Robert Gagné was an educational psychologist who worked in the field of the science of instruction in the 1940s. His theory, Conditions of Learning, shows the necessary mental conditions for effective learning.
This is important for course creators because he outlined a nine-step process that is useful to this day in all areas of learning. Course creators can significantly benefit from the application of this model as it details every element that should go into a successful course.
Each step of Gagné' nine events of instruction describes one form of communication that moves the learning process along. With the completion of each stage, the learners are likely to be more engaged and prepared to remember the information or demonstrate the skill that they are being taught.
Gagné's nine events of instruction applied in online courses
Let’s go over Gagné's nine events of instruction and see how they can be applied in e-learning courses:
Gain the learner’s attention
There are several ways of getting the learner’s attention. While the e-learning setting is different from the classroom one, the principles of adult learning are the same. As a result, you can either begin with a question that will get users thinking and feeling engaged to find the answer. An LMS survey is a great way to begin each module.
The same applies to presenting a problem that needs to be solved. This learning event is about getting the learner interested in finding out more.
Inform the learners of the objective
This is the "what's in it for me" part. Don't confuse the objectives you present to the learners with the instructional goals you have formulated for your module.
The latter tend to be a bit dry and don't hold the right appeal for the audience. You want them to see the personal or professional benefit of reaching those learning objectives to make sure you tailor them to their needs and use simpler terms to describe what is going to happen. For example, “the learner will be able to name five benefits of time management” sounds more boring than “You’ll find out why investing in time management is great for you!”
Read more: Learning sequencing: the path to a successful online course
Stimulate recall of prior knowledge
This step aims to help learners build on their prior knowledge. One way to achieve this is to have a short recap material covering either items that have already been covered in the pre-requisite modules or the general knowledge that is useful to be refreshed before going over the new information.
You can also render this informative nugget in the form of an engaging video, an infographic, or an interactive drag and drop to enhance engagement and recall.
Present the Material
This event is related to most of your online course. You can be as creative as you want but there are some aspects to take into consideration as well:
- Avoiding cognitive overload – an excellent way to achieve this is to provide the information in smaller, more palatable chunks;
- Alternating the presentation methods – not all users will have the same learning preferences and it's important to address everyone;
- Make the content as interactive as possible to keep engagement levels high.
Read more: 5 Tips for avoiding cognitive overload in your e-learning modules
Provide guidance for learning
Learning how to learn is a big part of any educational endeavor. When you design your e-learning material, it's important to include basic guidelines to help learners understand and retain the information.
You can include summaries at the end of each module or make infographics with the information that has maximum relevance and helps reiterate key concepts for better understanding. More importantly, it’s good to point out what’s not so relevant or what they should focus on in order to achieve their personal goals. Even though all entrepreneurs want a full course completion, some modules may be more relevant than others for certain learners and we need to take that into consideration.
Learners need to be given enough opportunities to practice newly acquired knowledge. Once more, there are many options: engaging interactive scenarios that mimic real-life situations, problems to decipher and quizzes that show the participants how well they have mastered the new information or skills. The theory is important, but much of it is lost if there's no practice.
Read more: How to create scenario-based learning directly in your LMS
While offering feedback is not as easy in an e-learning setting, it's an essential aspect of learning. For one, you can use game mechanics to let the learners know of their achievements. Badges, leaderboards, the unlocking of various rewards are all great for offering positive reinforcement and motivating the learner.
Include many quizzes along the way as they tell the learner which modules need revisiting (if they wish to, of course) and give you valuable data on the complexity of the content.
The end-of-course assessment should generally be comprehensive and include items with various difficulty levels.
Read more: Using automation to adjust the difficulty level for your course
Enhance retention and transfer
This event takes place after the course is over. LMS automation features make it easy to do various types of follow-ups – sending short quizzes, checklists, videos, or even invitations to brief e-learning courses that go over the most relevant items or offer updates.
Read more: Mastering course automation in 4 simple steps
Using Gagné’s important lessons
Gagné's nine events of instruction is a highly valuable instructional design theory because it offers a comprehensive checklist for any online course creator. Apart from the first and last steps, the other events can be mixed and matched to compose a thoroughly engaging and successful learning experience.