I attended Dan Myers’ session on how to maintain learner attention. Dan is a Manager of Instructional Design at the Cheesecake Factory.
Getting learners’ attention should be a primary concern for instructional designers creating online courses. (Remember: “Build it and they will come” does not apply to eLearning!) Dan suggests considering the following framework when creating an attention-grabbing course:
- Cognitive domain (thinking): Content, knowledge checks
- Affective domain (feeling): Story, characters, music, art, values, conflict, humor
- Psychomotor domain (doing): Interactivity, hands-on practice opportunities
(This happens to align with the second phase in IdeaLearning Group’s Complete Learning Experience approach: “Think, Feel, Move”!)
He discussed a couple of potential pitfalls to avoid, such as not breaking character. Once you start with a story theme, stick with it. Theme is part of what helps keep learner attention. Interactions should also be integrated into the theme as much as possible. He also advised against building yet another course to float in what he calls “the sea of sameness.”
Think about the visual experience learners typically have—they see the company logo and the same colors on every screen. In our attempt to create uniformity, we may sometimes prompt learners to feel disengaged. Instead, Dan advises, find ways to give courses a unique look and feel. Throw out templates and incorporate elements of surprise into courses to help create a unique adventure for learners.
Other great ideas Dan suggests for personalizing the learning experience:
- If you’re writing third-person content in training and it’s posted on LMS, include the learner’s name as a character to personalize the experience.
- Include an “evidence log” learners can use to take notes within the course.
- Try putting learners in a place where they’re taking a quiz but don’t realize they’re taking a quiz.
- Take out the “objectives” slide. Write them, but you don’t need to reveal them. Putting in formal learning objectives and long course description page can kill the momentum.
- Build in vocal variety into training courses. If you structure it right, it makes it easy to edit.
- If you have any procedural videos technical in nature, include drag-and-drop items that need to be placed in the correct sequence. Dan shows us a clever interaction involving a Cheesecake Factory recipe. The learner drags and drops images of ingredients to the video area, which activates the relevant clip. He suggests building in remediation clips for incorrect options.
My favorite quote from Dan’s session: If you’re bored making it, your learners will be bored taking it.