Don’t get caught for bad Instructional Design. It’s Embarrassing!!

Learning events are meant to empower the audience by imparting a change that’s good for them. Did you notice that in almost every live learning event, the speaker will have to answer to at least one of the audiences’ questions by saying “That’s a good question, why don’t you write to me and I’ll get back to you?” This doesn’t happen infrequently. Well, it’s not that the learners expect their trainer to be a walking Wikipedia but it is not difficult for the current-gen learners to identify the capability of their trainer within no time.

Let’s try to put eLearning in the place of the trainer here. I’ve seen some of the interviews of the directors whose films haven’t made it big at the box office say “We’ve put a lot of effort in to this film, which unfortunately the audience aren’t able to see”. I’ve been in a similar conversation with my eLearning development team where sometimes when the course isn’t a hit, the effort thing comes up. To be honest, be it the audience of a movie or a learning event, the effectiveness of the medium depends on if all your efforts are oriented towards the impact you would want to create with the audience.

How does the learner know if it is an ineffective learning event?

It doesn’t take much time for a learner these days to identify if your course is a hit or a miss for him. Consider a learning objectives slide where every statement starts with a single action verb ‘explain’ or a media element such as a picture you’ve been using a number of times in the course wherever possible. These things give a hint to the learner that it is not a focused learning program, but some chunk of content wrapped and put in front of him to somehow gulp and digest.

Who are to be blamed? 

Got ya!

These are the instances where you hear the learner say “This course is so bad; I’ll pay someone to take it for me.” One cannot entirely blame the instructional designers or the eLearning development team for this let-down. Hundreds of training programs are being delivered every hour and your learning development team is competing against time to put out as many as they can within less time.

How do we deliver a good eLearning program within less time?

It will not be fair on your part to ask your development team to triple check every piece of the eLearning cake and deliver a masterpiece each and every time. This would require them work 20 hours a day to complete by the day you want them to. Here are three areas you need to concentrate to keep your course out of the dead-learning zone.

1. Provide a Meaningful Context or provide nothing

Using scenarios and examples is a good practice. However, when the concepts that you put in are out of the context, it would only weaken the effectiveness of the training. Often we get to see scenarios in eLearning courses which doesn’t replicate what happens in a real life situation. This causes a disconnect with the learners. This happens because the instructional designers aren’t really aware of the real life situations and put their imagination to test while creating these.

A good way to deal with this is, sit with your Subject Matter Experts or directly with your learners to extract some scenarios that you can use in your course. To maintain the curve of interest of the learner in your course, you either provide a meaningful context or don’t include it at all.

2. Try to FAIL your learner

In the book “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction”, the author Karl Kapp says that in games, failure is an option and it is a good one. Activity and Challenge are other key elements of an engaging training program. Challenge motivates the learner and helps him understand the consequences of a bad decision. A meaningful challenge brought in through a suitable interactivity will serve as a great teaching methodology.

Let’s say you are developing a training program for the automation industry and your course is all about attending to customer complaints in a service station. Instead of asking them to take a text-based Q&A, try creating an interactivity with real life scenarios. Show a scenario where customer has arrived with a compliant and the service technician has responded. Take the service procedure forward with the learner making the decisions on what should be the next step. Show him the consequences when he makes a bad choice. It is OK for him to fail, he’ll get a chance to learn more about what shouldn’t be done which is even more important than what should be.

3. Don’t just provide feedback, Communicate!

How do you communicate with your learners in an eLearning course? Is it even possible? E-learning might be a computer program but it can very well be put beside the other AI programs we use these days which doesn’t fail in communicating with us like a real human does. One area where you can communicate effectively with your learners and pass on your message to them is feedback.  It is very important for you to choose how you want to deliver the feedback to the learner on his performance. You can provide a conformational feedback using a statement that tells him if he’s right or wrong in his choice. Instead, you can take time to write an explanatory feedback where you tell him what is the reason behind the correct answer being right. If you care even more for your learner, you can go ahead and write a diagnostic feedback where you tell him why his selection is incorrect and what consequences it could have. Communicating the feedback in a righteous way is very important to gain the confidence of the learner in the training program and motivate him to proceed further.

It is the first thing in the agenda of every Instructional Designer to deliver an effective learning program which would help move the concept being taught in to the long term memory of the learner. Focusing on these key areas could help achieve it within less time. Hope this post has helped you in understanding what the learners are looking for in a meaningful training program. What ideas do you have in mind to provide the best ROI for the learners? Please share your views.

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