Top five tips for creating effective interactions

Interactions pose a dilemma to all instructional designers. While they can be fun, visually exciting and effective, they can also require a lot of development and be difficult to create.

It’s worth taking the time to get your approach to interactions right because they’re key to making e-learning effective. Think about it… do you remember how to cook by reading the recipe or by having a go at cooking it?

Here are our top five tips for creating effective interactions…

1. Make them relevant

Interactions should mirror the realities of the job. If you’re creating a financial management course, why not get the learner to solve a fictional financial dilemma? This gives them an opportunity to safely make mistakes without looking stupid or incurring consequences. You can also surprise the learner by following up on an interaction – demonstrate the consequences of the action they took and those they didn’t. Focus on what learners need to DO not just what they need to KNOW!

2. Test, don’t just tell

Just like in the classroom most people prefer to be involved in something active rather than a passive experience – learning doesn’t occur passively. Test the learner when introducing a new topic and make the learner justify their answers. Don’t just ask the learner to click, you should also ask them to think. One of our favourite testing interactions is the myth or reality screen. You can surprise the learner and dispel misconceptions by including false statements and delivering the true facts in the feedback.

3. Be creative… and savvy

It’s possible to make interactions carry a visual punch by making small changes to traditional and familiar templates. Why not animate hotspots, or use images in the place of boxes? Get to know your templates – you may be able to use an existing one – and find out what your developers can achieve in a set amount of hours.

4. Follow the Goldilocks example

Each learner is different, so getting the degree of difficulty right can be a challenge. We try to follow the Goldilocks example: if it’s too easy, people will be bored… If it’s an impossible task, people won’t try… success should be possible but not guaranteed! Double negatives and options that are very similar can make interactions too difficult. Similarly, the longest answer being the correct one can make testing too easy.

5. Know when not to use an interaction

Think – does an interaction really add value? Or are you adding an interaction for the sake of it? Some parts of a client’s content may seem more suited to interactions than others, and this is fine. However, try to make sure your interactions are fairly distributed and test the learner on the key learning objectives.

About the author

Catherine Blanchard - Instructional designer