Design Dynamics of Interactive Conversations Part 2

By June 30, 2016E-learning

Design Dynamics of Interactive Conversations(Part 2)

In the earlier post we reviewed two key design elements that should be considered when designing interactive conversations – Scriptwriting and Branching.

Let’s discuss the other two design elements critical to successful interactive communication: Audio and Visuals.

Brass tacks of creating Interactive Conversations

Audio and visuals play an important role in engaging learners. In some cases, they work best when used in together. However, in others they are better when they are standalone.

Let me explain it with an example from one of our course. This is an excerpt from one of the programs on Anti-Money Laundering.

The story begins with the detective (Lyon) who is approached for investigating fraudulent activity in a bank account. As the story unfolds, there are various junctions where the program interacts and seeks the learner’s help. A low bass background music starts at the onset of the questions and fades out gradually. The audio and visuals build the intensity of the scene.

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Every visual is supported with appropriate voice over as well as sound effects such as the phone ringing, knocking on the door, footsteps etc. This audio and visual camaraderie creates curiosity and engagement while it also makes the learner feel that the scene is real.
Well, it is “the Suspension of Disbelief” spot on!

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Audio and Visuals are important areas to consider when creating interactive conversations.
Let’s look at each one of them in more detail.

    1. 1.Audio:

Just like the script, the dialog delivery, tone, and sound effects too contribute to the success of any interactive conversation.

      1. Voice

The voice should be catchy enough to grab the attention of the learner. You have an option to explore from voice artists available locally or to seek out professional talents. Select the right accent as per your character, which will resonate with the learners.
Avoid using a machine voice, unless it sounds real human. “People learn better from narration with a human voice than from narration with a machine voice.” (Atkinson, Mayer, and Merrill, 2005.)
However, refrain from overuse of voice animation and voice modulation techniques to ensure that the learning process is not hampered.
This is exactly what the coherence principle talks about – “you should avoid adding any material that does not support the instructional goal.” (Book: e-Learning and the Science of Instruction – Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard E. Mayer.)

      1. Tone:
        1. Emotions can be expressed aptly through voice modulation and tone. Emotions such as happy, sad, annoyed can be very well-presented through tone. Amplify the tone as and when required to convey the right emotion. Just as you would talk to someone in a particular situation, augment the tone to suit that emotion.
        2. Use a friendly tone – “Use some first- and second-person constructions (that is, involving “I,” “we,” “me,” “my,” “you, “and/or “your”) to create the feeling of a conversation between the program and the learner”
      2. Music:

Who doesn’t like music? Using background music for the conversations can create interest. You can add sound effects for user selections or responses, for example, a cheer for a correct response and a warning bell for a wrong one. However, ensure it’s not overused or distracting for the learner.

    1. Visuals:

Adding appropriate visuals to support the script and audio enhance the effectiveness of the interactive conversations and elevate learner interest. Visual content plays an important role in learning. The moment you add accompanying pictures; the same course can become interesting. Use of images has been prevalent in e-learning but now they offer a better experience with the use of high resolution images and videos. Interactive conversations provide lot of opportunities to utilize such visuals creatively, such as using images and videos that replicate real life environment for the learner. Similarly, adding learning agents that provide a virtual facilitator experience also helps in making the session more interactive for the learners.

      1. Pedagogical agents:
        Many a times, we can just hear the narrator’s voice, however research indicates that giving a face to your narrator can promote learner motivation and engagement. “Pedagogical agents are on-screen characters who help guide the learning process.” (Book: e-Learning and the Science of Instruction – Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard E. Mayer.)
        These pedagogical agents could be any personified objects, cartoon characters , or real human beings. In interactive conversations, these pedagogical agents can directly talk to the learners.

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Use them if you feel they can enhance learning. However, use minimal conversation callouts for the pedagogical agent. Remember, it’s conversational, so having callouts would be redundant, unless your program is non-audio based. Even in that case, you should keep minimal text within the callouts.

      1. Camera angles:
        A camera angle is the specific position of the camera at which a shot is framed and taken. We seldom use camera angles in our programs. However, a static view can become boring. Using apt camera angles and movements can enhance the level of immersive experience for the learners. Just like in films, selecting different camera angles can set different moods and meanings to the interactive conversation. To begin with, we can use simple camera angles and movements such as birds-eye view, point-of-view, panning or zooming etc. Choosing a right shot for your subject can add value and will undoubtedly create interest.

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Well, go ahead and explore how you can include Audio and Visuals to build interactive communication in your courses.


In a Nutshell

Let take a quick recap of the Interactive Conversation Blog series.
There are many factors that we need to envisage when designing such interactive conversations.

Overall, use the Personalization principle: Use Conversational Style rather than Formal Style of dialog.

The four design elements that one should anticipate when designing interactive conversations are:

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      1. Scriptwriting:

For a successful interactive conversation to score – both content and tone have to be spot on.

        • Choose a consistent writing style for the script.
        • Use the conversational style.
        • Try and use short and crisp sentences. Add contractions and pauses when required.
        • Set a tone for your script
        • Add emotions to your script.
        • Employ interjections, pauses and fillers in the dialogues, supported with expressions and gestures for the characters.
      1. Path/Branching system Style:
        • Design all possible options and responses that are required for an interactive conversation to succeed.
        • You may want to add distractors to challenge the learners. Ensure that the responses are challenging enough, but not misleading for the learner.
      2. Audio:
        • The dialog delivery, tone, and sound effects too very well define the success of any interactive conversation.
        • Employ voice modulation techniques and amplify the tone if required. Use sound effects and apt music or background score to enhance.
      3. Visuals:
        • Adding visuals such as texts, graphics, animation, and colors is required, but in conjunction with it you may want to use pedagogical agents (personified objects, cartoon characters, real human beings) who can directly talk to the learners.
        • Use appropriate camera angles and movements to set different moods and meanings to the interactive conversations. (Use simple camera angles such as Birds-Eye View, Oblique Angle, Low-angle and High-angle, long shot, close-up, panning zooming etc.)

Creating an emotional experience for the audiences is one of the best ways to guarantee they’ll want to take your program. All we have to do is to think of ways in which we can help learners achieve their goals and ease out their learning. But then again, remember the Chinese saying “Wu Ji Bi Fan” – which means too much (of something) is bad. Similarly, overuse of interactive conversations may hamper learning.
Using interactive conversation alone would possibly be enough to create learner engagement, and with a balanced use of audio, visual, story and branching, it may do wonders.
The process of using ‘the Suspension of Disbelief’ should be built in naturally. These are just a few ways in which this could be achieved.