In Part 2 of my series of blog posts on MindMeld, I had mentioned the Complexity Continuum that I like to use to illustrate how interactive learning objects (ILOs) can be thought of in terms of complexity of design and complexity of implementation. In this post, I’m going to address a chapter in my book that talks about complex ILOs that produce highly interactive experiences and how these experiences can affect learning. Most importantly though, I will explain how the Complexity Continuum can serve as a communication tool to discuss the type and number of resources needed to design and develop an ILO that meets your needs, whether it is a simple drag-and-drop activity or an advanced video-game-like experience.

Why Invest in Interactivity?

Many people can relate to static learning situations such as lecture-based courses with minimal discussion and activities. While one can argue that these are effective methods for learning complex subjects, adding interactivity can add more dimensions to learning that may not otherwise be possible. By making the experience interactive, one can bring a real-world experience into a safe, affordable and flexible learning environment that allows one to relate to learned concepts on a more personal level and increase the likelihood of successful retention. Simply put, it’s all about “learning by doing” rather than by absorption and memorization.

One particular case that I mention in my book is an ILO called Cool-It, an exemplary model of interactivity that was developed by Professor John Pfotenhauer, project manager / instructor Dave Gagnon and programmer Mike Litzkow at UW Madison’s Engineering Department. This ILO teaches learners to think like cryogenic scientists rather than be simply students of cryogenic science because it not only demonstrates the theories and formulas that dictate cryogenic science, but it forces the learner to use these concepts in a virtual lab to achieve the best results with minimum costs to beat levels. This video-game-like ILO also utilizes compelling emotions and other game mechanics to encourage a more thorough understanding of the subject by the student. An added benefit of this ILO is its ability to record a student’s choices and decisions at every stage of the “game” which provides instructors with an invaluable tool to learn about how novices become experts.

To learn more about how complex ILOs and game-based learning can improve your eLearning initiatives, please check out MindMeld at Atwood Publishing or Amazon. If you have already read the book, I appreciate any reviews or comments that you may offer.