WHAT IS EFFECTIVE ELEARNING?

Does This Look Familiar?

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Does This Look Familiar?

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It's widely accepted that elearning requires meaningful interactivity to improve learners' skills and deliver results. What’s not well understood is that not all types of interactivity are equally effective. In fact, the least effective forms of interactivity are also some of the most popular because they are easy to implement using templates and wizards. Examples include:

  • Fact-based quizzes dressed up as mini-games
  • Clicking glossy buttons to reveal more text
  • Interactivity that is over-produced and under-designed

Creating effective elearning does require some creativity and knowledge of basic design principles, but that’s what makes it interesting. Design techniques that make elearning truly effective include:

Learner-Centric Design

A learner-centered design begins with the question, “What must the learner be able to DO upon completion of the training, and what challenges will they face along the way?” Activities are then created that place the learner in realistic situations so that they can more easily relate to the content. Using a realistic context also helps with recall; studies have also shown that the more similar the practice environment is to the performance environment, the greater the learner’s ability to recall and apply knowledge.

A learner centric design seeks to answer questions such as: Are the exercises effective at building relevant skills? Do learners find the exercises motivating? By contrast, a content-centric approach will focus on issues such as: Are all topics covered? Is the wording accurate? Are the colors correct?

US Courts App Law elearning interface

Example: Make the Sale

  • Start by asking "What is the performance goal?" In this example, the answer is: "Improve the sales skills of customer service representatives."
  • Determine what sub-tasks the learners must be able to perform to achieve this goal. One of these sub-tasks is: "Be able to match each customer with a specific customer profile by asking appropriate questions."
  • Then, develop an activity that helps the learners practice this skill in a realistic context.

Intrinsic Feedback

Elearning often uses extrinsic feedback such as "That's correct!" or "No, the correct answer is ..." Intrinsic feedback on the other hand mimics real-life, it shows learners how they are performing based on real-world measures such as sales won, or customer satisfaction. This increases motivation, and by encouraging students to learn from their mistakes, is more memorable than simply telling learners the correct answer.

US Courts App Law elearning interface

Example: Using Computer Ports

  • In this sample, learners must help a colleague quickly set up a laptop for a presentation.
  • If learners make a mistake, they are not told explicitly that they are wrong. Instead, the wasted time is subtracted from the clock, the problem caused by the mistake is presented, and the colleague becomes visibly frustrated. Learners can try again, or go back and review the material.

Delayed Feedback

Good tutors will alter the timing of their feedback rather than provide immediate feedback for each response, encouraging learners to reflect on their choices. An effective tactic with delayed feedback is to pose a follow-up question asking learners to justify why they have chosen a previous response. According to elearning researcher Will Thalheimer, research suggests that, on average, delayed feedback is better than immediate feedback by about 10 to 25%.

US Courts App Law elearning interface

Example: Identifying Key Metrics

  • In this sample lesson, the learners' task is to configure an enterprise software application.
  • Before configuring the application, learners must be able to determine key performance measures that will be used as inputs for the application.
  • When learners select a measure, they are not told immediately if it is correct or incorrect. Instead, they must justify why the measure was chosen. This helps the learners gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between performance measures and the end business goals.

Case Studies and Branching Scenarios

Case-based elearning challenges learners to gather information from various sources in order to make meaningful decisions. Information can be structured in any format such as text, graphics, hyperlinks, audio, or video. The case format encourages students to look at an issue from multiple perspectives and helps develop their decision making abilities. Branching scenarios can be included in the case, enabling learners to see the consequences of their decisions, making the experience more memorable and effective.

US Courts App Law elearning interface

Example: Patient Management

  • In this sample, learners play the role of a doctor. To make a correct diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment, learners must collect relevant information about the patient's history and current condition.
  • Learners must also weigh budget and cost considerations when making decisions. The impact of these decisions is reflected in the status bars at the bottom of the page.
  • The information resources are presented as simple text, but could easily be augmented to incorporate graphics, audio, video, or external resources, such as patient charts.

Motivation

If learners are motivated, they will find a way to learn. In addition to the techniques listed above, motivation can be enhanced by:

  • Exaggerating the consequences of closing or not closing the performance gap
  • Linking the training to outcomes that the learner cares about ("what’s in it for me")
  • Introducing content using stories or drama
  • Including elements of risk in the training exercises
US Courts App Law elearning interface

Example: Identifying Transaction Codes

  • In this example, the learners must learn how to use a new application for supplying material to the army. To use the application more efficiently, they must learn the codes that are associated with the various transactions. This exercise helps learners remember the transaction codes and their categories.
  • Here the elements "Bullets remaining" and "Miles to supply drop-zone" appeal to real-world motivational factors of the learner.
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  • I can truly say that I've never used a tool that enabled me to put together such a relatively complex piece of interactive media so quickly without ever having to write even a single line of code. Smartbuilder is extremely impressive stuff!

    ...more Christopher King Instructional Multimedia Developer
    University of South Florida Polytechnic
  • There is simply no other tool on the market that gives us that combination of rapid development and interactivity in a collaborative setting. Every time I open up SmartBuilder, it reminds me why I got into this field in the first place.

