Who do you think are instructional designers? Are they instructors or subject matter experts or facilitators? In my opinion, instructional designers are facilitators. Instructors and subject matters experts are sources of content. Most of them control what is being taught and when it is taught. It is usually up to the participants to adapt their style and to use their previous knowledge to learn new skills.
Whereas facilitators use their knowledge to create an environment such that the learners’ prior knowledge and unique learning style are used to meet their needs. Instructional designers guide the learners in the process of learning. So let’s look at what an instructional design must do to facilitate learning.
Here are a few best practices for instructional design in eLearning.
Introduce brain teasers: One way to activate learners’ prior knowledge is to ask questions at the beginning of a course. It could be a pretest in the form of multiple choice questions or drag-and-drop interactivity that allows learners to think and answer. You can then give feedback and say that more information will be provided on the topic in this course.
Communicate the course objectives: As most of the learners are adults, they need to be assigned reasons as to why they should learn something. Clearly explain the objectives – what is it that you want the learners to achieve at the end of the course? In what way would the knowledge help them improve their current skills and abilities?
Introduce your information: The best way to teach learners is to take them from a known path to an unknown path; that is, you need to build on their existing skills. You need to chunk the course content into digestible pieces and organize it logically. Distinguish between ‘need-to-know’ and ‘nice-to-know’ content. Avoid cramming too much information into the course that is not directly relevant to the course objective. They can be made available as additional resources.
Apply instructional design strategies: According to Ruth Colvin Clark, content is categorized into five types – facts, concepts, processes, procedures and principles.Based on the content the instructional design strategy differs. Using scenario-based learning, guide learning (using avatars) and case studies are some of the strategies that can be used.
Evaluate learning: Evaluation is the main component of an eLearning course that aims at continuous improvement. Include interim review questions/assessments at the end of each topic, which help in involving learners and gaining their attention. Assessments are used to reinforce the achievement of learning objectives.
These are some of the best practices an instructional design must apply to facilitate learning.