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Evolution of an eLearning Designer

Evolution of a designer

Early in my instructional design career, I developed loose structure I followed for most of my instructor-led training. Most training I developed had the same basic structure:

  1. Short lecture (two to five minutes)
  2. Activity
  3. Short assessment
  4. Repeat for all objectives
  5. Final Assessment

Evolution of In-Person Structure

As I grew in my field I learned that this structure missed a lot of opportunities for engagement with participants and I evolved my method into something more in line with how I design instructor-led training today.

  1. Activity that matches objective
  2. Feedback
  3. Debrief
  4. Mini scenario-based assessment
  5. Repeat for all objectives
  6. Final assessment or call to action

I have been designing eLearning as long as I have been designing instructor-led training and my formulas for both matched when I developed them. As I evolved my instructor-led methods, I evolved my eLearning methods. Below is how my eLearning structure evolved.

  1. Short lecture (but in Camtasia with cool graphics)
  2. Activity
  3. Short assessment
  4. Repeat for all objectives
  5. Final Assessment

Do you see what is missing?

Evolution of eLearning Structure

In the same way that a designer can get too close to content to notice a big flaw in design, I had become too close to my methods to see the big flaw in my eLearning design. I didn’t realize I hadn’t truly evolved my eLearning approach until I began working on a recent project with a colleague. As we talked about my script he asked the same question several times; “This is good, but how are they interacting with it?”.

What do you mean “how do they interact with it?”- I thought to myself. They are working through scenarios after they read the information they need to know. This didn’t seem to me like an approach that lacked interaction. After all, eLearning typically has three types interactions – buttons, drag and drops, and links. Every module I have developed used these tools to give information (i.e. read something on a screen), do a short step by step activity that put that information to use (simulation), and then an assessment. How much more interactive can you be with three types of interactions?

As it turns out, a lot more.

eLearning interactions are so much more than scenarios and assessments. First of all, participants need to interact with the content in a way that goes far beyond reading a screen or listening to a voice over. We know that adults learn best when they do something with the content, and that is especially true when we only have their attention for a few minutes in an eLearning module. Second, participants need room to interact and to fail. We learn much more from failure than we do from having the right answer. During instructor-led training, I give participants a safe space to fail. I ask them questions they may not know the answer to, I have them play games they may lose, or have them play Kahoot knowing they may get the wrong answer. Why is room for failure a luxury I provide only my synchronous participants? Why can’t I do it as an eLearning designer?

As I eat crow and admit that I have missed the opportunity to truly engage many eLearning participants in the past, I am excited with a new approach I am taking with a few modules we are developing for a client. Below are a few examples of interactions we developed to add to the engagement of our latest eLearning modules.

Build it better

A drag and drop interaction with materials the participants use to build something better than the original. This is used to meet an introduction to technology objective.

Scale Comparison

A slider bar that shows different features on a timeline over the lifetime of two items as you slide the bar. This is used to meet a compare and contrast objective.

Create a Story

An interaction where the participants are given several sentences and a scenario. Use the sentences to put together a story that relates to their work. This is used for an objective were participants explain person value.

I am excited about this approach to eLearning modules as I grow in my role as an eLearning designer at Endurance Learning.

How do you make your eLearning modules interactive beyond scenarios and assessments? How have you evolved as an instructional designer or elearning designer? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

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