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3 Tips for instructional designers to create e-learning that has an impact

If you ask children what they have done at school on a given day, they will most probably tell you all about how a teacher had funny hair, how two colleagues got into an argument or how the fish taco at lunch was especially tasty. Ask them what they have learned and there is a good chance they will either give a generic answer (like ‘stuff”) or genuinely say that nothing interesting – with the exception of topics that are of special interest to them or are related to something they found worth remembering.

The students are not the problem and neither is the system. They have to constantly learn for good years of their lives and it’s impossible to store all the information. Eventually, with enough repetition and the pressure of important exams, information will partially stick.

Adults remember little of what is taught to them

Things are not that different when it comes to adult learning. In my experience as a trainer, I often found that under the “what is your take away from this session” participants wrote about things that (although at times complimenting to me) had little if anything to do with the subject of the course.

Corporate training is not about giving out information but mainly about changing or driving behavior in order to achieve better results. Especially in today’s fast-moving business world when the ability to react, transform and innovate is crucial to staying on the market, employees demand time-efficient quality training, tailored to their needs and available at their convenience.

3 Tips for designing e-learning that has an impact

E-learning is the sensible choice but instructional designers have the difficult task of creating modules that have a real impact. Here are three tips on how to achieve that:

  1. Introspection generates ‘a-ha’ moments

    A-ha moments rarely come from a very good presentation or accuracy of information. They are very personal and as such have different triggers. They are truly what makes a lasting impact on an individual and unfortunately one can’t simply put that “attention, personal epiphany ahead” on a slide or a screen and expect people to automatically have one of those.

    However, there is a good method for facilitating these rare and precious learning moments – asking questions.

    You might think it’s odd in an e-learning module but the fact that people don’t have to give the answers out loud in front of a facilitator or an audience might lead to real introspection and a more honest answer. Wondering about things and attempting to make sense of them can lead to really effective learning.

  2. People learn from what they go through

    Experiencing something is the surest way of owning it. Reading or hearing about what and how it happened for other people can be entertaining and sometimes even educational but it’s not the same as something the individual goes through.

    Making e-learning as much about experience as possible will greatly increase the impact it has. The latest technologies, such as AR and VR can help create virtual situations and environments that are very close to the actual instances in which a piece of knowledge or a certain skill can come in handy.

    Learners that get immersed in the material manage to get a lot more from it than they would do if they were just reading some slides or watching a video presentation. Where learning is concerned nothing beats personal experience so if the goal is for a certain module to really make a difference, it needs to make an impression first.

  3. If it’s not important, it’s not remembered

    The third thing to keep in mind when setting out to design e-learning meant to have an impact is that the relevance of the information presented is crucial.

    People have very limited time. They are stressed, they are literally bombarded with information coming at them from everywhere and have little patience. Granted, everybody knows how important it is to constantly be learning and developing skills and competencies.

    They are, however, also aware of the fact that there is quite a number of educational options and offers available. With ‘how to’ videos all over the place, expert bloggers and vloggers and so much instructional material floating around on the world wide web, a course that has an impact is one that focuses on what is truly relevant to the learner.

    This, of course, requires a very thorough training needs investigation and a well-planned marketing strategy for the material.

All in all

Human memory is very selective and highly emotional. Designing a course so that it has an impact requires generating some degree of introspection in the learner, facilitating experiences rather that presenting lectures and making sure that only the most relevant subjects and information make the cut.

How to easily design beautiiful online courses