7 Ways to Create Engaging eLearning with Articulate Storyline

1.  Personalise the Learning Experience

A really simple but effective way to personalise the learning experience and engage learners is to capture a learner’s name, then reference their name as they progress through the course.  In Articulate Storyline this is achieved using text variables and is a simple 3-step process explained in this article by Nicole Legault: Add and Display a User’s Name in Storyline.  Here’s an example of how this works: Creating Effective Meetings

Another way you can personalise your course design is by offering separate learning paths based on the learner’s job role.  Whilst not built in Articulate Storyline, this example by David Anderson explains how you could use this concept in your course design by building branching scenarios: Hands-On: Creating Branching Scenarios

2.  Make the Course Visually Appealing

Learners find it difficult to be engaged if the course doesn’t appeal to their visual senses and may actually judge the value of a course’s content by the visual design.  The key ingredients to good visual design include colour, contrast, repetition, alignment and balance.

Before you start building your course, it’s a good idea to define your key design elements.  Articulate Storyline comes with a range of built-in colour themes to choose from, or you can easily create and save your own.

There are some other useful resources freely available that can assist you with choosing colour for your course design.  You can read more about this in this post “Choosing Colours for eLearning”.

One way to achieve contrast in your course design is to choose contrasting fonts.  You can select from a range of built in theme fonts in Articulate Storyline, or create your own custom theme.

Deciding on a style for graphics, images, icons and other design elements and using this style throughout the course slides will help to ensure consistency and repetition.  You can easily format these design elements and maintain consistency in line with your chosen colour theme by using the format options in the context sensitive ribbons.

Alignment is a critical design principle.  All elements on a slide should line up with “something” – they shouldn’t be just randomly spaced.  There are a number of alignment options available in Articulate Storyline to help with this, including the ability to distribute elements horizontally or vertically with the same amount of space between them all, or you can choose to view the Gridlines and manually align your elements to these.

If you need some help with balancing the design elements on a slide, you could start with one of the slide templates.  When you go to insert a new slide, choose the Templates tab, then select your template – the “Character Display Panels” template slides show here comes built-in with Articulate Storyline, are fully customisable and are a great starting point for designing well-balanced slides.  Once you start to build your own collection of slide designs, you can add these to this templates area and reuse them in future designs.

3.  Give Learners a Choice

Creating a learning experience that allows learners to make choices throughout the course is a good way to actively involve them in their own learning and keep them engaged.  This can be as simple as allowing them to choose a character to guide them through the course, or choose what they would like to do next.

This New Hire Orientation Drag Navigation demo by David Anderson presents learners with a choice by prompting them to drag the course character through a door to immediately branch to a new scene.

By incorporating choices throughout a course you cater to different learning styles and the course navigation becomes less linear.  Giving the learner control over their learning will keep them more engaged and help with retention of information.

4.  Encourage Exploration and Discovery by Including Interactivity

Interactivity is about letting learners decide what they’ll see on the screen by inviting them to interact, rather than “pushing” the information to them.

Almost all interactivity is built on three elements – click, hover or drag and engages the learner by requiring them to make decisions, either by applying what they’ve learned or giving them control over the content they want to see.

This Flat Design Office Workspace example created in Storyline by Andrew Sellon is proposed as an alternative way to present a new manager training program.  The learner accesses the course content by clicking on the various elements on the virtual desktop.

In this example by Andrew Sellon, he uses Articulate Storyline to create an interactive photo of his desktop.  Using the markers in Storyline, he adds 16 points of interest.  The learner is prompted to hover over each of these points to explore the audio setup and a description displays, then by clicking on each marker a window opens with more details.  This is a really effective way to invite exploration and present the course content from the one screen.

This Customer Service drag and drop example by Tom Kuhlmann uses a character and dialogue to present the learner with a challenge, requires them to make a choice and interact with the course by dragging and dropping their response, then uses the character to provide the feedback on the consequence of that choice.  This type of interactivity is based on the 3C model (challenge, choice, consequence) and is a very powerful way to present course content for maximum retention of knowledge.

There are a lot of considerations when building interactive eLearning – this article by Tom Kuhlmann provides more information on this concept, including examples of each element and recommended resources: Here Are the 3 Building Blocks for Interactive eLearning

5.  Use Case Studies or Scenarios

The power of surprise is an important element in the learning process.  When learning is predictable and the element of surprise is eliminated, learners tend to be passive and take less active roles in their learning.  By incorporating scenarios into your design, learners will be compelled to take different views and by bringing the unexpected into the learning, it becomes more authentic.

In this branching scenario by Melissa Milloway, learners are presented with four cases and can choose the order in which they view these.  Each case portrays a character and depicts real life situations relevant to workplace violence.  The learner is asked to choose a course of action and consequences are fed back based on their choice.

In this Storyline example by Richard Watson learners explore emergency response options.  The addition of a countdown timer makes this scenario more realistic and the comprehensive feedback slides reinforce the consequences of the learner’s decisions – even being indecisive has a cost in this training!

To build a great scenario, the content should relate back to the real-life situation your learners will face when they go to apply the information from your course. This article by Nicole Legault explains how you can Build 3-Step Scenarios Like a Pro With Storyline.

6.  Use Characters

In an online environment, learners can find courses impersonal, unnatural and boring if someone or something does not fill the role of an instructor or trainer.  Effective use of characters in an eLearning experience not only enhances the course design, but engages learners helps to increase knowledge retention.

Articulate Storyline comes with a range of illustrated and photographic characters each with a variety of poses and expressions that you can easily insert into your course design, or you can use your own characters.  Here’s a chart of the illustrated characters that come with Storyline: Quick Chart: Articulate Storyline Characters

You could use characters as presenters to present the course information to the learner, or as avatars to guide the learner through the course and assess their knowledge through questioning.

You could also embed the learning in conversational dialogue of two or more characters, or use storytelling or scenarios where the characters play a central role that the learner can learn a lesson from.  This post on 3 key Elements of eLearning Storytelling provides more information on the elements of a good story and how these can be applied to eLearning design.

In this Maths Skills example by Linda Lorenzitti, progressive dialogue between two characters leads to a maths lesson, then an interactive quiz to test the learner.  The comic book style design and the choice of characters add another dimension to what could otherwise be a difficult topic to present in an engaging way in an eLearning course.

7. Use Audio and Video

Effective use of audio makes an online course appealing.  Good quality audio narration enhances the learner’s interest and concentration and helps reduce cognitive load.  You can insert audio into Storyline from a file, or record straight into your project using your microphone.  If you need some tips on working with audio, there’s more information in this post:  Tips for working with audio in Articulate Storyline

Videos are a great way to engage your learners emotionally and there’s no doubt that it’s often easier to learn by watching how to do something than by reading about it.  Storyline makes the addition of video to your course very easy – you can add video from a file or a website, or you can record directly into your project using a webcam.  If you need some tips on working with video, there’s more information in this post:  Tips for working with video in Articulate Storyline.

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