Give me platinum – Give me a page turner!

The LMS and Me – Don’t let the tail wag the dog.
December 18, 2012
My iPad is drowning in interaction…
January 25, 2013

Most eLearning vendors use hierarchical descriptions to categorise their products/service offerings. They have to really, it helps in customer conversations… ‘we have rapid (lowest and fastest custom content solution), bronze, silver, gold and if you really want to spend some money and take some time, let’s discuss the platinum’. They could of course be described as levels 1, 2 and 3 or low, medium and high. Having engaged many eLearning vendors and worked as one myself plenty of times, I have seen no true difference between these descriptions.

[pssst, flick to the end for the large font if you want a summary… I understand ;-)]

Using low, medium and high is the easiest to see what these levels actually explain. They just describe a scope, used for the vendor to quote, for the customer to understand ballpark pricing, and for ‘solutioneering’ based on levels of multimedia i.e. low = no media apart from words and graphics – no interactivity; through to high = heaps of media and development expertise available such as animations, video, perhaps learner pathways, exploratory menus, user driven pathways with multiple outcomes etc. These levels are then positioned as a way to serve the customer’s learning solution needs i.e. Customers are told that ‘Low’ = a solution for information delivery (say product training that’s frequently coming out and changing – information on demand); ‘Medium’ = an entry level of multimedia use that might suit your learning requirements for procedural tasks, linear scaffolded concepts that are reinforced through learning checks and an assessment at the end; and then ‘High’, where it’s still frequently argued that deeper learning will only occur as we need that much higher level of interaction. Should also be noted that these categories are funnily enough about dollars – Low = $, Medium = $$ and High = more.

Have you ever learnt anything more than pure information from reading a book? Answer is probably, ‘Absolutely, I’ve learnt a hell of a lot from books!’ Perhaps it was so interesting you may have described it as a ‘page turner’? Did it have any interactivity outside of the author’s voice and your own internal dialogue as you read/reflected?

It’s the Instructional Design (the writer and learning architect) that will deliver on the above solutions in their treatment of your content – NOT the levels of interactivity. Highly interactive courses from a multimedia point of view can still just be about communicating information. The interactivity can enhance it, but it’s only amplifying the design that’s being done towards producing a great learning page turner.

Now where this blog’s going is to ‘page turning’. eLearning has often been described negatively using phrases like ‘not just another page turner’. I think we’ve moved on a bit, but I did hear this slip out at a meeting recently. The meaning of a page turner in eLearning in its early days was negative, as the majority of online content branded as eLearning was simply pdfs put on a Learning Management System, potentially with an assessment attached. With a lot of excitement around interactivity increasing learner engagement levels and providing more learner centric experiences, the online pdf was described as the boring page turner. The description is crude, and simply doesn’t describe what’s trying to be explained. Before moving on, let me suggest ‘eBoring’ is a much better term to use. (I think I first heard this term in the Australian Army used by a great boss I had, Andre Greenberry – so I’m stealing it now (thanks Andre!), and please steal it too).

So here goes – page turning is awesome. Author’s can use all kinds of techniques to keep us turning, some for good, some for evil of course. So let’s assume we are talking about page turners that have worthwhile things to say! No matter which solution is best suited to meet the learning outcomes required, in each and every one of these levels it should be mandatory that they’re ALL page turners. As the description implies, every good training experience needs to engage the audience (or reader/listener) and keep them turning (clicking Next – yes! Love Kineo’s blog on this by the way). Like I suggested in the Amplification blog I wrote too – ‘if it’s good, amplification will make it great. If it’s not good, amplification will make it … [fill in the blank. Tip! No more than four letters, three consonants and one vowel]

In short – forget the levels of interactivity – to start with – concentrate on the instructional design and your content ‘guaranteeing’ you a page turner – then the metric of delivering learning experiences for information on demand, procedural learning or deeper internalisation is not bound by multimedia levels, but simply the effectiveness of your communication.

There’s a great story on The Learning Hook website which really shows how powerful one simple good idea can be to keep the pages turning and more importantly, comprehension increasing –!/page_More.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve found this interesting or take exception to page turners. If not, hope you enjoyed the read.

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