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Combating eLearning Boredom

by Ron Kurtus (revised 24 January 2012)

For workers or students who are not really motivated, trying to learn something on a computer can be boring. This is especially true if there is an amount of difficult material to learn.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.



Why users get bored

A big problem is that training on a computer can be boring. The student can literary fall asleep paging through screens of information. Users can get bored if the material is not interesting, too repetitive or takes too long to do.

A major reason users get bored is when they have to look at material that is not really interesting to them. Any time a person is not motivated or interested in material, it can easily become boring to them.

Another situation is when the user must do repetitive activities. An example of this is when the user must make an excessive number of mouse clicks on each screen. That gets tiresome.

Finally, if there is too much material to read on a page or if there are too many pages or screens in a lesson, the user starts to feel it never seems to end and often will tune out. Tedium and then boredom sets in.

Relieving boredom

There are several methods for relieving boredom in e-learning. Possible ways are to emphasize application and value of the material. Entertainment is also often used to lighten up a training session.

Some developers try to use animations, videos, and sound to keep the user's attention. Unfortunately, such multimedia effects can cause passiveness or can even annoy the student.

Emphasize value

If the lesson is valuable to the user, he or she will want to participate and complete it. Value relates to usefulness and application to the job or task. Realizing that the user may not see the value of the lesson and stating points about it will provide some needed motivation.

For example, by reading this material and passing the mini-quiz, you will not only be practicing using e-learning, but you will also be getting ideas for your own applications that will accelerate your career.

Interaction

Problem - Solution - OutcomeInteraction is a good way to keep the student from becoming bored. A simple page-turner e-learning application requires some interaction, but it still can become tedious if there is too much text to read or too many pages to turn. What is needed is interesting interaction to keep the person involved. This involvement will result in enhanced learning.

Having the learner answer multiple choice questions is a good way to maintain attention through the use of interaction. In fact, the challenge of guessing which answer is correct—provided the questions aren't too difficult—can be like a game and make the experience enjoyable and increase the interest in the topic at hand. The result of each question can be shown immediately, and a running score may be kept, if desired.

Explanation of answers

By jumping to an explanation of each answer, the student will want to read and learn. The information is given in palatable chunks, which helps understanding. The questions should be in a logical order, so that the study material makes sense.

I am not sure if it is better to provide reading material first and then have the multiple choice with explanations, or if the student should be made to guess at an answer and then get the explanation. I've been experimenting with each method to find out which is the best.

Use multiple choice prudently

It is possible to overdo anything. I feel it is best to mix multiple choice along with other techniques to avoid saturation with one technique or style of presentation.

Still, there are situations where only multiple choice can work. I use a series of such questions with answers and explanations as a study-aid for students in my physical science course. It seems to work for the students.

Other options

There are other options besides multiple choice to consider such as true-false and fill-in-the blank questions.

True-false questions can be also be used, but they are essentially a subset of multiple choice. Mixing a few true-false questions in with the multiple choice can provide some variety.

Fill-in-the blank questions can also be effective, but they suffer the problem of being able to program the e-learning authoring tool to take care of student answers that are close or misspelled. This type of question certainly stretches the student more.

Provide entertainment

Another method to relieve boredom in eLearning is to provide entertainment. This is sometimes called "edutainment."

Unfortunately, what happens too often is that entertainment is emphasized so much that the person doesn't learn anything. Also, if the material is too entertaining, the motivated learners will soon lose interest.

There is a thin line between how much entertainment is enough for the bored and too much for the motivated.

Summary

You should be aware that users may become bored with your e-learning. Use methods to relieve boredom, such as emphasize value, provide moderate interaction and allow some entertainment in the lesson.


Put yourself in the shoes of the user


Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

eLearning Resources

Books

Top-rated books on eLearning


Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.


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