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Great learning experience in Amsterdam

Have you ever considered your holiday as a trigger to design (better) e-learning interactions? Have you ever experienced something unusual during your free time that you wanted to share your thoughts with others and convert them into e-learning demo? Well…I had a great time in one of the most exciting cities in Europe a couple of weeks ago and it’s not only about the amusement this city offers but about amazing learning experience I had. So…here’s the Amsterdam story.

I’m not a huge fan of visiting churches, but we headed to ‘Oude kerk’ (Old church) just to tick the box we’ve seen the oldest building in the city. After paying entrance fee we went into the church holding a route map in hands. We just walked between the columns and stared at chapels, old decorations and paintings on the walls with no big excitement. After 5 minutes I was ready to go out but…I decided to have a short look at the route map we got and…we left the church after another hour or so. And here’s why.

The route map for Oude kerk is a sheet of large paper which looks like a sketch pad with cool and super engaging comments about the church made by popular Dutch illustrator – Jan Rothuizen. So basically Jan drew the church interior and put some historic facts together with funny comments (like: ‘In the summer months some tourists earn extra money by guiding other tourists around. Don’t believe everything they say.’) which converted slightly boring visiting experience into nice facts hunt. Suddenly I wanted to know everything about this place so I followed every single comment/drawing from the map and compared this with reality. I found out many interesting things about Oude kerk (like the one Rembrandt’s wife Saskia was buried in this church), spent really cool time getting more about the city and was impressed with Jan’s drawing talent and his sense of humour in passing on boring historic facts.

I’d lose so much if I didn’t have a look at this experience changing map. How many other tourists can agree with me? I don’t know but as an e-learning developer I learnt my lesson that day. There’s ALWAYS a smart way to present even the most boring e-learning subject in a form of an extraordinary information.

The other exceptional and inspiring place I visited was Museum of the canals.

‘In five interactive rooms, you can witness the history of Amsterdam and its canals, where clever use of multimedia brings the story of the canals to life. After a visit to this exhibition, you’ll have a whole new way of looking at the Amsterdam canals. ‘– that’s a quotation taken from museum’s website and I couldn’t agree more with it. It’s so true!

The most time I spent in just one room - admiring an Amsterdam canal miniature house (see picture below) and looking through windows to learn how Dutch people (shown as holograms) lived over centuries.

So basically you could see:

  • 17th century laundresses singing and flirting with a young man in a room,

  • an 18th century family playing classic music on a piano, dancing, laughing and talking to each other,

  • a 19th century dressmaker flat, sewing beautiful dresses for rich ladies in Amsterdam,

  • a single contemporary woman’s flat with fireplace and her laptop on. You could see a bottle of wine with lipstick marks (!) on a glass and hear a voice message left on her phone.

It was like unique time travel showing differences but linked to one building. All the holograms and attention to detail added the real touch to the experience, you could watch them over and over again.

I knew once I come back to the UK I’ll write a post and build an e-learning demo in Storyline referring back to what I saw in Amsterdam. And here it is!

It’s a hand drawn house canal image (similar to Jan’s style of the Oude kerk map) showing:

  • how the rooms looked like in 1857, 1923 and 2015 (Museum of canals idea),

  • who lived there,

  • what they did for a living,

  • and how they were spending their free time.

I kept the slide orientation high and narrow – just as the Amsterdam buildings are, added some facts about Dutch houses (used a hand drawn style font for text boxes), inserted some audio to represent what surrounded the people over the centuries (you could add any videos or animations to make it more real) and had a good fun building this.

Have your eyes open wherever you go. You never know what you can use from your holiday trip in your professional life.

Thank you, Amsterdam!

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