Robert Gagne first formulated the Gagne’s model which introduced us to the nine steps to achieve effective learning. The nine steps serve as a quick guideline to instructional designers to develop a result-oriented e-learning course.
Dos and Don’ts of Each Step of the Model
Step 1: Gaining attention
Gaining the learner’s attention is the first and the most important step of the model which is crucial to the learner taking the online course. If it’s not done, he/she might switch off without paying much heed to the actual content. As an instructional designer or a learning expert what should be your Dos and Don’ts here?
Dos: Present the content in the most interesting way possible without compromising on the learning. Use scenarios, story-telling, or animations to show relevant content.
For example, in a course on Personal Protective Equipment in the Manufacturing industry, a scenario showing what happened to an employee not using Personal Protective Equipment would help the learner to relate to and apply the content in a real life situation.
Don’ts: Don’t add any irrelevant content. Don’t make it too boring or formal. That would only distract the learner.
Step 2: Informing the learner of the objective
Setting expectations is very important for the learner. The learner should know right at the start what he/she will be able to do at the end of the e-learning course. If the learner is not clear on how the course will benefit him, he will not be interested to move ahead.
Dos: The objectives should be clear, concise, and specific. This acts as a mental checklist for the learner as he moves forward with the course. He can check at the end whether all the learning points were covered.
For example, the learning objective, ‘List the 5 parts of a moulding machine’, makes it pretty clear to the learner what he can do after he completes this module.
Don’ts: Don’t write an objective statement that is too generic. For example, the objectives ‘Understand the manufacturing processes’ and ‘Know the automobile parts’, are not specific. So, the learner will not be clear as to what he would be able to do at the end of the
e-learning course: will it all the manufacturing process or any particular process.
Step 3: Stimulating recall of prior knowledge
This step enables the learner to connect to and build upon his prior knowledge about a particular concept. For example, if you were to teach a learner (who knows how to drive a bike) but not a car – you will not directly start by sitting him on the driver’s seat. Rather, you should mention the different parts of the car and its function. Then, you will mention how each part works. Therefore, you are slowly stimulating the learner about his prior knowledge of driving.
Dos: You can use ice-breakers, a small assessment or a “Do you know” kind of thing to check the prior knowledge. For example, to check what a learner knows about Ebola, throw in some “Do you know” facts about Ebola virus.
Don’ts: This “Do you know” is just for recapitulation and setting the context, NOT to test the learner’s knowledge. So keep the questions simple.
Step 4: Presenting information
This is the stage where the actual learning process starts, where the learner is exposed to new content or information.
Dos: Always present content in a logical flow. The learner should be able to link the content between screens and between modules. Chunking the content is an important step. Use effective media (audio/visual etc.) strategy to make things interesting.
Don’ts: Never ever increase the cognitive load of the learner. Don’t bombard the new learner with too much content. Long paragraphs, too much content on screen, too many things happening on screen – all these lead to frustration and may cause the learner to abandon the learning.
There are some dos and don’ts of the first four steps of the Gagne’s model. I will share my thoughts on the other steps in the next edition of this blog.