We’ve written about successful e-learning programs in the past and those of us in the industry often singing the praises of such modules.
But from an instructional designer’s viewpoint, what’s the secret to creating a program that works? How can designers help students retain knowledge and then transfer that knowledge to their workplace?
It’s not an easy ask, but a new e-book by Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist for Allen Interactions, lists 10 principles for creating a meaningful e-learning program.
While I’m not going to list them all here, a few suggestions are especially noteworthy:
- Design the end of your lesson first. This may go against how many of us learn. And for linear thinkers, perhaps this concept presents a challenge. But think about it. How many times have you started a project with raging enthusiasm, only to run out of steam by the end? Edwards contends many instructional designers focus so much attention on presentation that sometimes content gets lost. So to avoid playing “The Little Engine That Could,” Edwards suggests designing the end of a module first to allow designers to expend the most energy and effort on the part of the lesson that matters most.
- Create real-life activities. E-learning presents specific challenges by its very nature: Most learners use a mouse and a screen, rather than, for example, role play as they do during in-person learning programs. So in e-learning modules, it’s important for learners to complete activities that suggest real-life behavior to complete a concrete goal. Tip: Design challenges rooted in the real world that have meaningful outcomes.
- Don’t be adversarial. In a classroom, it’s not appropriate for a teacher to judge and ridicule and the same goes for instructional designers. Edwards says too often instructional designers unnecessarily create conflict and use an adversarial tone. Instead, e-learning should be empowering, allowing for people to experiment and make mistakes. Tip: When creating an e-learning module, write to foster a culture of support, assistance and collaboration.
“Instructional designers of e-learning face a constant challenge of how to create learning experiences that actually make a difference,” Edwards said. “Sophisticated simulations and technically-sophisticated designs seem out of reach for many instructional designers. While much can be accomplished in sophisticated development environments, rarely is it the technology that is actually responsible for the impact. Rather, it’s the powerful design ideas that are grounded on some relatively practical and achievable principles.”