Written by:

Holly Macdonald


June 23, 2015

There are a lot of causes or issues in the world and we often see wonderful websites or resources that are beautifully presented to provide information related to a particular need. As an instructional designer, I often find myself identifying that a form of training or instruction could enhance a campaign or website and increase the likelihood of long term behaviour change. There are some elements of instruction, and particularly e-learning that I think could enhance a website:

  1. Interactive video – adding in context and engaging critical thinking about a story or situation in a video could be incredibly powerful. Imagine the video plays and at a certain point, it stops to ask you what to do next, or it points out something that you may not have noticed, but is critical to learn for prevention. Consider Lifesaver, an interactive film.
  2. Branching scenarios, especially first person perspective scenarios – there are lots of places where a slight adjustment in language could make a big difference. Instead of “what should <insert name here> do?”, it’s “what would YOU do”. Branching in other ways can help you show the variety of options related to a single concept. Here’s an example of one that helps you see the impact of your choices, here’s another one.
  3. Interactive features especially with contextual feedback – providing context-sensitive information really underscores the learning opportunity. This might be taking notes within your e-learning and email them to yourself, or completing a survey within the course (at a point in time) to build a profile. Maybe you are able to drag things across the screen to sort or reveal more information. Here’s an example about recycling.
  4. Voice over narration – somewhat overused in corporate projects (especially where they are reading what’s on screen), but if they add emotion, it will engage people on another level. Your web resource is now a bit more like a movie than a website – consider this example: The Great Flu.
  5. Sequencing – providing content in a sequence allows you to guide someone through the content and build their understanding and skill in a stepped way. Using sequencing can also enable the content to be layered and repeated, which is crucial for learning and recall.

Most of these interactive or media elements in e-learning are actually about CONTEXT. Context is so important to good instruction and takes your content to a level where people can clearly identify what’s in it for them. It also allows them to internalize. It isn’t just information about the cause or issue, but it’s about them and how they are more empowered to manage themselves. Most importantly the focus is on what will they learn, not just what information they might be exposed to.

Think about some of the things that you’ve seen advertised or campaigns. Here’s a list of some that I noted in my twitter feed or things I noted in the Instructional Designer’s Mindset:

  • Mental health awareness: youth, men, First Nations, new mothers, etc
  • Gender identity
  • Health Prevention
  • Injury Prevention
  • Health education (i.e. sex ed)
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Aging (i.e. supporting aging parents)
  • Financial literacy, especially for kids
  • Investment fraud awareness
  • Web literacy
  • Food waste
  • Reducing garbage or other eco-living goals
  • Citizen science initiatives
  • Healthy eating
  • Parenting
  • Violence prevention
  • Anti-bullying

Imagine you were in a position to do community outreach for an issue like this and you wanted to maximize the impact that you could make for your cause/issue. You’d want to invest your resources into something that is going to change behaviour, right?  Consider going beyond the brochure and website and find out about e-learning. The best part about e-learning, is that it will not only increase the likelihood that people will learn a new behaviour, but it can also extend your reach (geography is no longer an issue), strengthens your ability to sustain the learning, and you can launch a campaign with the goal to change behaviour, not just increase awareness. It can also benefit your certification program and complement your in person training.

We’re focusing on how we can help organizations that build capacity or address issues like these over the coming months. E-learning doesn’t need to be corporate focused or fall into the domain of post-secondary education. E-learning can be used to enhance and extend existing awareness campaigns and an instructional design mindset can go a long way to changing behaviour. We’ll include stories of how our clients have incorporated e-learning so you can get an idea of how it might help you too. It would be a great thing to be able to build capacity in our communities and help people live happier, healthier lives, don’t you think?