Ah, my Disney obsession continues. This week’s e-learning challenge was to create an interaction using Storyline’s Lightbox feature. Designers like to use lightboxes when they want learners to be able to look at an outside reference without leaving the slide they’re on. The reference might be talking about how to use the navigation features on the course or perhaps to define key terms used throughout the course. Lightboxes are great because they can be accessed from anywhere in the course and don’t have to be included in the Menu.
Living with the Land
Being a lover of exotic fruit trees and gardening, I have always enjoyed EPCOT’s Living with the Land ride at Disney Orlando. LWTL takes you on a boat ride starting you off in a life-size diorama (or what I’d call biorama) taking you through various climatic regions from rainforests to deserts to prairies.
After that short ecological history, the boat emerges from the dark diorama into the bright sunlight of its dome-enclosed orchard & garden area. Here you can see a multitude of exotic plantlife: vanilla, dragon fruit, Carolina reaper (one of the hottest peppers in the world), Buddha’s hand, jack fruit, and bananas growing all around you.
You’ll also see experiments in hydroponic and self-sustaining ecosystems. After you exit the ride, you will find a little booth selling starter plants created in their labs. I bought a couple dragon fruit plants which are thriving to this day (although I have to keep them in pots so I can wheel them into our garage when temps get too low. You can also arrange a behind-the-scenes tour of the LWTL gardens and lab to learn more. It’s actually quite inexpensive and we learned a lot.
I didn’t do anything fancy here, just concentrated on getting some beautiful images and embedded one video from YouTube. These were all put onto separate slides and then I added triggers to the oval-shaped navigation saying to open those slides as lightboxes when the user clicks on them. Finally, in case you were wondering, I used a piece of original music I wrote for the introduction slide that seemed to fit the mood. Check it out here and let me know what you think.
When Walt Disney’s imagineers thought they “nailed it” with a piece of animation or an attraction, he would implore them to “plus it” to give it that extra bit of magic. I like to think one of our roles as e-learning designers should be to do the same.
Click to view Blowing Bubbles Sample
But when we start thinking about throwing in lots of bells and whistles the old fears start creeping in. “My client or company won’t want to pay for all that fancy wizardry.” “What will this do to the budget?” “What about project creep?” “Won’t this just be distracting to the learner?”
I think there is a right way and a wrong way to “plus” an e-learning piece. Yes, you don’t want to blow the budget and no, you don’t want to overdo it. Think of “plussing it” like adding an exotic spice or two at the end to enhance a good recipe. You’ve already got the basic graphic and instructional design approach figured out and most of the course is already developed.
Click to view Sample of Plussing Bullets
Now you can sprinkle in a few bits of pixie dust here and there to add a bit of wow to the course. You don’t want it on every screen as it can lose it’s impact or simply become overwhelming. I remember seeing a PowerPoint presentation about a software piece called TrainEngine, and the designer replaced every bullet on every slide with the image of a train engine coming in from the side. It was a clever idea, but it was WAY too much.
Finally, keep in mind that your visual/audio enhancements need to support what you’re trying to teach at that moment and not distract from it. Ultimately, your goal is to teach the learner something specific and make it memorable. In this sample below, notice how I added bits of sound to go with the images and how the bus appears to roll into the picture while staying inside the frame.