By Rhutuparna Tembe
Research has revealed that engaging the learners in the learning process is bound to increase their attention and motivation while endorsing meaningful learning experiences.
To check whether the learning is really transpiring, we can consider learner engagement level as one of the predictors.
Creating an immersive learning experience for the learner is one of the most challenging tasks. We need to find ways in order to make learning relevant, immersive, and valuable for a learner.
There are numerous ways to create immersive learning experiences; using branched scenarios, using different approaches, such as story-based, cartoons-based, video-based, interactivities, pedagogical agents, and gamification are just a few to name here. Amongst them, a widely acknowledged method to create a stimulating learning experience is to use interactive conversations in the program.
Have you ever chatted with a Robot messenger?
Robot messengers are also known as buddy messenger, auto messenger, chat bot, etc. Remember writing something in the chat and waiting eagerly to see what the robot messenger responds? Well, sometimes, these messengers could handle the conversations astutely, but sometimes the messenger behaved as if it has got bats in the belfry. However, you still enjoyed nattering with them. Didn’t you? Ha! likewise.
Well you see, these Robot messengers are software programs that interpret and respond to the user statements in a simple language. These programs use Computational Linguistics (CL) communication techniques specific to internet. When chatting, it always feels as if you are talking with a real person.
Same principle is used when creating interactive conversations for learning.
So, what is “Interactive Conversation”?
Let me explain it with an example from one of our course. This is an excerpt from one of the induction programs.
Here an interactive conversation has been initiated to put a new employee at ease and engage them in the learning experience. Interactive conversations spring a feeling of a continuous tête-à-tête between the program and the learner, and soon the learner gets engaged into responding to the prompts from the program. It seems as if the learner is talking not to the program but with a real person.
Now, that’s the trick! It is the program designer who plans and pre-defines these interactive conversations to make it realistic enough to engross the learner.
The Suspension of Disbelief
Just as a fictional book or a fictional film creates an illusion that whatever you see is real, 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 the experience.
This experience is called ‘the Suspension of Disbelief’.
The learner’s mind takes this sub-conscious decision wherein the learner accepts this so called “suspended disbelief” as being real; Although this is ephemerally, it creates a deeper emotional response for the learners, and marks the experience as more enjoyable.
Filmmakers are constantly in the process of using this so called ‘Suspension of Disbelief’ in their films.
Writer/Director – Josef Steiff, in his book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking” says that “The willingness to forget one is watching a film is sometimes referred to as suspension of disbelief.” The audience is totally aware that they are watching a make-believe story, however, they get emotionally engrossed in the film forgetting the world around them.
We can surely design such experiences for our learners. We can use interactive conversations for our course introductions, or when we want our learners to make decisions, or just to break the monotony.
Suspension of disbelief can only work till a certain degree. It is highly imperative that the interactive conversation design advocates its own formula of believability and not push the limits.
It is difficult to suspend disbelief in programs where the conversation design looks counterfeit. Therefore, the quality of interactive conversation design must be totally believable and well-thought-out.
Of course, there are many factors that we need to envisage when designing such interactive conversations.
Watch out for our next blog, where we will explore the design dynamics of interactive conversations.