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When you think of “interactive media,” you probably think first of online self-study learning.  You might not think about the possibility of including internally produced interactive media into your real time training experiences, whether these happen in the classroom or via webinar.  Let me offer a few reasons why you should…

As much as we trainers aspire to make our real time events interactive, it is the rare experience that features more interaction than passive listening to a presenter.  There are several problems with this:

  • EGO:  Our learners’ Eyes-Glaze-Over.  They are benumbed.  They are experiencing “death-by- PowerPoint.”
  • The Great Pretenders:  Our learners seem to be with us, but are actually actively engaged in other pursuits:  reviewing their to-do lists, making notes about sundry matters unrelated to the class, thinking about their plans for the evening, etc.  (I am one of the worst “Pretenders” I know; there is something about being a captive audience that starts me salivating over a million ideas unrelated to the presentation.)
  • We trainers may not be delivering the same “lecture” to all groups.  Questions derail us.  Learner antics distract us.  We rush through our bits when the session is running overlong, leaving little time for discussion.
  • Delivering the same spiel over and over may deplete our joie de vivre.
  • The time we spend delivering our mini-lectures to our learners is not available for other undertakings, such as preparing for the next segment of the program or observing our participants to assess their degree of engagement.

Adept use of interactive media during real time events can overcome all of these challenges.  Really.

Don’t cringe at the words interactive media; you don’t need to be a George Lucas or a Flash Fenomenon to translate your mini-lectures into something much more engaging, much more consistent and much less of a drain on your energies.  I guarantee that you can do it now, with the skills you have now, or I’ll swallow my laser pointer!

First of all, think simple and small.  Don’t start by trying to create seven hours of air time for an eight-hour class.  Instead, begin by selecting a small number of points on a related topic that you’re currently delivering live.  If you haven’t already done so, capture these points in a series of PowerPoint slides.

Take a hard look at your slides to see if they are too busy with text or bullets.  More than three bullets are generally too many.  Take one slide and divide it into two or three if necessary to create more white space.  (Your narration will provide the thread that will tie together the slides.)

Next, write your script in the Notes section for each slide, including questions you want your learners to answer.  These can be simple, “What do you think?” questions or more complicated interactions, such as “choose your own adventure” scenarios.  (If you’re not yet a wiz at PowerPoint, learn how to hyperlink transparent shapes to permit “click here/go to” interactivity between slides.  It’s much easier than you might imagine.)

Next, record your narration or rope in a colleague with a mellifluous voice to do it for you.  If you have PowerPoint 2010, you can record your narration directly into your PowerPoint project with the huge benefit that you won’t have to carve up one audio file into segments associated with each slide.

Once you have a (mostly) finished project, you’ll have two options when class day rolls around:  control the presentation yourself, or entrust a remote controller to a member of your audience.  The elected learner will advance the slides in synch with your narration and click the “hot spots” as directed by their fellow learners.  For example, your question might be, “What color was the cow that jumped over the moon?”  Several options will be displayed.  Your controller would say, “What do you think, guys?” and click the most favored option, resulting in a feedback message.

What if you’ll be presenting via webinar?  You’ll have the same options, but with an interesting twist:  you can provide one of the participants the PowerPoint file in advance and then make them the moderator at the appropriate moment in the event.  (You’ll be prepared to step in if a registered learner fails to show up, of course!)

You can do much more with PowerPoint, of course:  embed a Flash Movie or YouTube video of yourself talking, for a couple of instances, but that’s a topic for another post.

So far I’ve talked only about PowerPoint.  You’ll have many more options if you couple PowerPoint with a “plug-in” like the Articulate Studio suite of applications.  You could also bypass PowerPoint altogether and create your presentation entirely using “authoring” tools like Moodle, Lectora or Course Builder.  Using any of these tools will give you access to many more bells and whistles but, in the end, your navigation and narration may be very nearly the same.

How many of these parcels of interactive media should you incorporate into a class?  It’s up to you and there is no research-based guideline that I’ve found.  My gut tells me that more is better than less, but take it one step at a time; if your first project accomplishes its purposes, create another.

Have fun and prosper!