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.

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

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



Presenting Dos and Don’ts

The good old “Dos and Don’ts” list is a quick and easy way to teach people how to perform their jobs. This week’s e-learning challenge was to create a novel way of presenting these lists. So, I decided to make mine about the restaurant business, directed towards those on the front lines, the servers.


I recently saw a graphic image of two faces facing each other in b/w and I thought I could employ similar imagery to create this simple little interaction. The learner is presented with a scenario and then selects either the “Do” face or the “Don’t” face to see an example of each.


This could very easily be adapted to give actual lists of Dos and Don’ts for each scenario even though I only offered one example for each.


Rather than using the Next and Previous buttons, I gave learners the option to “Try Again” to see the other option for the current scenario or to go on to the “Next Scenario”. Try it out yourself and let me know what you think!

X Marks the Spot

When they were boys growing up in Michigan in 1965, Rick and Marty Lagina were to read a Reader’s Digest article that would change their lives. It was about a mysterious island off the coast of Nova Scotia called Oak Island. Many strange anomalies have been found on the island including coconut fiber buried deep underground where the nearest coconut tree is hundreds of miles away, and oak trees native to Africa mysteriously grow there and nowhere else in the region, thus the name.


Going all the way back to 1795, treasure hunters from all walks of life including FDR and John Wayne have visited the island and dug countless holes in search of riches or ancient artifacts. Theories about what can be found there range from pirate treasure to the ark of the covenant to the lost writings of Shakespeare. Since the long and considerably expensive hunt began, the search has yielded a Spanish coin dating back to 1652, rocks with strange hieroglyphs carved into them, and a system of underground shafts designed to flood out any efforts to discover what’s buried underground.


So, if someone gave you a shovel on Oak Island and asked you to start digging, where would you break ground? This interaction gives you the opportunity to explore the island and learn more about some of the key areas of interest on the island including the infamous “Money Pit”, borehole “10X”, Logan’s Cross, and the mysterious swamp off of Smith’s Cove. As Marty Lagina loves to say, “Put an X on the spot”.


Click or tap to play “Drilling Down on Oak Island”

Besides the mysterious Oak Island itself, this interaction was inspired by
this week’s e-learning challenge to create an interaction where learners can zoom in on details on a document, or in this case, a map. I used Articulate Storyline’s slider tool to reveal layers which give details on the selected region. This same approach could be employed to highlight details on a document using the slider to select the zoom region.

Different From or Different To?

There’s a Polident commercial on TV where some dentist keeps talking about how “dentures are different to regular teeth” that’s been driving me crazy lately. What is it about this sentence that’s rubbing me the wrong way?  I think it’s because I want him to say “dentures are different from regular teeth.”


So, like every good researcher, I did a quick Google search to see what the experts have to say about this. According to the Oxford Dictionary, they see little to no difference between using from, to, or than in this context, but I beg to differ. So it got me thinking about why I felt this way. Was there some kind of cognitive dissonance I was trying to overcome in justifying saying things are different to one another? Well, yes!

To and From
When we go to something, we are approaching towards it, getting closer to it. When we go from something, we are leaving it behind, getting further away. Things that are different from each other go into separate piles in our minds’ eye, and similar things go into the same pile.

Different and Similar
Think about it. If things can be different to each other, then shouldn’t it be possible to say the opposite about similar things? For example: this is similar from that. I mean, if to and from have essentially the same meaning, we can use them interchangeably, right? Wrong! I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard anyone say something was similar from something else.

So until someone can convince me otherwise, things are going to be similar to and different from each other from here on out. What do you think?


Voices in my Head

When Queen released “A Night at the Opera” the album that exposed the world to the classic rock anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody” the liner notes emphatically stated that “no synthesizers were used on this album.” So, I’m going to tell you the same thing about my voice-over portfolio, with the exception of the tympani roll, all the music was created with one simple tool, my voice.

Click to view my voice portfolio

Click to view my voice portfolio

E-Learning with Character(s)
Over the last few years, I have created or helped out with quite a few e-learning projects which have required me to tap into the voices in my head. I really don’t have the pipes for doing the narration part, but I have come up with quite a wide range of character voices in creating interactions & games for David Anderson’s e-learning design challenges.

E-Learning Feud Characters

E-Learning Feud Characters

In this portfolio, you’ll meet a couple game show hosts, a nerd, a jock, an old man, a goofball of a guy, some assorted animals, and …BERT.

The Gist
Rather than just clicking on the examples and jumping right into the interactions, I thought I better explain a little what each interaction was about, what my role was in their creation, and a little bit about my thought processes. Jackie Van Nice gave me the idea of creating a separate bit of theme music, sort of a slower more “contemplative” version of the theme song at the beginning to go behind my voice as I give the run down on these various interactions.

Bert gets all Dracula in yo face

Bert gets all Dracula in yo face

I designed this portfolio so you can just click right into the interactions if you want. You don’t have to sit and listen to the “director’s/actor’s comments” first. The bottom line is, just jump into it and enjoy.

Click to view my voice-over portfolio

Click to view my voice-over portfolio

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