Fighting Wildfires in Alaska

You are a fire manager in Alaska and three wildfires have broken out across the state. You don’t have the resources to fight them all, so you have to prioritize. This interaction is a combination scenario/quiz question incorporating video, music and a sorting interaction.

FireManagementScenario

The Challenge
This week’s eLearning challenge was to create a quiz question with customized feedback. In this scenario, I used the existing feedback layers giving the learner the opportunity to try again if they get it wrong initially. When they do get it right, it takes them to the “correct” feedback layer with a Continue button which takes them to another slide with more detailed feedback in the voiceover and a video giving a bird’s eye view of the landscape and communities we were talking about.

Too Much Information!
There simply was not enough space to incorporate all the feedback the client wanted on the feedback layer itself, so I simply moved that feedback onto a separate slide accessible via the Continue button. For the video, I just took some high resolution still shots of the Alaskan landscape and using the Ken Burns technique, panned across and zoomed in and out of the different shots to add more interest. Check it out here and let me know what you think!

Does Music Belong in eLearning?

I’ve never met anyone who said they hated music. Everyone at least likes music, but does it have a proper place in eLearning and if so, where and when should you use it? Certainly there are as many opinions on this topic as there are style preferences in what different people like to listen to. Since this is MY blog, I’ll tell you what I think and you can tell me what you think in the comments below.

MusicianBanjo.png

Because eLearning development tools like Articulate Storyline use separate slides or screens to place your content into, it doesn’t allow you to have uninterrupted background music playing throughout your module. This has never been a problem for me, as I don’t think music should run through the whole thing.

Introduction and Conclusion 

I like to include background music at the beginning and ending of each lesson. At the beginning, it sets the mood for the learner and when it returns at the conclusion, it indicates a sense of accomplishment and that things are wrapping up.

BackgroundMusicScenario

Scenarios and Quizzes

Most of the lessons I create have quizzes, and I like to include a little background music while the narrator explains how to take the quiz, what the passing score is, etc. Sometimes a client will also request a few branching scenarios where learners can practice what they’ve learned in a real-life situation. I’ll often use background music as the scenario is being introduced and again on the feedback slides to indicate if they made the right choices.

During Videos

Occasionally, a client will give me a video where there are bits of narration interspersed with periods of silence. I like to add a little background music if for no other reason than to tell the learner that the video is still running and to keep paying attention.

Watch the Volume!

Be careful not to overwhelm or distract the learner by having the volume on the background music too loud. You want the learner to be able to easily hear what the narrator is saying. As a rule of thumb, I tend to reduce the volume on the background music by 80%.

Before I finish, being the music geek that I am, did anyone catch what other music-related title I’m eluding to in the name of this post?

A Scenario to Make You Shiver

Whether or not you properly deice and anti-ice an airplane can mean the difference between life and death for the passengers and crew. I had the opportunity to create several eLearning courses for a client in the aeronautics industry and in this lesson, they had me to create this scenario to bring home the importance of the deicing/anti-icing process.

DeIceScenario1

This week’s eLearning challenge was to create a Branching Scenario following Tom Kuhlmann’s three Cs of Challenge, Choices, and Consequences. Branching scenarios give the learner an opportunity to practice what you’ve been teaching them in a real life situation where there are numerous actions to choose from.

DeIceScenario2.png

For each incorrect and correct decision, you can give the learner feedback including telling them what could/would happen as a consequence of their decision. And you can give them the opportunity to retry as many times as it takes for them to get it right.

DeIceScenario3

These scenarios are really very simple interactions to build. Each choice links up to a different branch where you can give them feedback. Branching scenarios can also get more complicated if you decide to branch more than once. For example, if you had a scenario with more than one decision that had to be made along the way. Like a tree, each time you branch off, you exponentially increase the number of feedback paths you need to create, and some of those paths can even take the learner back to a previous slide in the scenario.

I suggest if at all possible keeping to just two or three options each time they have to make a choice, and to keep the number of decision points to the minimum you can get away with. These scenarios should also be brief as possible. You’ll notice I set up this scenario with a minimum of background information to get right to the point. So, check it out here and let me know what you think.

DeIceScenario4

Redundancy and Coherence

Two principles of good e-learning design are to avoid redundancy and to keep things coherent and uncluttered. This week’s e-learning challenge was to present these good instructional design principles in a piece of e-learning. I decided to create before and after examples of two of the principles David Anderson outlined.

Redundancy
Although this may seem like an obvious thing to avoid, I see it in A LOT of e-learning courses. Back in my college days, we had a biology professor who had these extremely wordy PowerPoint slides and then he proceeded to read every word on them verbatim. It drove the whole class nuts, a lot of students scored poorly on his tests, and he seemed completely dumbfounded as to why. Instead of reinforcing the information, redundancy distracts from it. Here’s the redundant “before” version.

Click to view redundancy example

Click to view redundancy example

And here’s the much-improved “after” version.

Click here to view the solution

Click here to view the solution

Coherence
I’ve seen this principle violated most when IDs try to incorporate storytelling or branching scenarios for the first time. In e-learning, the stories only exist to reinforce the learning experience, not to detract from it. Strip the story down to its essentials, removing any extraneous details. Here’s the cluttered, long-winded “before” version.

Click to view It's Not a Novel

Click to view It’s Not a Novel

And here’s the elegant, much-improved “after” version.

Click to view the solution

Click to view the solution

 

Munch on This!

