Instructional Interactivity and Today’s Technology

Props to Jenna Sweeney at the Corporate Training and eLearning blog for highlighting “instructional interactivity” as a way in which to help learners gain knowledge in a way that will support their performance, not just meet the requirements of having taught them something.

About a million years ago (in technology time), I worked for a custom WBT house that mandated that every three or so screens in a WBT there was an opportunity for some kind of interaction – the learner had to make a choice, answer a reflection question, take a quiz. When I look back on those WBTs, I really just want to hang my head, because clearly in retrospect these were not the type of interactions that would facilitate learning – they might keep the learner from falling asleep in his chair, but that was the extent of it, I’m afraid.

Of course, there are a lot of highly interactive WBTs out there that take advantage of simulations and gaming technology to create a situation in which the learner is able to immerse herself in an experience that meets at least some of Sweeney’s requirements for instructional interactivity: causing learners to think, helping learners rehearse skills and prepare for performance, testing learners’ knowledge when they need a progress check, etc.

But one serious downside to the kind of technology that’s required to provide such a rich learning environment is cost – especially in cases where you are trying to customize the learning to the learner’s particular organization. So how do you create an atmosphere in which learners can avoid the pitfalls that come with traditional eLearning interactivity, while not blowing the budget on a single training program?

Personally, I like the old standby from my ILT days of asking a learner what she thinks, or even better, suggesting that she talk over a concept with her peers, form an opinion, and THEN asking her what she thinks.

I’m not advocating a wholesale return to ILT days, (by any means!), but I think a lot of rigor could be inserted back in to eLearning by incorporating the best practices of face-to-face training: peer-to-peer interaction, group activities, and plain old asking learners to actively participate in the learning process by publishing their thinking.

At Q2, we have a platform that we obviously think is well suited for these types of activities, and the convenience of having everything in one platform is one more argument for blended learning using the eCampus. But even if you’re not usingĀ a centralized platform, taking advantage of the tools that are available today like blogs, wikis and discussion forums will add a layer of instructional interactivity that I could not have added years ago, even with an unlimited development budget.

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