    ...more Torre Shumate Sr. Project Consultant
    Texas Health Resources
  • This is the BEST authoring tool I have used since starting to work with elearning a couple of years ago...

    ...more Kathleen Recktenwald Sr. Clinical trainer
    Norton Healtcare
  • SmartBuilder, is a more flexible tool than anything else I know of - with SB, I can do anything I dream. After just a couple of days of using SB I was hooked and already designing some pretty impressive modules...

    ...more Delphinia Brown Research Associate
    American Institute of Research
  • You're really making me look good! And it has been so much fun – I feel as giddy as I did when I first started studying computer programming and that was a good 25 years ago.

    ...more Julie Biddle Instructional Designer
    Ontario Canada
  • I've used many other development tools in the past that were either shallow or required extensive programming knowledge to achieve the outcome I wanted. I found SmartBuilder to be a robust and flexible authoring tool that allowed me to quickly create an interactive and engaging elearning tutorial.

    ...more Sherry Junk Senior Instructional Designer
    OptumInsight
  • Prior to building courses with SmartBuilder, we only had 25-50% completion rates of our pre-classroom elearning...with our SmartBuilder courses, our completion rates are near 100% with very little chasing required.

    ...more Rob Taylor Elearning Manager
    Huthwaite International
  • I did an extensive review of elearning authoring products on the market...Smart Builder was the one I chose...because of the incredible power provided by the purely object-based approach. I can build interactions in Smart Builder that simply aren't possible using other tools.

    ...more David Sigler CEO
    Interactive Leadership Solutions Inc
  • SmartBuilder gives us the ability to have sophisticated learning functions and features without hiring programmers. SmartBuilder has helped us set a new standard of excellence for online learning.

    ...more Kimball Ungermann Instructional Designer
    KLA-Tencor
  • I loved using Authorware and was disappointed when it was discontinued. But I had been looking for other solutions anyway to provide the seamless web delivery clients expect. SmartBuilder provides the power of Authorware, with an easy-to-use interface, and it creates flash output. This is the perfect solution.

    ...more Mark Kizilos Former Vice President, Talent Management
    Thomson Reuters
  • SmartBuilder met all our requirements, and is so quick to learn and easy to use that it fosters creativity instead of hampering it. Our designer/developers walk around with huge grins because they're getting paid to have so much fun at work!

    ...more Tricia Luke Technical Training Specialist, Senior Staff
    Qualcomm
  • It's so much more fun than working in Flash. Too many years of that, and I'm glad I've found a great alternative!

    ...more James Basore Training Specialist
    Lawrence Berkley Lab
  • Over the past few months we've been working on 3 major projects, each requiring a different infrastructure - we're extremely happy with SmartBuilder, the product and the support we receive! It's become the favorite tool of my developers.

    ...more Anne Gaffney Training Specialist Supervisor
    Hennepin County, MN
  • I had never built online courses before using SmartBuilder, but within a few days I was able to start developing effective training, and it has been really well received by our employees. Best of all, your customer service is VERY responsive.

    ...more Marcy Milhomme Training Manager
    Harvard Clinical Research Institute
  • Since I've started using SB to deploy our modules, we're getting requests to download our trainings! This did not happen before. Thank you for creating a tool that has the power and flexibility to allow me to actually use my ideas and not just wish I could figure out how.

    ...more Tahiya Marome M.A., Instructional Technology
  • Multiple developers, editors, reviewers, and translators located across the United States needed to participate simultaneously on the Business Planning for Protected Areas course - a daunting, 40-hour proposition. SmartBuilder allowed us to work collaboratively, greatly improving our production efficiency.

    ...more Chanda Carpenter Instructional Designer and Learning Specialist
    The Nature Conservancy
  • PowerPoint was not powerful enough to do what we needed, but the next step up was scripting tools. SmartBuilder has given us a tool that is user-friendly with the power that allows us to build the kind of content we want.

    ...more Richard Speaars Instructor
    Macon State College
  • Smartbuilder exceeds our expectations. We produce engaging simulations at a rapid pace without writing code at all. As a result, our learners and SMEs enjoy the rich interactivity, and our learners build excellent customer-service skills.

    ...more Gloria Garcera Online Learning Specialist
    DirecTV
  • Incredibly flexible yet easy to use tool. Everything I ever want to do with it, they have anticipated. Also, they have the best support I've ever come across, and that's no exaggeration

    ...more Nick Desoutter Senior Associate, Elearning Standards
    LOMA
  • I can highly recommend SmartBuilder, not only for the functionality of the tool itself but the customer support is excellent.

    ...more Julie Clegg Executive Vice President
    Toddington International
  • SmartBuilder is a robust learning development tool that enables creativity without requiring programming. Not only is the tool effective, the support cannot be surpassed.

    ...more Cheryl Lisker Instructional Designer
    Take Charge America
  • SmartBuilder's customer service is unparalleled when it comes to positive attitudes and a willingness to go above and beyond for customer satisfaction

    ...more Celestial Holmes Instructional Designer
    Scholastic Book Fairs
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