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reflections of the team

The Use of Drag & Drop

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I’m a fan of the E-Learning Heroes newsletter. This community of Storyline users is such a great example of sharing and caring. My colleagues and I have learned a great deal from it. However, there was one article I saw that I did not completely agree with. It concerned the use of Drag and Drop and some practical examples to convince you. I found it lacking in some aspects, so allow me to elaborate.

I recently saw a tweet that said: “Maturity is knowing when to drag and when to drop”. Though I’m not convinced the person tweeting knew what she was saying, do you know when or how to drag & drop? Drag & Drop exercises are invaluable to keep the learner engaged, but there are some pitfalls to take into account as well.

>> Drag & Drop exercise

The new iOS v11 has a Drag & Drop functionality.

The new iOS v11 has a Drag & Drop functionality.

Perhaps you are not familiar with drag & drop functionality. It's where you “pick up” an object and store it somewhere else than the original place on your screen. For instance, you can upload a document in Dropbox or Google Drive by simply dragging it to your screen. With the evolution of touch screens, the action is increasingly popular.

It is a useful tool in e-learning courses. They provide an engaging alternative to the traditional multiple choice questions.

They kick your e-learning course in a higher gear, especially when playing with objectives and purposes. Let’s take a look at those. I will discuss examples with Articulate Storyline in mind.

>> Examples of using Drag & Drop

  • Chapter synthesis: how do concepts relate to each other? In what order do they come?
  • Visualization of voice-over or on-screen text: immediate simulation of the actions described. This improves retention, though immediate feedback when dropping on incorrect places is important.
  • Activation by simulating real-life actions. Open a door by dragging a key to it. Declare a new building as officially opened by dragging scissors to the red ribbon. Extinguish fire by dragging a bucket of water to it. These small actions improve active reflection and keep the learner engaged.
  • Personalization of characters: drag and drop items of clothing on a character. Create states for the protagonist and use variables & triggers on each slide to show the correct character.
  • Allow the user to collect materials in a backpack.
    •     As an incentive: by correctly answering a question, throw stars the learner can collect.
    •     As part of a quest: collect materials that the user will need later on.


>> Pitfalls of using Drag & Drop

As you can see: there are lots of opportunities for you to play and create with. The only limit is your own imagination. However, using drag and drop solely for the purpose of using it, is never a good idea.

  • The answer to a drag & drop exercise should never be obvious. You are encouraging the learner to reflect actively. You can upgrade the level of difficulty by adding distractors to the objects. Learners should be able to identify them and know which objects they can use, and which ones they have to ignore.
    For instance, an Instructional Designer shared her example of a “Safe Workplace” exercise. Though the idea was cleverly executed, I did not like the options presented. "What belongs in a safe workplace: a cup of coffee or a gun?" If you’re not an American striving for his constitutional rights, I’d imagine you’d choose the cuppa.
    Don’t make it obvious, but don’t make it too hard either. Summary exercises should be intermediate in level.
  • Use relevant context. Yes, game mechanics like backpacks, personalized characters etc. are engaging. But tailor your context to your content.
    For instance; I recently saw an example of an American football field. The footballs represented important concepts in the workplace. The learner needed to drag the correct ones to the field to “score a home run”. Though the example is fun, the context does not add anything. It’s not relevant and can even confuse learners.
    Place the learner in a context that is interactive, but not confusing.
  • Keep the layout simple, or label objects & target areas. The exercise should test the retention of the learner. Not his ability to correctly identify which objects need to be dragged and where to. Delete objects that do not belong to the exercise. Another good practice is to give a small tutorial of the exercise, especially in the beginning of your e-learning.
    Show the learners the action that you expect and guide them with clear labels.
  • Don't overdo it. You now know how a good drag & drop exercise can activate and engage your learner, but that doesn't mean you should only use exercises of this type.
    Variation is key.

Before you start, keep in mind Arboth has twenty years of experience in learning solutions. Should you still have questions, you are very welcome!