A number of comments made by participants at the Second European Articulate Conference, which I attended in Leeds last month, gave me the impression that designers are overly anxious about the production values of their interactive content. In particular they are concerned that learners might regard their content as low quality in comparison with commercial video games, movies and other mass media, and therefore not worthy of their attention.
In my opinion, it is pointless to fret about relative production values, for a number of reasons:
- You will never in your wildest dreams be able to match ‘Hollywood’ production values or even get anywhere near.
- Even if you did, it would not make a positive impression on learners. Why? Because they’ve seen it all before. They don’t expect it of your content anyway. They may even be suspicious of content that is too glossy – what is it you’re trying to sell them?
- Learners (indeed all media consumers) are tuned in to fitness for purpose. They expect Hollywood movies and big, expensive games to be awesome. They expect top-down efforts put together by their employers to be accurate, usable, reasonably engaging and professional in appearance, but no more. And when it comes to user-generated content, then frankly anything goes. Remember they are quite happy skipping from rock promos to home-made YouTube movies. They know what ‘good enough’ means.
- Unlike entertainment media, learning content should not be seeking to engage through its production values. What learners find engaging is material that is relevant to their daily work, will help them solve current problems or improve their general employability. It doesn’t take a lot of money to create relevant content, just a sound knowledge of your audience and a lot of care.