Learn. Design. Coach. Perform.

Learn. Design. Coach. Perform.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Distraction & Online Learning

If you're making your classroom virtual, where your learners can enjoy email alerts, chat sessions, MafiaWars, and FarmVille, you are in for several big challenges.  One is that the Internet can be way more interesting than your eLearning content.  Welcome to learning in a connected environment!

A recent Lifehacker post about clock watching and distraction had me wondering -- are there eLearning distractions that are less than obvious?  Is a clock ticking down the time left in the eLearning course/section just as bad as MafiaWars and poorly designed content?  Could a side bar menu a la Articulate and Captivate be a detractor from your learning goals?

In short -- yes. In fact, Ruth Clark's work on learning efficiency suggests that anything extra negatively impacts learning outcomes. 

However, adult learners like to know in advance how to manage their time, and they also like an overview of the content.

Here are my tips for minimizing distraction:
  1. Let learners know in the course/section description and at the beginning of the course/section how much time they need to set aside.
  2. Include a course menu that collapses and a great introduction screen.  Learners can look at the menu, if they want.  But, it isn't distracting their attention from the actual content you want them to learn.
  3. Block out as much as you can for as long as you can.  Set your player to open the size of the learner's screen. 
  4. Prevent learners from playing training in the background and never really absorbing the content.  Insert interactions to "auto-pause" the content every 2-3 minutes.  You can also use the "next" button every so often to stop the content. 
  5. If the learner needs to come back later, they can pick up where they left off.  Use "resume" settings. 
  6. Learners can usually hold tight for five minutes without interactions.  Create smaller sections or chunks of material.  You can create a series of 5 min sections that learners click & launch separately.
  7. Create activities where learners need to go out to the Internet such as scavenger hunts with fill-in-the-blank assessments or get social with peer-to-peer research challenges in a discussion thread associated with your eLearning.
Have some ideas, too?  What do you do?  Please, add a comment with your solutions.

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