by Ann Iverson, instructional designer
Angel Green, senior instructional strategist at Allen Interactions, recently hosted a webinar on Design Thinking for the Instructional Designer that was both informative and inspirational. In it, she stressed the importance of moving beyond a formulaic approach into designing instructional products through creative and empathetic endeavors. An essential success factor for these instructional events is to focus on performance, minimizing content that learners can access easily outside of the learning experience.
For most of my career as an instructional designer, I’ve been an advocate for putting an end to the information dump that many clients believe to be effective. I’ve put myself in the learner’s shoes, dreading the idea of trudging through screens overloaded with information. Over the years, I’ve tried to help decision makers and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) understand the importance of minimizing content they consider to be “need-to-know.” While their motivation for holding on tight varies, our goal as instructional designers is to try to move the needle toward the design principles that make for great e-learning.
There are a few common questions that raise a red flag for me, highlighting some of the best needle-moving opportunities with stakeholders. When they ask these questions, I realize there’s a chance to advocate for dumping the information dump. Maybe you recognize these questions as opportunities too:
1. Where are the learning objectives?
Starting a course with bulleted learning objectives was once the standard. When learners see those lists, they get an immediate impression the course is heavy on content, light on interactivity. Try starting the course with objectives that challenge learners right away. For example, for a fire safety course…
Instead of this:
Upon completion of this course, learners should be able to:
- Understand how grease fires ignite
- Recognize a grease fire
- Identify the steps for putting out a grease fire
- Know the consequences of using a variety of materials for putting out a grease fire
Quick! There’s a grease fire in your kitchen! Grab the right items to put the fire out now.
Defining a “mission objective” for learners upfront gives them an engaging and compelling reason to find the information they need to make the best decisions.
2. Where are the page numbers?
Work with stakeholders to clarify the difference between e-learning and e-reading. Page numbers are for text books, not virtual learning activities. Think about it, you never see page numbers in online games. The path is often nonlinear, so it can’t be measured in screens. The page number is a classic example of setting up learners to believe they’re making progress by clicking through screens of content. But when you immerse learners in a rich, engaging environment, page numbers become irrelevant. Learners are too focused on and engaged in the activity to care about what page they’re on.