Purposeful interaction means the learner interacts with the content, not just the course navigation. They “experience” the content. This was listed as the third E-learning Design Factor in my “Is Your Training Being Retained?” blog post.
Administrators at a construction company were incorrectly completing an important insurance form, leaving the company open to a lot of financial risk. Selections on the form were key in establishing insurance requirements for the construction project. A short e-learning course was developed where the learner consulted resources and then completed the form during the course. They weren’t asked to click A, B, C or D regarding how to complete the form. They weren’t asked to click Next through a series of bullets describing the form’s importance. They actually completed the form and virtually experienced the consequences of correct and incorrect selections. Talk about a direct transfer of behavior.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to multiple choice questions or even the need to click the Next button. If the learner has to stop and read a case study before moving on to a scenario-based interaction, clicking Next works great. If the learner is working through decision points in a scenario reflecting a real-world situation, clicking Decision A, B, C or D might be just the thing. The point is that the interaction serves a purpose in connecting the learner with the content… not just making sure they’re still awake during the course.
Take time to really think about what the learner needs to be able to do when the course is over and connect the interaction in the course as closely as possible to that behavior. Then they can go and “do whatever” after the course.
And after you have them purposefully interacting, let them do it over and over. That’s for my next post: “Repetition... without Irritation” - another key design factor to encourage retention. Stay tuned.