Tweaking the Sliders of Digital Learning Content

Tweaking the Sliders of Digital Learning Content

It was late into last night, almost the hours of today, when I finally turned off the digital learning production here. I haven’t been a 9-5 type guy for years and if creativity is flowing, who am I to stop it in its tracks?

It was around 8pm, just after tea, when I settled down for the final session. The little people were in bed, rubbish was on the tele and my working day still felt quite young. I was on a roll! Here in my working space, the funky visual coloured wall lighting was on, I was kinaesthetically touching, clicking and tapping a variety of buttons and gadgets, tasting the coffee and smelling the recently re-filled room freshener. Sandalwood. I was engaged with my senses.

With sight, smell, taste and touch all accommodated for, I realised there had been a deafening silence around all day during the daylight hours. Some tunes were needed. A quick Tweet asking for recommendations of tunes to put on whilst working soon filled that audio gap and had me exploring a whole range of genres!

So there I was, fully engaged in my environment, with all senses amused. It all contributed to the work I was doing and creativity flowed nicely.

It wasn’t until later when I finished, that I stopped to think how relevant the multi-sensory environment I was in was to the work I was doing. My work to create digital learning. That’s what it’s all about. Of course in digital, we’ve just got the three senses to work with in the absence of smellovision and tastovision. We work with; audio, visual and kinaesthetic. I like to think of these as ‘channels’.

Now, I don’t agree that we as learners are one type or another and fit into just one of those particular boxes. I believe we tune into all three of those ‘channels’. Sometimes one at a time, sometimes all at the same time, all very much dependent on what we’re doing, where we are, what we’re trying to learn and how engaged we are. These channels to me are like volume sliders that digital learning producers tweak. Set any one of them too high and content is distracting. Set any one of them too low and content becomes dis-engaging.

In answer to the question that often comes up as to how we make digital content more engaging, that’s it in a nutshell. What do you need to do to turn the slider up (or down) on visuals? Is the audio deafeningly silent? Is that right for your content? Does it need narration, music or both? Or is it more relevant to have nothing? What about the touch and feel of your content? How are learners going to interact with it? Will they click or will they tap? Is it beautifully intuitively easy to do so? Or is it going to be a complete pain for them as they try to line the smallest surface area of their fingertip up with the two or three pixels that trigger the desired action?

So a question for you. Where are the sliders in your learning material, be it digital or not? Think presentations, handouts, even the learning environment? What sliders need turning on? Or off? Or up or down?



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Ady Howes - Community Manager, DPG

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  • Hi Ady,

    Your question somewhat mirrors the trends of digital learning, doesn't it?

    The phrase 'Gamification' could be the kinaesthetic learning - generating interaction through the use of quizzes, clicking and other tools.

    Video learning covers both visual and audio (depending on how it's been created). Some learners like this form of learning, but it may not appeal so much to those touchy-feely types. 

    Voiceovers and podcasts cover the audio aspect - certain people enjoy the instructional nature of this especially when carrying out a task on a computer with the ability to stop and start at their convenience.

    Maybe in the future digital learning will embrace the other senses? I would welcome the smell of fresh coffee and a draw on my PC that dispensed a newly-baked croissant at the most appropriate time of day!

  • Interesting question Ady, as always.

    We have 5 senses which are all important in setting the scene and creating the conditions in which we can learn. We also need to be in the mood, motivated, not too tired, not overwhelmed by the information when it starts to come our way for processing and so on.

    I like my learners to think and to build new knowledge onto their pre existing foundations. I like to ensure this happens, which means I enjoy the interactional aspect of helping others learn and respond to this in a dynamic way. No two sessions are likely to be the same, as it depends entirely upon the individuals involved. I would consider using music to reinforce messages or to create relevant feelings for the learners (and turning it off as well), providing suficient changes of activities (including breaks, which I find hugely important for mopping up the "multi ability perspectives" and for learning more about each of the individual delegates), allowing time for them to reflect and to share the benefit of their thoughts with others and to listen to others' experiences to reinforce any new messages.

    From the digital learning perspective, I am currently considering a change of one of the "off the shelf" e learning packages we deliver, for an alternative one. The one we have been using is 3 hours long, repetitive in content, droning and slow in narration and limited in terms of interaction required. (It filled a niche for a short time and delivered a need.) The new package delivers more info in less time, requiring significantly more user interaction in order to progress. I am not sure how it will be received, as I haven't piloted it yet. (I have some concerns that our learners may not cope with the style and degree of interaction needed.)

    Until I found this new package, I had been considering moving from e learning to a real life (ie not virtual) game complete with bits to move, and interaction between individuals or teams, in order to promote full engagement and to enable learner focussed material. My only hesitation is that my team want us to provide something that isn't entirely reliant upon me delivering or facilitating it, so that they can carry on delivering requisite content without me! (we deliver technical and compliance training.)

    I have found that some learners like the narrated version of our e learning modules and others prefer to just read the content without the narration. Others prefer to skip them all together and just do the assessment without the learning! Some want to be assessed others don't. Everyone is different so it is difficult for any digital package to deliver all things to all learners! "Everything in moderation" is probably as good a bet as any!

    I also believe that "variety is the spice of life", so I hate to deliver the same thing more than once to the same learner, which makes me a fickle buyer of "off the shelf" packages.

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