How to use conversations to embed content in elearning

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I started writing a blog post about how to embed eLearning content into conversations. It was ok. But I didn’t love it.

Then I had an idea: why not take that same content and embed it into a conversation?

I also included the original article below that.

Let me know which style you prefer in the comments.

A graphical approach to embedding content into conversations

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How it would look of it were a standard blog article instead of a conversation…

eLearning isn’t the only medium that embeds educational content into dialog. Think of tv interviews, infomercials, and even books. In fact, in business school, I remember reading an operations book called The Goal. This book moved away from a traditional textbook-style approach and instead used conversations between an operations expert and a newbie to reveal dry content in a more interesting way. I’m not saying that every course you create should now be a conversation (the expert teaching the newbie story can get old fast), but this is one more tool in your tool belt.

In most of this article, I’m talking about the value of conversations alone. But conversations can be an element in other effective eLearning approaches, such as to set up a scenario or tell a story.

Below are 6 reasons I like embedding content into conversations.

1. The tone of conversations is, well…conversational (duh)

One of the advantages of incorporating characters in your eLearning courses is that shifts the tone from formal to informal. As Clark & Mayer discuss, an informal tone takes advantage of the “personalization principle” that helps improve learning. Just like using avatars and presenters, conversations between two or more characters allow you to create an informal tone.

2. Conversations are easier to write than a formal approach

Writing in an informal tone is actually easier (and better). As Cammy Bean recommended in our interview “talk as if you’re sitting down at a table having coffee with someone, having a conversation about this content.”  Once you embrace this, the writing will flow a lot quicker, I promise. It doesn’t matter if you’re not the subject matter expert (SME) on the topic. If that’s the case, think about how a top performer would explain the content in a language that the learner would understand.

3. Conversations reveal content

Conversations are an element that can be a part of both scenarios and storytelling in an eLearning course. My first job out of college 15 years ago was at SmartForce (now SkillSoft) as a simulation developer. We’d often use characters in conversations with subject matter experts. We had one course on basic web-site development where the main character was someone in the marketing department who had to meet with a number experts to learn more about the website development process. The main delivery of content was through these conversations as the character went from room to room talking to various subject matter experts.

4. Conversations are easy to build for eLearning

The nice thing about using conversations in a course is that they contain similar elements. In a previous post, I talk about the 8 essential angles of a conversation and show you how to build reusable templates.

5. Conversations ask and answer the questions the learner may have

Think about an infomercial. It’s often 2 people. One plays the role of the expert and the other person is a beginner who is AMAZED as they learn more about the product. This beginner asks the questions that audience might have and allows the expert to share information through a conversation, which feels less like a sales pitch. The same is true for an interview. The interviewer asks a person the questions that the audience members want to hear about, but it flows as a conversation.

6. Conversations deflect from the audience to a 3rd party

In an interview or informercial, the “interviewer” or the “beginner” gets to ask the “stupid” questions that the audience might have without the audience having to ask. It takes the pressure off the audience (or the learner in our case).

So what do you think?

Do you like the graphical approach with content embedded in a conversation or the more traditional approach of a standard blog post?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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