by Julie Dirksen, design consultant, @usablelearning
We are delighted to have Julie Dirksen as a blogger this week. Julie worked with Allen Interactions for nearly a decade as an instructional designer and currently is a design consultant for Allen Interactions in addition to her other clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies, to innovative technology startups, and major grant-funded research initiatives. Julie has more than 15 years of experience creating highly interactive e-learning experiences, is an avid blogger, author of Design for How People Learn, and a facilitator for ATD's Advanced e-Learning Instructional Design Certificate Program.
One of the tenets of the eLearning Manifesto is Individualized Challenges over One Size Fits All learning experiences. I think it might be useful to take a closer look at how this can work in an elearning environment.
Historically, one of the great promises of elearning was going to be customized elearning experiences. From the early days it was viewed as one of the great benefits over a classroom experience—each learner could have a distinct learning experience customized or adapted to their needs, which would be so much better than being in a class where a single solution had to work for everyone. Basically, your elearning would be intelligent and adaptive to you.
Yeah, that didn’t really happen that much.
Aside from a few companies like Knewton (which focuses on the K-12 market), we haven’t really seen adaptive learning implemented in a broad way. In most cases, it’s proven to be too costly and difficult to have a behind-the-scenes algorithm adapting the learning experience, and on most projects it’s difficult enough to have the resources to create one good version of the content, rather than multiple versions adapted to different audiences.
So, in the absence of adaptive algorithms and multi-versioned content, is there a way to create customized learning experiences?
I think the answer is yes, but it involves a specific structure for learning experiences, and it puts the responsibility for customization on the learner.
Basically, you have a structure where the task or problem is presented up front, and all the didactic explanatory information is presented as resources to be used as needed.
Creating Individualized Learning - A Software Training Example
An example of this is the task model interface that Allen Interactions uses for software training. A lot of software training is a game of follow-the-red-box. Learners are shown how to use the software as an animation or simulation has them follow highlighted items around the screen.
In the task model, the learner is given a task to complete, and needs to figure out how they are going to do it.