First do no harm. This is an unforgettable title of a book I’d read long back (complete title First do no harm: reflections on becoming a neurosurgeon, written by J. Kenyon. Rainer). Good advice that. Especially in the context of training and instructional design.
Robert Mager’s book, How to Turn Learners On…without turning them off echoes the same thought, worded differently. In the preface, Mager says that his book “is about a universal goal of instruction – the intent to send students away from instruction with at least as favorable an attitude towards the subjects taught as they had when they first arrived.”
The question is how?
To widen the scope of the topic, how can we influence learners’ attitude favorably towards learning, especially in the eLearning context?
First do no harm
With our learners far removed from our immediate physical context, it is sometimes very possible to overlook a simple basic fact – that our learners seldom come to our courses in a neutral mode. They come to the learning experience with their own attitude towards the subject, towards the medium of delivery, and towards the course materials (an attitude varying from favorable to unfavorable – with all shades in between). Our job is to try and make sure that whatever we do as instructional designers helps them move from an unfavorable attitude towards a favorable attitude or in the worst case scenario, at least help them stay in neutral gear. When designing our courses, a basic guiding principle would be to first do no harm. We need to do whatever we can to make sure that we don’t put off our learners! In this article and the next, I will explore a few ways of doing this.
Attitude towards the medium
For those learners new to eLearning or uncomfortable with it because it appears impersonal, it could take some getting used to initially. Here’s how we can help.
Make them feel welcome: One of the limitations of eLearning is that it lacks the human touch and that learners interacting with a machine need to be that much more motivated to complete the course. Think of how a classroom session is likely to go if you dived into the course without even a warm welcome to the participants. Now think of how much more challenging it is to make learners feel at home in the eLearningcontext. How do we ensure that learners who come to our course feel like clicking the Next button? A warmly worded welcome, along with outlining the benefits of taking the course can help do that. In fact, with the appropriate use of audio, the impact can be even more favorable.
Simple orientation helps: This tip applies is especially applicable if you have learners who are new to eLearning. An introduction to the navigation and UI can provide the required orientation – you could provide a course map or a virtual tour of the way the course is organized. A few simple signposts can also reduce a lot of anxiety for learners. In fact providing enough signposts allows learners to always know where they are and where they’re expected to go.
Attitude towards the subject
This is a tough one, especially if the learners have a deep-rooted aversion to any subject or training. A lot of times, employees are signed up for courses that they really don’t feel motivated to take. Only the fact that it is an organizational mandate makes them complete it. Apart from highlighting the benefits of taking the course, what else can we do to help change their attitude towards the subject matter of the course? Part 2 of this article will cover a few points.
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A Subject Matter Expert (SME) is an expert in an organization on a particular area or topic. To create good e-learning courses, inputs from SMEs are vital. To get the best out of your SME, you need to first understand him and know his role. The SME’s role is to help instructional designers (ID) understand the content. An SME is a knowledge hub looking for the best ways to transfer it, and we IDs are the people who lay the path for it. We generally face many challenges while dealing with SMEs such as variation in timelines (the major challenge), lots of changes in the content and few in the GUI, huge variations in visualization, etc., once the course gets developed. In order to overcome all these issues, and to get the best out of your SMEs, you need to follow a few steps. Let us see what they are.
Medical representatives face many problems while promoting their companies’ products to doctors. It’s a well-known fact that doctors are more knowledgeable about medicines than the pharmaceutical sales representatives. So, how can a representative gain as much knowledge as the doctor about the medicine? Well, e-learning is the best solution for this problem because it helps to impart highly effective training.
As instructional designers, we always aim to design courses that reach the target audience effectively. We would never want to hear our learners say that the course was boring. We put all our efforts to make the course interesting and engaging.
But, it is essential that these efforts are put in a right way. Engaging the learner doesn’t mean just including interactivities. It is much more than having a few clicks of interactivities.
In my last blog, 20 Must Know Acronyms of E-learning – Part 1, we have seen some acronyms that are used in the world of e-learning. In this blog, we will look at some more acronyms.
11. JIT (Just-in-Time): Just-in-time learning systems enable learners to access online learning resources at the point of need. Today, what will you do to find directions to a place or find out the movie that is playing in the theatre close to your home? You just go online for information. To employees, m-learning provides a similar facility to access information pertaining to their jobs at the click of a button.
Training enhances skills and abilities of employees to be aligned to changing business needs. It is well understood that assessments are vital components of e-learning courses. They are a medium to measure training outcomes. Assessments not only strengthen learning but also help evaluate the learner’s comprehension of a course.
It is well-known that assessments are a vital component of an e-learning course. Good assessments play an important role in enhancing the efficacy of the online course by helping evaluate the knowledge gained by the learner and reinforce the learning.
According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases. In order to adhere to food safety regulations, one of our clients came up with a requirement for an e-learning course.
E-learning and m-learning are powerful learning methods; both are dynamic and effective ways to teach people. So then, what are the differences between and e-learning and m-learning methods?
E-learning involves a series of modules with in-depth subject-matter while m-learning involves smaller chunks of information which can be accessed anywhere, anytime. Modules are designed differently, depending on the kind of format used to learn. M-learning breaks the barriers of time and place and provides easy access to courses. E-learning also enables learners to access information anytime, anywhere through a laptop, and a stable environment is needed for the learner to take training.
As a college student, I had an opportunity to read Wings of Fire, the autobiography of the former Indian president, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. The story of the “missile man” who rose to great heights from humble beginnings is truly inspiring.
The sudden demise of this eminent scientist is a great loss to the country and has saddened millions. The life of Dr. Kalam is a testimony to the fact that determination and hard work can overcome the shackles of financial and other constraints.