Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Podcast for Training Magazine

Here is a summary of the podcast I recently did with Training magazine Senior Writer Margery Weinstein about a better way to learn.

Margery Weinstein: When you say "interactivity in training," what are you referring to?
VJ: Learners are better engaged when their trainer establishes a two-way dialog. Monolog, as we know, is boring. This is true regardless of the learning modality – be it classroom instruction or e-learning. By “interactivity” I mean an artifact (such as a piece of software) that allows for a two-way dialog that is non-trivial. I would say a button-click is too trivial to qualify being called interactivity. A multiple-choice question isn’t a whole lot more interactive either. On the other hand, a jeopardy game, or a sales simulation are examples of interactivity. Here the learner is fully engaged in a dialog with the computer, or the teacher or another learner.

Margery Weinstein: How can technology be used to enhance, rather than hinder, interactivity during training?
VJ: That’s a great question. Contrary to common intuition, the initial use of technology in any form of dialog can actually hinder, rather than enhance, interactivity. Consider PowerPoint presentations – many of them are simply quite boring. Or consider a variety of e-learning courses that are online page flippers at-best. Why does this happen? The problem is not the technology, but the way we use it. By introducing technology, we eliminate some of the direct interaction. However, we don’t always provide equivalent technology-based interaction in its place. What we do provide is menus and buttons. Meaningful interactions go beyond mindless button clicking. They provide a context that is sufficiently engrossing and invite action from the learner. Once the learner acts, they provide a response and build a two-way dialog. When technology is used to build such experiences, you will see it enhancing, rather than hindering interactivity.

Margery Weinstein: What is the biggest mistake trainers make when it comes to interactivity, and what's the best way for them to avoid making this mistake?
VJ: We see trainers approaching interactivity in a couple of different ways, and both have their problems. Some trainers confuse slide transitions and bullets and special effects and navigation buttons with meaningful interactivity. They implicitly assume these mere interface elements will somehow deliver interactivity. No wonder, learners are disappointed with the results. On the other hand, some training professionals flex their programming muscles and build highly interactive experiences from scratch. This delivers highly engaging courses, but only at considerable cost, time and maintenance overhead. The best way to enhance training with interactivity is to re-use interactive templates that are customizable. Rapid interactivity is a great paradigm for trainers that want to get ahead with interactivity quickly and easily. You pick a template, fill in the content, customize the look, tweak the behavior and publish the interactive object and include it in your course. So you build a learning game in minutes rather than days! That is the power of rapid interactivity.

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