I love Sheldon Cooper! I’m talking about the eccentric genius from the TV sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. He’s a know-it-all and knows it!

So, why do I love him? Apart from the fact that he’s funny, it’s the hidden desire to be that know-it-all, to know almost everything there is of any practical worth. Alas, every day I am reminded of how far from this truth I am (and maybe that’s a good thing, but that’s another whole new philosophical debate for another time). Take, for example, the other day when my nephew wanted me to help him with a maths problem. I am one of those many mathematically-challenged individuals, and therefore, had to politely decline his request for assistance. After all, no use confusing him any further!

This incident, in turn, got me thinking about my job as an instructional designer. I declined to help my nephew citing a lack of knowledge on the topic, but here I am, creating courses on topics as technical as avionics to ones that involve a totally different set of skills, such as handling irate customers. How do I do that?

Well, it helps that most of my learners are adults, and they therefore already have a frame of reference in place about what is to come in the e-learning. Deconstructed, this means we design an experience that assists a learner.

So, with this basic premise in mind, I can perform five tasks that will more or less make sure the e-learning is effective:

  1. Break the content into small chunks of information.
  2. Use text sparingly and use visuals to back up your content.
  3. Involve the learner using interactions.
  4. Test the learner’s application of the knowledge, not its recall.
  5. Guide the learner on where and how to look for more information.

There are various paradigms and theories to back these basics up – Cognitive Load, Cone of Learning, Gagne’s Conditions of Learning theory with the nine events and so on, but my experience has shown that following these five steps without even knowing these theories will help you create an efficient product.

Does that mean that that I don’t need to know these theories? I’ll answer that with a sport analogy – knowing how to dribble does not translate into being a good player. To do that, you need to study the game.

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This article was written on Friday, March 2nd, 2012 by Ishan Dutt

Category: e-Learning, Instructional design, Uncategorized
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