Winning the Hearts of your eLearners

Posted on July 25, 2014 Under Uncategorized

Authentic Stamp Showing Real Certified Product Not Fake

In the world of L&D, we frequently talk about the importance of making sure the learning content is authentic and in context for learning or eLearning to be effective. Frankly, we can talk about this all day until the cows come home, but the real question that needs to be asked of all of us is, “What tweaks do we need to make to our development process and instructional design to deliver authentic and contextualised learning?”

The definition of authentic in the Oxford Dictionaries is:

“Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine. Based on facts, accurate or reliable. Relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.”

The words that really pop out for me from this definition are the words ‘genuine’ and ’emotion’. Funnily enough, it is my opinion that the marketing minds have executed this well and something we could learn from, as their ads are often built on pulling on our heart strings, telling us what we should have without us realising it, and inviting us to experience the product first hand. Take a TV ad for any car manufacturer. It pulls your heart strings (or your emotions) by asking you direct or rhetorical questions about how you would feel owning the car and driving through the countryside on the weekends, basking in the sunshine. The car is paraded on the scenic windy roads, with a fine-looking driver (who happens to be a model) representing yourself… you get the idea!

Coming back to learning, how can we ensure there is authenticity in our eLearning modules? How can we push the emotion buttons of a learner who sits in isolation in front of a tablet or computer screen? Let’s come back to this.

The definition of context in the Oxford Dictionaries is:

“The circumstances that form the setting of an event, statement or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood. The parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.”

The keywords from the definition of context for me are ‘circumstances’ and ‘setting’. Most skills needed for a job cannot be easily or safely taught on-the-job, which means learning takes place in an artificial setting like a classroom, or in front of a computer. Adding context to the learning is simple enough. What can be challenging is coming up with the circumstances that leads to the setting of an event. The key ingredient is believability. For instance, coming back to car ads once again. Would filming a car cruising through downtown Las Vegas be more believable for an audience based in New Zealand compared to a countryside setting with mountain peaks in the background? It is only when the setting is believable can the events that are based on the setting be in context.

Right, back to the questions from earlier, how can we ensure there is authenticity in our eLearning modules? And how can we push the emotion buttons of a learner who sits in isolation in front of a tablet or computer screen? It is my opinion that if the content is in context (believable circumstances and events), it builds the perfect platform for you to design authentic learning that elicits the emotions you are after from your learners.

For a construction company, you may design a scenario based on their worksite health and safety. While the circumstances and the events are in context, how do you make it authentic? Here is a recent real world example of how we did it.

One of our recent projects involved designing an eLearning module for Auckland Live (formally, The Edge). They train new and existing service staff to ensure the right level of customer service is provided to patrons that attend performances. Working together with the Programme Manager, we collaborated and produced a module with the purpose to deliver understanding of accessibility issues some patrons faced (ie. deaf, physically disabled, visually impaired).

For authenticity, we:

  • Included authentic photos of real patrons with various accessibility needs while they experienced various features of each venue
  • Recorded their genuine stories and experiences through storytelling (voiceovers), from arriving through the door through to the difficulties of accessing different levels
  • Voiceovers were recorded within the actual foyers and theatres to capture ambient sound
  • Captured patrons’ emotions through their own voices (rather than hiring professional voiceover talent)

On completion, as I went through the module myself, I could really sense the emotions behind the stories and the voices. The pictures of each patron made me feel as if I knew them personally. Overall, I was captured on many levels, and felt like I was the person serving the patron in front of my screen. I could gain an appreciation of their struggles through the strain on their faces and hearing them talk about their struggles. As a result, this experience I went through as a learner is likely to be replicated over and over again with staff within Auckland Live, resulting in (hopefully, time will tell!) improved customer services for accessibility patrons.

Take a look at a few screenshots available in our portfolio section here.