I like to use characters in courses because they can personalize a course and lend themselves to creating a more informal tone and an easy means of adding humor.
Here are some ways I like to use characters in e-learning.
- Guide or facilitator – Typically this person is the expert that walks you through the content and facilitates discussions, interaction, etc. At times I like to have two guides to break up any possible monotony. When working with two “experts” I will even include disagreement or some “ribbing” between the two. This makes it more entertaining and keeps participants’ attention. FYI: Disagreements are usually humorous in nature and should not compromise the integrity of any specific learning content in the course.
- Coworkers/project team – A course I once developed for an updated teller system consisted of the participant being assigned to a project team. As a member of the team you are assigned to numerous tasks and also assist and interact with other team members. It not only keeps participants on their toes, but they learned about the system and hopefully felt more vested in it too.
- Naive, struggling learner and/or jovial coworker – This character can occur along side a “straight man” and provides not just opportunities for humor, but chances to clarify and reinforce concepts as we correct their misconceptions.
- Monsters, ghosts, robots, anthropomorphic animals, etc. – I absolutely love to surprise course participants with the unusual. I do recommend that it not be random, but that the type of monster, animal, etc. relate to the learning in some way even if a humorous tie-in. For example, I once used the ghost of Alexander Graham Bell to provide instruction on the new phone system. Just never use a cyclops in a course, that just doesn’t make sense.
Here are some good resources on using characters. Cathy Moore’s Dump the Drone, which includes great information on using characters among other useful things, The Writers Gateway’s Have You Thought of Character Driven Stories for Your e-Learning?, and Speak Out’s Characters in eLearning.
If you have ideas or examples on how to use characters in e-learning, please feel free to share in the comments section.
I am currently creating a course and as usual it involves numerous development tools. This course consists of using three main tools. Here they are and why I am using them.
Adobe Flash – My favorite tool of choice. I like its flexibility in making the interactive assets I need for the course and not being constrained by prepackaged interactives that come with many e-learning development tools. In this case I am making the course itself in Flash. This includes each page, characters, animation, and interactive elements with the exception of the software simulations (sims) and the final assessment/quiz.
Adobe Captivate – The course will contain many “try me” sims for a software upgrade in which we are implementing. I am developing these in Captivate, which in my opinion is the best out there for creating software sims. Each sim will launch in a new window from the Flash course. Keeping these in a separate folder and launched as individual SWFs will also help keep the file size and load time down.
Articulate – Presenter and Quizmaker are providing the assessment and an ease of packaging it as a SCORM compliant course. What I like is the ease of developing an assessment in Quizmaker. In this case I will take my Flash course and import the SWF to the first page of Articulate Presenter. A single button in my menu, called Knowledge Check, will move the user from the Presenter page containing the course SWF to the second page where the assessment begins. The ability to have a Flash button, or menu, work within Presenter was the kicker. This allowed me to get the best of both worlds; Flash and using Articulate to create the assessment and SCORM packaging. Here is a tutorial from Screenr that shows how you can make a Flash menu that will change slides in Presenter.