While at the Virtual School Society's LearnNowBC conference in Vancouver, British Columbia last week, I had the opportunity to speak to conference attendees during Thursday morning's general session. I shared my "New Rules for Engagement" - things to consider when thinking of ways to make learning experiences more engaging for learners of all ages. It's been a topic of interest for me for several years now. I've included a link to a 300-word summary on the subject here Download Top 10.Campus Computing 2007. I understand that the LearnNowBC conference organizers are going to make my slides available to conference attendees; if you want the full presentation deck you should check their website. I will be posting an abbreviated version of the preso here on the blog in the next few days. If you are feeling brave, you can sign up for a free LearnNowBC account to watch a webcast of my presentation here.
What I didn't talk about in the presentation was some of the technical background for my interest - the fact that web designers and developers are coming up with remarkable ways to engage consumers with content, services and experiences. Web applications have come a long way from the first hard-coded unchanging Web pages and CGI Web server scripts. We've all come to understand that experience (alternatively UX, for user experience) is a hugely important variable used with Web 2.0 schemes and beyond. In some cases experience refers to some fairly explicit things that RIA (Rich Internet Applications) developers need to think about, including a view of what it takes to enable a high-quality, interactive online experience:
- It must use a ubiquitous client to maximize the audience reach.
- It must run unchanged across the Internet on multiple platforms.
- It must execute well across low- or high-bandwidth connections.
- It needs to restore processing power (not just rendering capabilities) to the client.
- It must deliver engaging user interfaces with high degrees of interactivity.
- It needs to represent processes, data configuration, sale, and feedback complexity.
- It must use audio, video images, and text in a seamless manner.
- It must support the mobile work flow by allowing users to work on and offline.
- It must allow the client to determine for itself what content or data to access and when.
- It must access multiple middle-tier services (both .NET or Java) and back-end data stores.
- It must provide a dynamic and powerful front end for the evolving Web services–based network using emerging standards such as XML, Ajax.
- It must integrate with legacy applications and systems.
- It must allow the incremental addition of new functions to existing Web applications and environments to get the most out of existing Web application investments.
(NOTE: I learned all this stuff when I was at Macromedia during the early 2000s -when Macromedia was working on what Beth Davis, Tom Hale and others had started calling "Rich Internet Applications". Whoda thunk they were going to end up naming a new category of web applications. Way to go you guys.)
But experience is also a subjective construct. And I did talk about this part in the session last week. I suggested that educators could learn some important lessons from the "experience economy", and pointed to some very specific and well know examples of experience extending the value of a brand. Specifically:
- Starbucks is more than a cup of coffee (e.g., expectation of a place to hang out; WiFi; consistent expectations for coffee, snacks, all over the world)
- iTunes is more than music (micro-economic exchange model for content authors, demonstrated with iTunes, iTunesU, and now with the App Center)
- Amazon is more than books (gift recommendations; purchase recommendations)
- Why shouldn't learning be more than good pedagogy and effective instructional design?
In the new eLearning, engagement and experience really do matter.
I also suggested that that we needed to look to other disciplines to see how they are dealing with life in the "Age of Engage". I offered some examples specifically from advertising, and summarized empirical evidence describing what it takes to bring about a sustained change perception, opinion, affect and ability.
So, from all that, I boiled my research and readings, stories and experiences on this topic down into eight heuristics, New Rules for Engagement for teaching and learning stakeholders to consider every time they think about what it takes to enable learning experiences that engage and inspire.
Here are my 8 Simple Rules for Engaging Learners:
- Capture your learners' attention - With everything going on out there, you need them to focus.
- Convince them to care - What difference will this new information make? Don't keep it a secret.
- Motivate them to change - Can you articulate the WIIFM ("What's in it for ME?") for stakeholders?
- Give them choices - Engagement comes from finding ones own way, with guidance to make it happen.
- Connect them with community - everyone likes reinforcement from others who think the same way.
- Induce them to participate - Make it seem like it's THEIR idea.
- Enable opportunities to contribute - See Point 4, above.
- Make it an experience to remember.