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Taking your Learners Seriously

Written By Shalini Merugu

Taking your Learners Seriously

‘As if we didn’t!’, is what a few of you might be thinking on reading this title. Think of your last design project. And how much thought you gave to your learners. If truth be told, sometimes the learner is the last person on our mind. The moment we get a design task on our hands, we roll up our sleeves and jump into the mechanics of it all. We are thinking of content flows, interactivities, assessments, and everything else that goes into making an instructionally sound course. And what about the learner? He/she lurks somewhere in our consciousness, but more as a wispy, distant entity rather than a flesh and blood character who will probably laugh or cry looking at some of the things we as instructional designers sometimes unleash on them. Here are a few tips to putting the focus back on your learners:

Speak their Language

Rather than getting your learners to gradually get used to your language, use their terms. For instance, if you developing a highly technical course for engineers, don’t try and dumb it down when it is not required. View content from the perspective of your learners, not from that of your instructional design team. This makes both comprehension and recall easy for your target audience.

Understand their Concerns

Your learner has a problem; he/she needs to know how he/she can solve it. Everything else is just incidental. Keep this mind when you are building your learning activities. Imagine if someone came to you with a problem and you said you’d give them the answer only if they touched their toes 50 times. And yet, some of our ‘interactive’ e-learning courses force learners to do similar things. Give them what they want. Don’t tease them with pointless exercises or interactivities. Your learners are as hard pressed for time as you are.

Be Aware of their ‘Personality’

Do you have a mental picture of your learners to know if they are likely to get inspired by a game-based learning? Or do you think they would prefer a more formal approach? Or are they millennial who would far rather learn from Twitter than through a classroom session? Are you aware of the demography of your target audience? We used this audience ‘awareness’ powerfully in our own courses where the audience was linesmen who were out on the field doing dangerous work involving electrical safety on electric lines and poles. When one of the instructional designers designed a theme around adventure sports and reality shows, it went down very well with the learners. Now imagine using the same theme for a target audience comprised of your organizations’ finance team. Get the picture?

Don’t insult their Intelligence or Patronize them

We’ve all come across no-brainer assessments in course at some point on the other. It’s sometimes amusing, but annoying for the most part. When your team is hard pressed for time, the simplest way out is to slap together some questions that actually could end up testing at too basic a level. Craft those test items carefully, keeping your learner in mind.

Take their Feedback Seriously

Seriously. We are sometimes so paranoid about our customer satisfaction scores that we try and not read too much between the lines, where a lot of feedback is actually being given. Try and look beyond the typical surveys where everyone displays happy smiley faces.

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