This organization wanted a course that would teach construction contractors everything they ever wanted to know about reinforcing steel. Since taking the course would be optional, it needed to be a course learners would be motivated to take on their own. I picked up that gauntlet and started my design.
Here are some of the features I included in the course design, along with my reasons for including them and the benefits they provide.
1. An Involving Introduction
At the top of the course I quickly introduce the story, characters, and course topic; setting the stage for some rebar drama.
Benefit: This gives learners a context they can relate to and invites them into the story. It also hints at both the successful and the (sometimes) disastrous consequences of working with rebar. Motivates the learner to continue, since they suspect something interesting might happen and it’s not a text-saturated snoozer of a course.
2. Freedom of Navigation
The course is largely navigated via one main menu. Hovering over each circle reveals a course section, topic, and image. This capture shows a mouse hovering over the dark green circle, revealing a preview of the Storage section.
Benefit: Besides the attractive, responsive design of the menu itself, the big deal here is that it gives learners the freedom to explore and invites them to have a look around. As we all know, free will and a touch of curiosity will propel learners to explore what they’re most interested in, and that’s what’s going to stick.
3. Lots of Questions
Would you rather see “Unloading Steel” as a topic, or “Where do you unload it?” Phrasing topics as questions can be effective if they’re asked at an appropriate level.
Benefit: Asking questions can draw in learners at different levels of knowledge, and for different reasons. Someone new to the job might have no clue what the answer is and be eager to find out where the heck you’re actually supposed to put a big ol’ truckload of rebar. Someone who’s been around for awhile and knows the answer will want to see if the course got it “right”.
4. Providing Context Using Meaningful Visual Design
I integrated the characters into images of actual scenes from the client’s worksites. Since the characters represent the learners, it makes it easier for learners to imagine themselves in each situation.
Benefit: Presenting content in a context as close as possible to the situations learners face on the job is critical both in inspiring interest in the course, but also in processing the information presented. In this course I was able to use technical close-ups of rebar and photos of real-life uses and abuses of it at job sites – all of which helped make this course a visual and contextual success.
5. Effective Challenges
Many of the practice questions I created are actually predictive exercises. Rather than present information and then ask a question to test comprehension, I presented a situation, such as someone lifting a bundle of steel, and had the learner predict what the correct method should be.
Benefit: Predictive presentation has always been a favorite of mine. It’s always more involving that just saying “this is a how you do it”. Asking “what should you do?” before giving any information gives learners at every level of experience a shot at getting involved in the course, and they’re more invested in seeing how well they did.
Here’s a small clip of the course so you can get an idea of the tone, pacing, narration, and overall presentation as the learner sees it.
- Relevant Context: The entire course is located on a job site from the point of view of the learner. I show workers interacting using images of real job sites, situations, equipment, and steel.
- Humor: I decided to have two kind of bumbling guys just learning about reinforcing steel, and one guy who’s supervising them. The bumblers have a pretty good time.
- Motivation: It was easy to use the bumbling guys to show the consequences of misusing the steel or not following safety protocols. It’s involving, and mistakes always gets a learner’s attention.
- Results: The situations are memorable and the information “sticks”.
- Instructional Designer: I designed the entire course. To motivate and involve learners, I quickly illustrated why they should personally care about the topic, then designed the course so they could explore sections freely.
- Course Developer: I developed it in Articulate Storyline, and Dan Sweigert provided development assistance and some nice creativity in putting together some of the goofier scenes.
- Writer: The technical wording was set in stone, so my contribution was to lighten it up by creating scenarios. I wrote them to keep the interplay between characters light and conversational.
- Visual Designer: I designed and developed all of the graphics. Photos of job sites and reinforcing steel were provided by the client.
- Voiceover Artist?: Not me! That’s the client’s voiceover guy.