This week’s e-learning challenge was to create a cereal box with an e-learning theme. So I decided to throw in a bit of alliteration as well. Mine’s a little reminder to all of us instructional designers to use our imaginations, throw the learners into real-life scenarios instead of putting them to sleep with endless bullet points. That’s all. Pretty simple eh?

Bert's Bullet Blasters

Bert’s Bullet Blasters

This Spelling Bee is for the Birds

In this weeks e-learning challenge, we designers were asked to create a spelling bee interaction as the 2014 National Spelling Bee kicks off. I thought that was a great idea as it was something I’d never thought of doing before. I decided to create one based on physics terminology and have it presented by a parrot.

Physics Spelling Bee Intro

Click to play the Physics Spelling Bee

How the hxll did I come up with that?
Well, I had this beautiful image of a parrot flying over a rainforest I had used previously to create an interactive portfolio of my work. I called it “E-Learning that Soars” and I thought maybe I could do something with that. On the other hand, I’m a huge fan of this science program hosted by Morgan Freeman called “Through the Wormhole” where they talk about all sorts of fascinating topics like parallel universes, time travel, etc.

So to combine these two disparate elements of the parrot and physics, I created a story that goes like this: An up-and-coming physicist named Laurie Worthenhiemer has a pet parrot and because Laurie’s always talking about physics at home, Polly (the parrot) has picked up on a lot of the terminology. Polly has a lot of spare time on her hands, so she creates this spelling bee to challenge and entertain her house guests.

Build it and they will come…
Next, I picked four physics terms for players to spell. As is the case in most spelling bees, you’ll hear the term, then you can ask for a definition and hear it used in a sentence. I reached into my “inner-bird” and recorded all the voices using Cubase SX software and a nice Audio Technica microphone. I set up triggers in Articulate Storyline to play the different audio files when the user clicks for the definitions and the sentences.

Definitions and sentence options

Definitions and sentence options

This might sound obvious, but I also made sure that the notes button on Storyline’s player was not checked, as the transcript I was reading from would have revealed the words and thus given away their correct spelling.

The spelling part
I used Storyline’s built-in quiz question with a text entry field for players to type into. I took advantage of the correct and incorrect feedback layers to put in a few witty comments from Polly based on the words the players were attempting to define. I like to customize the colors and feedback on these to fit the situation rather then just going with the generic “correct, you chose the right answer” and “incorrect, you did not choose the right answer” phrases. I also put in a little picture of Polly speaking to the players to personalize it more.

Feedback layer for right answer

Feedback layer for right answer

Keeping score
I used Storyline’s built-in quiz results slide to keep score. Again, I customized it quite a bit eliminating the “you passed” and “you did not pass” layers. Being this was just a game and not really a quiz, I just wanted to give the players a score. I also removed the “percentage right” total and just showed the points.

The final tally

The final tally

If I wanted to, I could have used the built-in pass/fail layers of the quiz results slide to show Polly making a snide comment about a lower score, and another layer with a comment responding to a higher score. Although I didn’t do that here, it’s something you might consider in building your game. So, there you have it, a spelling bee game created in Storyline presented by a parrot all about physics. Enjoy!

7 Tips for Writing Good Quiz Questions

One of the easiest ways to confirm your e-learning is actually teaching the learner something is to confirm it with a well-written final quiz. What does that mean exactly? Here’s a quick list of things to do and things to avoid when writing effective quiz questions.

1. Don’t ask overly simple questions. There has to be some challenge. If the answer to the question you’re asking them is too obvious, perhaps they don’t need to learn it at all, or more likely, it just needs to be rewritten with better, more-convincing erroneous answer options. Otherwise, they’ll forget it.

Overly simplistic question

Overly simplistic question

2. Make sure your wrong answers aren’t actually right ones. Under certain circumstances, a good bluff answer might actually be right for the situation. You could try rephrasing the question to drill down further, so that your wrong answers are really wrong (the question part might be too broad in other words).

3. Don’t make the questions too hard. Know your audience. Have they been at the job for 20 years or are they new hires? What’s the technical level of the learner? You don’t want to make the question too hard for the level of learner you’re addressing.

4. Add a little humor once in a while. In a multiple choice question, this could mean throwing in a wrong answer that’s a bit silly. As long as a couple of the wrong options sound realistic, you can include some humor without making it too easy.

Question with humor

Question with humor

5. Tell a story. Put in a little bit of narrative, to make it more memorable. Characters and story can paint a memorable picture that the learner can call upon when they need the information in a real life situation. It doesn’t have to be a novel, just provide enough narrative to present the question in context.

Click to view storytelling example

Click to view storytelling example

6. If it’s part of an interaction, try delaying the final answer. For example: put your learner into a scenario and give them options of what to do where none of the options lead directly to the final correct answer. Instead, have all options lead the learner to ask more questions and gather more information. Then you can present them again with two or three new options to choose from. Based on the additional information they just learned, they will now know enough to be able to choose the correct final answer. This causes learners to think more deeply about the situation, teaching them what questions they should ask before they draw any conclusions.

Click to view example of delayed answer.

Click to view example of delayed answer

7. Provide useful feedback when they get it wrong (and right). Provide clues if they get it wrong and give them a second change to answer the question. I usually do this on questions that appear before the final quiz, so learners can test their knowledge.

Feedback for right answer

Feedback for right answer

Feedback with clue for wrong answer

Feedback with clue for wrong answer