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First Do No Harm – A Basic Principle of Instructional Design: Part 2

Written By Shalini Merugu

First Do No Harm - A Basic Principle of Instructional Design: Part 2

In the last post on this topic, we looked at the fact that our learners do not come to our courses in a neutral mode. They come to the learning experience with an attitude (ranging from favorable to unfavorable) towards the subject, the medium of delivery, and towards the course materials. In this post we will see how we as instructional designers can help in positively influencing their attitude towards the subject matter or topic or training and towards the course materials themselves (eLearning courses in our case).

Continuing with the discussion from the last article on influencing their attitude towards the subject, here are two quick tips:

Engage with the subject yourself: In classroom training, learners can intuitively pick up cues that point to a lack of enthusiasm on the instructor’s part towards the subject. In eLearning, this is no less true. Our attitude towards the subject will be evident in the effort we are willing to put in towards the subject we are teaching. Granted once in a while, there may be subjects we may not be very enthusiastic about ourselves, but it helps to be consciously on guard against not allowing our own lack of enthusiasm to creep in and affect our treatment of course materials.

Take a regular pulse check of influence: A question we can ask ourselves at the end of the design of instruction is – Did we make learners like or dislike the subject/ topic we taught? Our self-reviews of the design and storyboards will be more effective if we ask ourselves this question during the reviews. The answer might help us take the required steps to improve our materials before they leave the drawing board and go into production or course development.

Attitude towards the course materials

As mentioned in the previous point, a lack of enthusiasm on the designer’s part can show up clearly in the course materials. We are more likely to use our imagination to engage learners if we first allow ourselves to be actively engaged with the topic. Once we do that, we can proceed with developing an effective learning experience. Here are a few basics to make sure we present our course materials well and help our learners go back with a positive experience of our eLearning courses:

  • Provide suitable practice – allowing them to succeed by providing instruction in increments and giving them a chance to practice what they learnt.
  • Give them some flexibility – By checking what they already know and letting them skip portions based on pre-course assessments.
  • Give them some degree of freedom – Don’t force them through a linear navigation unless the materials are structured to be strictly sequential. A menu from which they can navigate to topics non-linearly is a welcome feature in most courses.
  • Make them feel good about progress – Remind them of what they have already looked at and how it now ties in with the current topic being taught. This also lets them feel a sense of accomplishment. (“Now that you know ABC, you will find it easy to learn XYZ”).
  • Make instructional tasks and tests relevant to objectives– if learners don’t know why they are doing something, they will not engage with the task.
  • Praise them – Try and let your feedback express genuine appreciation when learners succeed.
  • Don’t punish them – Avoid giving feedback that doesn’t put learners off forever. Use gentle language. You may want to include hints in helping them arrive at the correct answers (Would you like to try this again keeping in mind XYZ?).

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