In this blog, I wish to share my experience on how I developed an interesting online course though it had technical content.
This course on finance was a challenge for a non-financial person like me. Initially, it panicked me as I have no idea about finance. But, as an instructional designer, my approach towards this project was more on “educating not teaching”. For this, I did a lot of content comprehension to educate myself before I educate others. We will now see how I faced this challenge and accomplished my goal.
We received a new project from a leading electronic manufacturing company, which offered me a challenge on educating its employees on “Understanding the Profit and Loss Statement (P&L)”. No surprise, I was shocked when I heard that it was a finance related course. Somehow I started comprehending it, and no wonder, it was just Greek and Latin to me. Firstly, I just had a glance and then started a thorough comprehension, and to my wonder, I understood it to some extent by which I could start my storyboarding with no doubts.
The question that was hitting my mind all the time was how do I visualize it. Adding a P&L statement and text on the screen with a narrator in the background – is it not the same old idea? Then, what is the point in thinking so much about the course that will not help the learner in any way or cannot educate him. Then, I thought of making a rough prototype which could help me visualize the content. After making a lot of trials, there came an idea of introducing two friendly-looking 2D characters which can be represented as a finance executive and a new hire, where the executive will educate the employee on the P&L statement.
The entire online course moves around the conversation between the employee and the executive. There were questions arising from the hire, and the executive would answer all of his questions. This is how the online course was made more interesting, leaving the old-fashioned visualization behind. This was something unique compared to the other courses that I did before. I added friendly words such as wow, that’s good, well done etc. that made the course appear like a general conversation between the two characters. The course was made interesting, by using the characters and narration in a friendly tone and a conversation that does not overload the learner but gets him involved in the course with all fun and interest.
Here are the sample screenshots of the visualization I used for the prototype.
The best part of this online course was the office background which gave the actual look and feel of an office. It created an environment and a feeling of reality, which helped in enhancing the learner’s knowledge. Adding these 2D characters with a good narration gained the attention of the learner. It shows that this kind of visualization with characters is ideal for presenting technical content effectively. The aim behind this approach was not just to create the look and feel with rich graphics but to educate the learner about the P&L statement in a simple way without any ‘excess load’ and make him get involved in a fun-filled manner.
A sample screenshot for presenting the P&L statement.
This screenshot shows what the executive is teaching the new hire. This course had all the standards that we generally use in our online courses such as formative assessments, exercises etc., with the same kind of visualization to make him more engaged.
What will you do if you have to make a technical onlinecourse interesting? Do not panic, use characters with a good narration and get it a conversational flow; it will make your course look good, enhance the learner’s knowledge and add fun though the content is dry. If you have any views about this blog post, please do share them with us.