Effective learningI worked on a particular course that had it all: pre-work, an individual practice activity, and then a live event assignment that drew on the earlier pieces. The learners demonstrated the skills they were supposed to be learning and came up with a range of creative solutions to the assignment. It was wonderful! And it got bad reviews because it was “too hard,” even though their performance proved that they’d met the objectives and could apply what they’d learned.

Sometimes people seem to forget that learning takes effort. In short, effective learning usually isn’t “the quick and easy path.”

Why a Certain Amount of Frustration Is Good

Making mistakes is frustrating. Having someone point out where you went wrong can be frustrating. Repeating something over and over again to the point where you can do it in your sleep is usually frustrating.

But wait a minute. We’re more likely to recall lessons learned as the result of mistakes. Feedback is invaluable for helping improve performance and assessing quality. Spaced repetition cements knowledge and skills into long-term memory. And the last time I checked, being able to “do something in your sleep” means that you’re so used to it that you can just do it whenever you need to, without having to stop and think about how to do it.

How eLearning Fits In

How many times can a mechanic install a part incorrectly or an inspector forget to cover a new requirement before there are serious consequences in the real world? Sometimes there’s no margin for error at all. eLearning gives learners a safe place to try, fail, improve, try again, and practice until they’re confident and knowledgeable. “Practice makes perfect” isn’t realistic but “Practice makes proficient” is. With that said, it’s probably better for everyone if learners go through this process in practice situations rather than on the job.

How to Tell Frustratingly Effective eLearning from Bad eLearning

The best way is to look at the information that’s being used to decide whether a course is “good” or “bad.” If poor learner reviews are the indicator, read them carefully. If they say the learners couldn’t figure out what to do next or couldn’t understand the content that needs to be addressed. If they “had to think too hard” then the course is probably doing its job. If completion rates are the issue it’s worth investigating to see why your learners aren’t taking or finishing the course. Maybe they’re having trouble finding or accessing it and the course itself isn’t the problem.

When it comes to learning, whether it’s eLearning or not, people get out what they put in. A little bit of frustration and repetition can go a long way toward helping a learner grasp a new concept or skill. eLearning provides a safe environment for practice that doesn’t have the same consequences as the real world. At the end of the day, distinguishing frustratingly effective courses from downright bad ones is a useful skill. Have you been through any frustrating but valuable courses or classes?

I’m going to nominate my writing composition class from freshman year. Wow did that eat up a lot of my time and wow was that one of the single most useful classes I took in college.

If you’d like to learn more about custom eLearning course creation from Digitec Interactive, visit our eLearning page.

If you’d like to read more about instructional design best practices, check out the rest of this author’s blogs.

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