When a health service provider recently approached Elearn Australia’s Sarah Bock, they knew they had a challenge on their hands.
They wanted to deliver an online educational program to health workers spread across a vast geographical area. Some of these workers had limited computer literacy and access to training and were demographically diverse.
Engaging learners is integral to the success of online learning.
When designing the program with the working group, Sarah dug deep to find out more about the target cohort and what might help them engage emotionally with an online course.
“We talked about diversity of people, bodies and accents. From a learner’s perspective, if they see people they regard as their peers in the course it creates a sense of familiarity, which in turn increases the relatability of the elearning.”
This relatability was built into the educational program through a series of scenario-based stories using real workers, clients, and their actual workplace environment.
“We recruited people from the target learner group to be in the photos as well as the people they’re working with. Real-life situations in real workplaces.
“They’re wearing the same uniforms that the learner wears; they’re working with clients who also belong in the same demographic or cultural group they are working with; they’re seeing equipment or forms that they commonly use in their workplace (e.g. the correct blister packs, medication, trolleys, rooms). It all creates familiarity. It helps breaks down the barrier between technology and real-life.”
In addition to creating familiarity of setting, the use of real people in real scenarios broke down learning barriers around expertise to help foster a sense of belonging.
“When learners see their peers in situ, it’s easier for them to identify. Those who come to online learning feeling out of their depth with computers or language are able to see something familiar and say “okay yes, this is for me”. You take a few steps forward in breaking down those barriers.
“It also creates the sense of their peers being experts in the field. It generates a confidence. Rather than being lectured to by an ‘expert’, they recognise that they belong to a group of people who are really skilled and sharing their knowledge. That increases motivation to learn and be better at what you’re already doing.”
Using authentic speakers for voiceovers (i.e. narration by real workers rather than professional voiceover actors) adds another level to this sense of familiarity.
“Our aim is always to present information in the most relatable way and using authentic speakers can convey a sense of genuine knowledge. They know which phrases to emphasise and they get the terminology right. They have confidence in what they’re talking about because they understand the content. They may also have a familiar accent that the learner is used to hearing in their workplace.”
Although it was appropriate to use authentic speakers in this project, Sarah understands the benefits of using professional voice actors in other settings.
“Whether you use voice actors or authentic speakers depends on the content and the target learner. If the learner is used to hearing professional voice actors and it’s working, or if it’s for government or an official representation of a company then it’s probably better to use voice actors.”
Sarah also notes that it’s important to be aware of representation across demographics when using real people and environments.
“One of the problems with using an authentic environment, character, avatar, or speaker, is that you’re representing a whole group of people and often different environments with one set of images or voices. You have to be careful that you do this in an appropriate way. It’s essential to collaborate with stakeholders and your learner group.”
While the use of real people in elearning makes for more engaging learning, it can also have an impact on an organisational level.
Representing your workers within your training or promotional material sends a message that you value them, that they are included and that they belong. And that doesn’t just make for happier workers. Engagement has positive impacts on performance, customer loyalty and other indicators e.g. quality of care – all essential for the good health of our health services.
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