Building Better Courses

A big challenge in an instructional designer’s life is how to motivate their target audience. As discussed in previous posts, motivation is key. But how does one motivate a learner when you can’t be there, physically present, to be your target audience’s cheerleader? You can do this by making a learner-centric content.

First, let us differentiate between learner-centric and content-centric.

Content-centric focuses on a precise presentation of content from a SME’s perspective which learners often can’t relate to.
Learner-centric focuses on allowing learners to discover content while performing a realistic task or solving a realistic problem.

What does this mean? It means that you must go beyond the usual navigation, clicking, dragging and dropping… this means that you need to build your courses on interesting contexts, such as:

  • Real-world or authentic environments/tasks
  • Problem-solving scenarios
  • Simulations
  • Activities that involve risks and consequences

How to build learner-centric courses

1. Start by determining what the learner do on the job or in the real world.
The task(s) = the eLearning activities

2. Start building your content on the principle of the 4 elements of instructional interactivity:
  • Context
  • Challenge
  • Activity
  • Feedback
3. Start from the activity, and then determine how to allow learners to discover or ask for content that supports the task/activity.

4. Put the learner in control of if and when they access different content resources.

5. Avoid the impulse to tell and then test. Instead, test and tell:
  • Place information learners might need to complete the activity in optional resources, accessible by clicking buttons. This gives learners control over the content they view.
  • You can also use a hint/tips feature.
  • Some information can be presented as feedback, provided after the learner completes a task or makes a judgment. Feedback should focus on consequences of decisions learners have made.
6. Remember to use expository and exploratory pages minimally.

Always remember that adult learners bring different knowledge and skill levels to the course, don’t assume one size fits all. This is why it is important to make things learner-centric and not drive the info through a path determined by your SME. As an instructional designer, your task is to make things more interesting for your learner – motivate them to get the knowledge they need! Experience does all of her teaching backwards; she gives a test before explaining the lesson. —Farmer’s Almanac