty out there!

Bruce Graham

In the particular example I had, the client insisted that learners went through 6 tracks in order, before being allowed freedom to play around.

Saying that, each track had choices in it, where they could opt to take tests or not, and got sent to the appropriate place within the track depending on  their results etc.


shafi shaikh

In the above scenario mentioned by Bruce ,the client can also use " Snake-ladder" terminology, the number of levels user can skip depends on the points user scored in current level.

He can also have used "Jumper" terminology, where the user is subjected to a test prior the course and if he clears the test with good results ,then he can skip the remaining tracks . In short he can jump to main course.

Carmen Toro

Everyone has good points.

In our governement agency for some reason people equate forcing individuals to view information with learning. I fight it tooth and nail and win on occasions. If nothing else I do not lock the presentation and provide the menu on the left so learners can explore the content as they need to.

 I am very frustrated as a learner when I am forced to view a slide and cannot proceed until the slide is completed (the next button does not even display until the slide is completed!) This creates the opposite result of what management wants-people don't pay attention the the content at all. I have done it myself.

I will continue to use my influence to create scenario based modules where learners have to solve problems and make decisions the same way the would in a real life work scenario. 

Carmen Toro

Here is an example of how I used an Engage interaction to provide some interaction and decision making by the learner.

Although the course can appear and is somewhat linear this provides some analysis and interaction by the user.

It is simple but a huge improvement from 10 years ago when our modules were ppt slides with text taken verbatim from welfare policy manuals. 

I love this stuff! t

Bruce Graham

Carmen's example above is great - it sets the learner up to learn based on the consequences of their actions, (I am assuming this as I cannot see the results of the Tab click). Good feedback when people make the incorrect choice, good affirmation with perhaps some further development of the learning when they make a correct choice.

Oh - there's also the learning that takes place when all are correct, and all are incorrect...because very often, the real learning point is that somethng "extra", (such as experience and/or judgement needs to be added to each individual situation) needs to be added.

Robert's original example was what I refer to as "electronic bullet points".

Too many (lazy?) Instructional Designers seem to think that just adding "flashy stuff" to courses makes them interactive and non-linear. It just adds a layer of technical wizadry to the boredom.

To Carmen's point about locking the courses to a --> z format. Many course sponsird do this because they are afraid.

They are afraid that they will have failed against, for example, an objective, if they do not shove the learning down the learners throats. It can often take some hard exchanges to achieve a culture change, i.e. to make them realise all those good "ID things" we all try to do every day. Sometimes you will fail, sometimes you will win them over.

Changing a "thinking culture" is a hard, and sometimes lonely road to tread.

Hope this adds to the thought-mix...