Highly Interactive vs. Highly Engaging eLearning: Understanding the Differences
We use the terms frequently, interactive and engaging, but do we really understand the differences between the two? In this week’s post, I want to provide examples of both and encourage you to ‘chime in’ on the discussion.
When I think of interactive, I think of text entry boxes for input, surveys, branched scenarios, tabbed interactions, and games. I do want to mention that this term is not to be confused with interactivity levels, which would take our examples above and put them into categories based on complexity and the level of programming and technology required to implement them.
As shown below, Dictionary.com defines the term interactive differently than the Training and Development industry would. “A human interacting with a computer to obtain data or give immediate results”. Hmmmm. Not really how interactions were meant to be used in eLearning, right? We don’t want the learning to be one-sided and we don’t want the learner to have zero say in the output, or how it is displayed. Let’s be honest, with development tools today, we can allow the learner to select an avatar or job role, select the color of their badge, or even let them decorate their ‘virtual’ office.
I would define interactive in eLearning as ‘requiring the user to analyze data and take an action, in order to progress within the module”. In other words, they should be using their cognitive skills in some way in conjunction with basic motor skills to reveal an answer to a question or consume additional information that they previously did not have knowledge of.
Or perhaps, they are are required to use their cognitive skills to make a decision about a situation or circumstance that may or may not affect another person or persons; and then, use their motor skills to (tap/touch/click/hover over) an object to quantify or analyze their selection.
This interaction is representative of two-way learning, because of the immediate feedback the learner receives.
Now, let’s take a look at the term engaging. Dictionary.com defines the term as winning, attractive, or pleasing.
However, in the Training and Development industry we take it a step further. We may define engaging as “enticing, attention-grabbing, and relatable”. We not only want our eLearning to be pleasing to the eye, but hold their attention, elicit some form of emotion, and entertain them in some way.
Our end goal is that engaging content will be relatable to their personality traits and job role, and ultimately increase the retention rate of the information we are trying to embed in their short and long-term memory — which in turn may even increase their productivity and functioning levels as an employee. This is why it is so important to define your audience in the Design phase. i.e. their age, sex, educational level, etc.
How do you define the terms interactive and engaging? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
In our new 3 hour/3 session workshop, “Emotional Storytelling”, we delve deeper into the wants, needs and desires of the learner, and how to write courses that are BOTH interactive and engaging, giving you the best return on your investment as an employer. Stay tuned for more sign-up information on this exciting workshop.
Until next time…
About the Author
Cheryl Powell, CEO of GC Learning Services LLC dba Learn2Engage, is in her 22nd year as a Virtual Instructional Design and e-Learning Specialist, with clients all over the US and overseas. Additionally, she is a published author of various works of fiction and motivational speaker.
Her industry experience industry experience is vast, and includes Telecommunications, Finance (Mortgage, Banking and Credit industry), Sales, Pharmaceutical, Media, Software Development, Healthcare, Food and Beverage, and many more.
She holds a Bachelor in Business Management, a graduate certification in Project Management, and a Master of Science degree in IT Project Management. She has studied the Adult Learning principles of experts and theorists such as Gagne’s (nine events), Maslow’s (hierarchy of needs), and Dr. Ruth Clark, to ensure her courses, presentations, storyboards and modules, engage the learner, utilize the proper balance of white space, text and graphics, and result in high Learner Retention rates.
Her clients return year after year for the affordable pricing, her rapid customer response rate, and the benefits they observe in the productivity of their employees after taking her courses.