By Rhutuparna Tembe

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In the earlier post we saw what an interactive conversation is and also discussed the phenomenon of ‘Suspension of Disbelief’.

Interactive conversations spring a feeling of a continuous tête-à-tête between the program and the learner. Just as a fictional book or a fictional film creates an illusion that whatever you see is real, an interactive conversation creates some sort of an impression that there is a person who is actually responding to all your moves. Learners are aware that it is an illusion, however they lend themselves to this experience which is so-called ‘the Suspension of Disbelief’.

Let’s now explore the design dynamics of interactive conversations.

 

Brass tacks of creating Interactive Conversations

Use the Personalization principle: Use Conversational Style rather than Formal Style of dialog.
 
Research indicates that “students learn better when the speech is in conversational style rather than formal style.” (Clark, Ruth. C., Mayer, Richard. E. (2003). e-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning. Second Edition. Pfeiffer)
 
When creating such interactive conversations, one thing to keep in mind is that the conversations are going to happen in the current moment of the user; as if it were a ‘Live’, event. For that reason, these interactive conversations need to be designed keeping in mind what the user might select at that point in time.
 
There are essentially four design elements that one should anticipate when designing interactive conversations. These are:
 
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Let’s look at each one of them in more detail.

    1. Scriptwriting

Scriptwriting is one of the most challenging and versatile storytelling medium to be considered when designing interactive conversation. A good script establishes a consistent rapport with the learners; gives pace to the scenes, and brings to life a scenario.
 
When writing a script, think and write from the learner’s perspective and anticipate learner’s response.
 
For a successful interactive conversation to score – both content and tone have to be spot on. Let’s see how!

      1. Writing Style: Choose a consistent writing style for the script.
        1. a. Conversational style:
        2. Some scripts read better when written, but remember the script needs to also sound real. Since the conversation is going to be interactive, the sentences should not just read well, instead they should have a natural flow that mirrors a real-life conversation. Use words and sentences that would come naturally while speaking informally. You may add contractions and pauses in your script to make the script more conversational and real.
          Example:
          Instead of, “Hi, my name is Grace.”, you may want to use a bit more conversational style “Well, hello there! I’m Grace.”
        3. b. Shorter sentences:
        4. Try and use short and crisp sentences as you would while conversing. The best way to verify if the script is conversational is to read out the script aloud. If you need to take breaths between sentences, you need to split sentences. Of course, at times you may want to use long sentences or contractions to create the right immersive environment for the learner and that’s okay as long as the dialog flow is maintained.
          While using colloquial style could break the ice, setting up the right tone would do wonders.
      2. Tone: The heart of setting a right tone is a feeling or the emotional response that your script elicits.
        1. a. Emotions:
        2. Adding emotions in the script is very important. Emotions can add depth to your character or scene. You can do this by adding expressions and gestures in the visuals to support pauses and fillers in the dialogues. This is sometimes required to put the right meaning across.
          Example:
          Write the script in such a manner that a strong connection is established between the character and the learner. Emotions such as – a sigh of relief or happiness, sorrow, anger, squeamishness, surprise etc. are conveyed through your script.
          At times, you may want to write guiding notes or descriptions in order to elaborate the emotion that the character and the scene need to convey. This will help during the dialog delivery of the emotion in the right manner.
        3. b. Interjections:
        4. Just as any emotional spurts, interjections when used appropriately help convey the right meaning. “An interjection is a single word, phrase, or short clause that communicates the facial expression and body language that the sentence itself will sometimes neglect.”
          We can say that Interjections are just like the emoticons/ smileys that we use now-a-days on Social Media.
          Example:
          Wait, I know this… uh… is it … Shakespeare?
          Uh oh! I guess no one saw me.
          Ouch! That hurts!
          It is very important to choose interjections carefully so that the right emotion can be communicated.
          Add appropriate punctuation marks to bring out the emotion with the words – the pauses, the afterthought, and the questioning tone!In addition, try to write witty scripts. Identify sections within your script that have potential to build humour. Just as any impromptu or ad-libbing responses, writing a witty script should come naturally.
          Example:
          Course introductions could help in establishing the context as well as engage learners right from the beginning. While a witty script grabs the learner’s attention, it also builds curiosity to know more.
          Remember, if content is the backbone of your script, then tone is the heartbeat.

       
      2. Path/Branching system Style:

“Branched scenarios are a specific type of learning content where the learner takes one path versus another based on the choices that he or she makes.”
 
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Remember the earlier example…
 
Scenario 1:
“Is this your first day at Exult?”
You select “No, actually, I am an old employee.”
“Aha! I’m glad you dropped by. Can I help you with Time Tracking at Exult?”
You select “No, I am here for something else.”
“Something else… Well, then can I help you with any of these?”

  1. Access Exult Website
  2. Access Exult Blogs
  3. Something else

 
You still select “3. Something else”
“OK! In that case, let me get you the contact details of Exult people who can actually help you out. Just stay here while I connect you to our site. Bye.”
And then the screen gets redirected to the site http://www.exultcorp.com/contact/
 
Scenario 2:
If you had responded that it is indeed your first day at Exult, in that case the program would have given you a different set of responses.
“Is this your first day at Exult?”
You select “Yes! it is.”
“Amazing! Welcome aboard. So tell me… have you heard of Time Tracking system?”
You select “Never heard of it.”
“Well, never mind. Let’s get started with learning more about Time tracking at Exult”
Soon, the screen gets redirected to the induction program.
Notice that in both these scenarios, the responses have changed as per the user selection. That’s simple branching for you!
 
Here, the user engages in a simulated conversation.

  • The program says something and provides the user with the options.
  • The user has to respond by selecting from the options.
  • The program will also respond as per the user selection of response. This interactive conversation will ‘branch’ based on user selection. A new set of options will be provided to the user.
  • The user will again select from the provided options thus simulating a real-life interaction.

 

Tips for designing branching responses

    • 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.
    • Do not provide open ended questions, rather provide meaningful options.
    • Ensure to use personalized responses, keeping in mind that the conversation is happening between the program and the user. Try to keep it natural and not forced.
    • Design responses such that the learner feels encouraged to select the response.
    • Design responses that are challenging enough, but not misleading for the learner.
    •  
      To help retain the learner’s attention, ensure that the interactive conversation scenarios aren’t too complex leading nowhere, but an additional set of options. Otherwise, there are chances that the learner might lose interest in the training.

 
Well, go ahead and explore how you can include Scriptwriting and Branching to build interactive communication in your courses.
 
Watch out for our next blog to read about the audio and visual considerations while creating interactive conversations.

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