Now that the new year has sprang up with all its beauty, hope and high crave for prosperity, eLC hopes that its enthused readers can achieve what we wish for them, among which are enhancing your enthusiasm in learning and developing your Instructional, Programming and Graphic Designing skills.
This issue will share with you on three techniques to guide your learner’s attention, how do you use articulate to create courseware in 1 day and from a graphic designer perspective, how you should design the user interface. Scroll on!
eLC’s Lectora eLearning Courseware Competition Awards Ceremony has just come to a successful close on 25th March 2011. Held at Fullerton Hotel this year, we see many new faces mixed in with the old enjoying themselves at this momentous event. Every year we will create new and interesting games for our guests to participate and explore the usability of Lectora. This year is of no exception with 4 new games. Check out the going-ons!
With this type of guidance: “I spy a red box over there at a corner of the room.” you’ve gotten the person to look at just the right spot. It doesn’t make playing “I Spy” fun, but it makes learning a lot easier because you are focusing their attention on the correct places rather than guessing (or waiting) for what they should be learning.
Here are the three techniques to guide your learner’s attention
1) Showing learners the big picture and allowing them to see everything in context
You can present the overall at one time. Take the above diagram for example, it shows the overview of the life cycle of a ladybug. This can help the learners see the overall context and make connections. It also gives the learners the freedom to explore the screen content and puts them into a position of discovery.
One of the challenges can be that the learner might “see” the information, but might not really be making the right connections.
One way to address this is to guide them to look for specific information on the screen. For example, instead of telling the information, ask questions that provoke thinking.
2) Point out those parts of the screen that are important
USING ARTICULATE TO CREATE RAPID CONTENT IN ONE DAY
Imagine this. Your boss approaches you one fine morning and tells you “I want you to create a presentable eLearning content about Topic ABC, and I want it to be ready for use by tomorrow afternoon.” In the past, when this happens, it is surely time to press the panic button. Your morning won’t be fine and rosy anymore. Your heart will race as fast as your hands, and you face the possibility of burning the midnight oil. Not now! In fact, depending on the length and complexity of the content, one day may just be too long.
The trick is to use a tool that allows rapid contents to be created. Articulate Studio is one brilliant option. With Articulate Presenter, you can create your eLearning content in a simple PowerPoint slide, with add-ons from Articulate Engage and Quizmaker. Here is how to do it.
For this example, let’s see if we can put up a simple history of Singapore into an eLearning courseware, using the elements of Articulate.
HOW TO MAKE A GOOD USER INTERFACE DESIGN FOR ELEARNING COURSEWARE
Some people might think user interface for eLearning courseware is just a background decoration with some navigation buttons to allow users to click and proceed to other pages. The user interface of an eLearning courseware not only supports the interactivity of the content, navigation and information retrieval, it also enhances the learning effectiveness of an eLearning courseware.
From the phase ‘User Interface Design for eLearning Courseware’, there are four words that I would like to bring your focus on: Usability, Interactivity, Design and Learnability. Let us take a look at the relationship of these four words below:
But what are the criteria an interface with 'Design and Interactivity' become the goal of a 'Usability and Learnability' eLearning courseware? They are Consistency, Simplicity and Intuitiveness. Let me elaborate them in terms of Design and Interactivity.
Consistency – Ensure your user interface looks consistently. For example, use consistent colour scheme, same sized photos and graphic and font styles throughout. Set the standards for it and stick to them so that the courseware will look as a whole package. It enables the users to build an accurate mental models led to lower training and support costs.
Simplicity – Crowded screens are difficult to understand. Everything should be kept simple, clean and clear. There should not be too many buttons on one page. Text must be readable and the background should not be too colourful or have strong contrast which may distract the main content graphic.
Intuitiveness – Your design should be intuitable. For example, when designing the icons, we need to consider the target audience's culture. Different groups of audiences would have different recognition on everyday items. Take red for instance, it may mean danger or emergency for military use while for the Chinese, it means happiness and prosperity.
Consistency – Your user interface must work consistently. Buttons should be positioned consistently on all the pages. Same category of buttons should have same interactions which enables the users to understand the flow of the courseware easily.
Simplicity - Normally users never bothers about the uniqueness of the user interface and how one can interacts with it. They will just directly get on to the task of learning. Try to avoid troublesome interaction or navigation such as mouse trail that would block users' navigation. For example, when users want to go back to main menu, they have to click 'Back' button to go through all the previous pages to reach the main menu. Because of this, they would feel that the courseware is annoying and would feel hard to stick through the courseware to the end.
Intuitiveness - Never make users think. They would not want to learn a whole new set of rules for the courseware itself. It’s better to have clear instruction prompts or label on buttons so that the users will not be confused while navigating through the courseware. For the screen layout, try to consider the nature of human being.
When someone looks at a screen, their eyes tend to fall on the upper left portion and then read in the direction as shown in arrow 1. It is good to have the title area, followed by the content. In nature, we read from the left to right so it seems natural to place ‘Next’ and ‘Back’ buttons at the bottom right like how we flip the pages in a book.
Whenever the user wants to go to other pages such as the ‘Menu’ or ‘Home’, they would look towards the direction as shown in arrows 2. That indicates that you are able to put other navigation buttons at the top right or bottom left of the page.
No matter what the purpose of the design is, we always need to consider the target audiences’ perspective. It is important to have a good user interface design that will help improve the usability and learnability of an eLearning courseware.
We hope that in this edition, you have gained some insights on the techniques to guide your learner’s attention, coming up with a presentable eLearning content with Articulate and pointers to make a good user interface for any eLearning courseware.
More of these will be shared with you in the upcoming months ahead. Do feel free to come back for more articles on how you can create efficient eLearning courseware and improve your designing skills.
As an instructional designer, you should know that stating clear objectives in courseware is essential so that learners have a clear understanding of what is expected from them. Besides stating clear objectives, guiding the learner’s attention on the important points is as essential. Let us think of learning and instructional design from the perspective of playing the “I Spy” game. You say, “I spy with my eye.... a red box.” And then you wait forever while the other game players look for the red box. Maybe they find it; maybe they don’t. In either case, you’re at the whim of the ones looking for the red box because you don’t control how they go about looking for it and whether or not they even find it.
You still give the learners an overview of the information up front. However, by pointing things out on the screen, you blur off the “unimportant” areas which draws their attention to those things that are more important than others.
By directing their attention, you can give them the big picture and still focus on things more specific. This can be done with simple animations. Take the above diagram for instance, when it is the first stage of the growth of a ladybug, it further explains the process of the egg and how long it takes to hatch.
3) Only show them the information as you get to it
Don’t distract your learners with information they don’t need. Instead, progressively build up your content. Basically, you are breaking the information into manageable chunks and then giving it to the learners a little at a time. This is an effective technique if you are teaching something new or complex.
Relating to the “I Spy” game, it is like saying, “I spy a red box and it is located at the top left corner of the screen.” That immediately tells people where to look and they are not distracted by other things outside that area.
Here I have shared with you three simple techniques that are generally neutral with no one being better or worse than the others. How you use them just depends on your subject matter and the leaner’s expertise. Learning objectives should be included at all times as it is essential for the learners to be clear on what are the expected goals to be achieved after completion.