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Making Best Use of Analogies in eLearning

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Making Best Use of Analogies in eLearning

When we look at something which is new, we search for similarities which we are familiar of. The more the similarities, the more is the acceptability. When Apple introduced the Macintosh operating system in the 1980’s they called the starting screen as desktop. It was not desktop really but they used this sort of analogy to make the user familiar about the concepts of digital world through the concepts of real world they are familiar with. When we bring this sort of approach to eLearning, then the overall learning process in an online plat form will be more effective.

Learner in the learning process understands the new concept by relating it with his existing knowledge. Analogy is one of the effective eLearning design strategies and it helps in facilitating this relation. But analogy should not be confused with an example or non example. For instance if you are teaching the concept of aircraft, the possible examples of aircraft are Helicopters, airliners etc. A non example for aircraft can be rocket. An analogy for the airplane can be a bird. By this example we are more clear to say that an analogy is a representation that corresponds with the concept in function and form but belongs to a different domain. Here are few tips according to TWA model which helps you to effectively use analogies in your eLearning courses:

1. Introduce the concept to be learned:

For example lets us take the concept of the airplane. Lets us assume that your learners are not familiar with the airplane. Introduce the concept of the airplane to them first.

2. Remind them of the concept they already know (analogy):

Here in this case make your learners are reminded about a bird. Make sure that your learners already possess the knowledge regarding the bird. For this you should know your learners well before designing the course.

3. Identify relevant features of the target and analogy:

Now explain the relevant features of an airplane and bird. Like cockpit, wings, landing gear of airplane and head, wings, legs of bird.

4. Map similarities:

Now map the similarities between the airplane and bird. For example the head of the bird with the cockpit, tail feathers with the tail of the aircraft, the bird’s wings with the plane’s wings, the bird’s legs with the plane’s landing gear and so on.

5. Indicate the limitations of analogy:

Here be sure to mention about the limitations. For instance birds are living but airplane is mechanical, birds flap their wings to fly but airplane runs on gas and so on.

6. Draw conclusion:

Finally check your learners’ understanding about the new concepts through assessments and be sure they do not get confused with the analogy.

Thinking of analogy that fits into the concept of your interest to teach is difficult. But once you have thought of it, it will be the most powerful instructional tool to make your learners understand about the concept. Have anything to say please do share!

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