No one wants to take static online courses nowadays. With advances in technology like augmented reality, virtual reality, and the immersive play of today’s video games, learners expect more than just static text and videos.
The good news is that most of the tools course creators use already have this notion of interactivity available. What’s more important is that implementing an interactive online training program is easier nowadays. It’s just a matter of committing to getting the right type of hardware and software and learning to use them.
What constitutes an interactive online training program?
Online interactive training programs are defined by the inclusion of interactive elements in courses. These interactive elements also have different extents of complexity. For example, the most basic courses don’t have any interactive elements – meaning that these are the passive training courses that usually consist of reading the text, watching videos, or listening to audio clips.
There are courses that would include basic participant activities like clicking or pressing hot spots and doing drag and drop tasks. More complex courses require intermediate learner interaction like animated video, customized audio, and interactive images. These modules also usually include branching scenarios, digital stories, and more complex drag and drop tasks.
The ideal interaction in a course, though is the immersive learning experience. In these instances, the audience has full control of the learning environment. Think of opesn-world, interactive, immersive games – that’s how most of these learning modules go.
Interactive eLearning programs can have a mix of these different elements and amount interaction. While, of course, fully immersive courses require a bit more technical know-how (and more resources), it is still possible to include the very basic to the most complex elements of interactivity in a course.
Why implement interactive online learning for your training program?
Having an interactive online training program has its perks. The first benefit is that it enhances exploration. Having the ability to explore the learning environment piques the learners’ interests and keeps them coming back for more.
Another benefit is that interactive simulations are based on reality-based situations, and thus can provide better learning opportunities than lectures or static text or videos. These types of scenarios give the learner the opportunity to put knowledge into action.
The third advantage of an interactive online training program is that it allows the system to assess learner performance spontaneously and non-intrusively. Assessments for interactive courses usually take place as decision points for branching scenarios, instead of formal quizzes or tests.
The most important benefit of interactive courses is that they tap into learners’ emotions; thus, increasing retention. There is an old Chinese proverb that goes: “Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me. I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.” The next line would probably go, “Make me feel. I’ll improve.”
Aside from making a more memorable impact on the audience, immersive online training programs also boost engagement and motivate learners more. Not only that, it also encourages exploration and also appeals to the audience’s emotions.
How Do You Develop a Highly Interactive Online Training Program?
We’ve discussed what makes courses interactive and the different levels of interactivity. We’ve also tackled the benefits of having such a program available for your learners. Let’s now take a look at different examples of immersive interactive online training for your organization that you can implement.
1.Incorporate an interactive element on each slide
An interactive online training program wouldn’t be such without the interactive elements. As a rule of thumb – especially if you are using slides/pages – always include interactive elements on each slide or page, as much as possible. It doesn’t matter even if it’s just a simple press of a button to make something pop up or just a simple drag and drop activity. What’s important is that the learner has to take action in order to progress.
You always need to make sure that the learner has to do something for every slide that you insert in the online course. The lack of consistent interaction in a module (or the absence, thereof) kind of defeats the purpose of immersive training programs. What you want are active learners, not passive spectators.
2. Use digital storytelling in your courses
Digital storytelling is a fairly new term that involves characterizing a person’s ‘story’ through digital means. In addition, it is the users/learners who generate content for this approach. More importantly, the most critical aspect of digital storytelling is that it invokes emotions.
A good example of using digital storytelling is to document employees’ day at work and use that as content for the course. This can help in onboarding new employees and can also set the proper expectations for particular roles in the organization.
You can also include the learners’ experiences by having them document their learning themselves. This can be as easy as posting on social media like ‘live-tweeting,’ taking pictures and videos then posting them on the intranet or giving short testimonials for the course. The key to making digital storytelling successful is that these ‘stories’ can be seen, accessed, and used as content on the course itself
3. Include Interactive 360° images / video
The use of interactive 360° video is also a welcome addition to any interactive online training program. What this does is that it allows the learner to look around the environment. Immersive learning experiences necessitate that the audience take control of the learning environment – and this is definitely one way to do it!
Interactive videos like these are best used for virtual tours and depicting working environments that would involve surveying the surroundings. Another great use for this type of media is having the learners interact with different characters in a scene.
And oh – employing this type of interactive media is also a precursor to using VR (virtual reality) for learning! So, if you have plans of employing VR learning in the future, you might want to get more knowledgeable on this type media as early as now.
4. Create a simulated environment where learners can freely practice
One of the biggest needs of learners is an environment where the learned skills can be freely practiced without the fear of judgment or the dread of making mistakes. Having an interactive online training program can simulate a controlled working environment that learners exactly need.
Creating online learning environments and situations that can be reviewed and revisited by learners. Having these available would not only engage learners more but would also encourage exploration. These ‘safe’ learning environments are great opportunities to also inform the learners of the possible consequences for wrong choices – without actually going through the entire ordeal.
5. Devise branching scenarios
Branching scenarios put the learner in-charge of how the entire course would go. The learner gets to choose how the story goes based on the choices at each decision point. Each decision point would affect the flow of the entire course.
Branching scenarios somehow make the course more of an adventure-type game – with different endings and storylines depending on the choices. In addition, it also makes learners more engaged in a course; as compared to a linear storyline. More importantly, using branching scenarios is a great way to assess learners’ decision-making, critical thinking, and analytical skills.
With the available technology today, creating an immersive and highly interactive online training program is already a possibility for every training team. You don’t really need to spend that much or even be that technically proficient to pull it off.
The examples we’ve discussed above can be executed with equipment readily available and affordable today (like 360° cameras, for example). Most authoring software also comes with features that will allow you to add these types of interactions in your courses. Having the combination of right software and hardware can make having an interactive online training program very possible and feasible. And with everything that’s needed readily available, the only limitation is your (or your team’s) creativity.