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Designing Online Courses For Learners Who Are Not Computer Literate

Written By Donna Niemi Barrett

Designing Online Courses For Learners Who Are Not Computer Literate

Recently, I read an article on how all learning charts are wrong. People don’t actually remember 10% of what they read and 20% of what they see. While I agree with the debunking of this myth on the surface, I’m not entirely convinced that some of the myths aren’t true. Since those percentages were just estimations derived from Dale’s Cone of Experience, the exact percentage may be wrong, but the notion was correct.

If you think about your own schooling, what sort of things do you remember most? For me, they are the projects where I had to research and complete and the tutoring sessions I did with other students in varying subjects. Do I remember anything that was taught by a teacher who stood in front of the class talking? Not really, unless something extraordinary happened during that lesson, like when the class clown decided one day it would be funny to suddenly stand up, drop his pants and walk up and down the aisles. Okay, so I remember what I saw that day in Science class, but I don’t remember what the teacher was droning on about.

Would learning online differ from learning in a traditional classroom environment? I believe it does in that the student is in more control of an online course than in a classroom, which means that each individual student can take the amount of time he or she needs to learn the material. Self-paced material is the greatest advantage of learning online.

So, if we have a more remedial student or someone not computer savvy, does that mean they cannot take online courses? Of course not! Any well made elearning course guides the learner through the material. Just because there’s no teacher standing over the student doesn’t mean there is no help at all. Flashing buttons and spoken instructions are just a couple of methods used to help a learner navigate a course. However, other than help with navigation and perhaps having access to an instructor to answer questions, an online course puts the onus on the student to learn rather than the teacher to teach.

A good e-learning course will take into account that a class is comprised of people with varying levels of skill. Some will be more advanced, while others will be remedial. As long as the course is geared with the beginner in mind and is self-paced, it will be able to be used by all levels of skill because the more advanced students can navigate faster. The course should also factor in the Cone of Experience. So, instead of just spoken instruction, there will also be visual and written modes of instruction. Ending a course with the opportunity for the student to use the new knowledge will help increase the rate of retention as well.

It may not be exactly 10% of what we read, 20% heard, 30% seen and 90% said and done, but I do believe the levels of retention follow along the lines of Dale’s cone. If a student uses the newly-acquired knowledge to teach someone else, the likelihood of them remembering what was taught is far higher than if they are just taught through reading and spoken instruction.

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