It is common knowledge that the Internet has brought fundamental changes to the way we use information. Today, we can learn about everything under the sun thanks to this incredible development in technology. However as Tom Kuhlmann and Nicholas Carr point out, it has also radically altered the way we read and acquire information.
This is important to us because the reading habits affected by Internet remain with learners when they take online courses. But, how exactly does the Internet affect the way we read?
Search engines make us read less
I am sure that the above 6 words are bound to raise eyebrows. Let me explain. Most of you will agree when I say that we read books primarily to get the information we need in our daily lives. But with the advent of search engines, all you need to do is type the right keywords and you have what you want in front of you. There is no harm using a search engine to get the data you want, but once you get ‘habituated” to it, you find yourself reading lesser and lesser because you no longer have to wrestle with lengthy volumes to find the information you require.
Please make no mistake. I am not saying that search engines are bad. All that I am trying to drive home is that the Internet has resulted in lesser reading than before and we, instructional designers, need to adapt ourselves to this. So, how can we make sure that our online courses are effectively used by these “Net addicts”? Here are some useful tips.
Keep your courses short for better learning
Suppose you are given 2 options of presenting the content – A 3 hour course that needs to be taken at a single go or in six 30 minute learning modules. Which of these would you choose? I’d certainly prefer the latter.
As the quantum of reading reduces, so does the ability to remain focused for longer periods. Therefore, you need to see that your online courses are short to ensure maximum retention.
Give the learners an idea of what you wish to convey
Consider this scenario: Your learner logs onto the course and finds an index containing all the topics covered in it. The index has links that take the learner to the topic of his choice. The course is designed in such a way that the learner can return to the index from any slide. On each slide, important aspects of the content are highlighted.
Wouldn’t courses such as this make the life of your learners simple? For those skeptics, who fear that learners may skip some topics, I’d like to remind that they needn’t award the certificate of completion until the learner has cleared the final assessment that comprehensively tests him on all topics of the course.
Make the learner look for information
Isn’t it a better way to present the information through interactivities than merely rolling out tons of knowledge on bland slides? For instance, consider this interactivity designed to provide knowledge of a 4 step process.
The learner needs to click on each step and once he does that a new slide opens that contains details about that step. We need to make learners “work” for the information. This involves them better in the course and it is needless to say that better involvement leads to better learning.
Thus, you can use these techniques to develop better online courses for learners who are Internet savvy and are slowly losing the ability to read and focus for longer periods. Do you wish to add to the list?