Using TLC on your eLearning interactions

From logicearth by fiona quigley

Using TLC on your eLearning interactionseLearning interactions

Unfortunately in this case, TLC doesn’t stand for tender loving care! Although some may argue that much modern eLearning content needs to be designed with more care…

So what does TLC stand for? T is for type, L is for location and C is for content.

TLC is a simple mnemonic that I have used with new Instructional Designers and clients who are new to creating eLearning interactions. It is a simple idea, but if executed well, can really add much needed engagement to your eLearning content. It is designed to help you to make good or better choices when you are designing eLearning interactions – particularity at the planning stage of your content.

What is the purpose of eLearning interactions?

eLearning interactions are designed to engage the learner’s mind, not just their fingers! This engagement can come in a variety of guises – from helping with understanding and memory, right through to supporting practice and applying new skills.

But too many eLearning interactions are passive and boring. There are only so many times you can keep clicking boxes on screen to reveal chunks of text or images. The brain needs variety and stimulus, or else it just ignores what you are presenting. If you are providing structure through an interaction, be clear on why; it shouldn’t just be to fit items together on one screen! If you use the same interaction twice in a row, don’t use it a third time.

Model your interactions on real life challenges and activities that the learner will have to do in the workplace. Natural learning interactions help the learner to better apply what they have learned to their everyday jobs. The aim for interactivity is to help people to thinkDIFFERENTLY about a key aspect of the content, which is related to their experience.

T is for Type

So if T is for Type, then this is the first decision you should make. The most basic decision is passive or active?

eLearning interactions

Passive is good for helping to break down complex information to make it easier to remember. But too many passive eLearning interactions won’t challenge the learner sufficiently and it won’t be long before you lose their interest. An active interaction challenges the learner and asks them to think differently. You might for example, target current misunderstandings or help them to solve common problems. All active interactions should provide personalised critical feedback based on the choices learners select. A good multiple choice question can be an effective active interaction – particularly if it is scenario-based and helps the learner to think about a real-life challenge.

For more information on different types of interaction, check out this blog.

L is for Location

Most learners start off naturally engaged and then this engagement wanes as times goes on. A general rule of thumb is that you should have an interaction every 3-5 pages. You should also pay careful attention to the start and end of a piece of content. Starting off with a interaction that poses a challenge for the learner to solve as they go through the content is a good motivator. It immediately answers the question, WIIIFM (what is in it for me), which is a great motivator for adult learners. Finishing with a consolidating interaction that gives the learner practice opportunities and closure helps to maintain good cognitive load so that the learner can better take on board the new skills and concepts.

If you compare page 3 and page 4 of our new Data Protection course, you’ll see how deliberately moving from passive to active eLearning interactions can help to better pace the learning and therefore prevent cognitive overload. It also makes the content more ‘sticky’ (learning that lasts).

Also – interaction points need to be chosen carefully and strategically – what do people need to think the most about? Another mnemonic, DIF, is useful to consider at content planning stage – DIF analysis:

  • What is Difficult?
  • What is Important?
  • What is Frequent – pain points, common myths/misunderstandings – what holds people back from success/learning?

Designing good eLearning interactions is one of the keys to prevent cognitive overload.

C is for Content

Most modern eLearning courses contain a variety of media, include text, images, animation and audio or video. Yet for most people who are new to designing eLearning content, there is a tendency to stay ‘safe’ with only text and image-based eLearning interactions. While audio and video can be a powerful learning tool, it is still just passive content. It is possible though to make video and animated content more interactive. There are so many new interactive video tools on the market now that will better engage your learners to have fun with your content. Check out our recent blog post on getting from passive to interactive video here.

So there you have it – TLC; when planning and designing your eLearning interactions, consider the:

Type of interaction (active/passive)

Location (managing cognitive load) and,

Content (use a variety of content types)

Add a bit of Tender Loving Care too while you are at it!
Fiona Quigley, Director of Learning Innovation


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