There is more than one way to look at an object. You can view it from the front or back, close up or far away, and so on. This is also true of eLearning. So, this post is going to consider it from a different perspective. There are nine elements of good instruction you can use as litmus tests to see where your association’s eLearning is doing well and where it has room to grow.

1. Wow… you have my attention.
Have you ever been to a session where the instructor walks in with music playing on the boom box they’re carrying? It’s not something you can ignore. If people are going to learn they need to be paying attention. Hook them with a vivid image, joke, anecdote, etc. It should tie back to the instruction. That boom box carrier was a history professor. We were studying the French Revolution that day. He was playing “the theme song of the French Revolution.”
2. Remind me, why am I here?
Imagine looking for a tutorial on “how to build a bird house” and ending up with a video that shows how to build a full-sized house that’s shaped like a bird. It can be frustrating to sign up for an online course and then find out it isn’t what you were looking for. Provide clear learning objectives up front so your learners know what they’re getting into.
3. Oh, it’s like that! Okay, I can do this.
Origami may seem really intimidating, until you realize it’s like making a paper airplane. Pretests and comparisons with familiar subjects can bring background knowledge to the front of a learner’s mind. They can also provide a confidence boost or a reminder that the learner needs to brush up on prerequisite skills.
4. I think I get it.
If there’s a timeline labelled “History of Chocolate” but the content is about different kinds of chocolate, that’s confusing. When you present eLearning, organize the content so it makes sense. You can present learning material in chronological order, least complex to most complex, start with generalizations and move on to case studies, etc. Using headings and visual hierarchies is a big help too. Just remember to be consistent. CHANGING the structure will throw learners off and MAKE it hard to focus.
5. So, what do I do now?
It would be pretty weird if someone randomly walked up, handed you a hammer, explained how to use it, and then walked away. Sadly, this is where a lot of eLearning falls short. Your association should guide its members and let them know what to do next, even when they’ve finished a course. Examples or job aids can provide context and let the learner see when their new skills could come in handy. Suggest places or events they can visit to put their new knowledge to work, let them know if you release more courses on the subject, etc.
6. Let me give it a try.
Just because I can explain how to do a cartwheel doesn’t mean I can actually do one. Theory and practical application are two different things. Whenever possible, let your learners practice what they’ve learned. This could mean a hands-on workshop, an eLearning scenario, or any other number of things. The point is that they need to be able to do what they know.
7. I think this is right. Is this right?
Picture handing in a proposal or report for review and never hearing anything back. Was there something wrong, could you do something to make it better, was it the greatest thing anyone had ever read? There’s no way to know. That’s why constructive feedback is so important. “Correct” and “Incorrect” are a place to start, but don’t stop there. Let your learners know what they did well, where they need to do some more work, and what they can do to improve.
8. I can do this. Let me prove it.
Being a plate spinner is impressive. But if you can only do it when no one is watching, how can anyone else know that you’re good at it? Tests and assessments are opportunities for learners to show what they can do. Beyond that, they’re also another opportunity for the learner to get constructive feedback.
9. Use it or lose it.
This saying applies to lots of things: playing a musical instrument, using a computer program, dancing, and so on. If you don’t continue practicing a skill or reviewing a set of facts it will fade over time. Give your members a reason to “stay sharp” after they’ve finished an eLearning course. You could send short mini-quizzes by e-mail a week or so after they complete a course to help jog their memories. Or, consider opening a forum to discuss the subject or holding a competition.

Looking at eLearning from different angles can help you pin down ways for your association to improve its offerings. Was this helpful? Could it have been improved? Leave some constructive feedback in the comments section.

This article is based on Robert Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction. Dr. Richard Van Eck has written a wonderful paper that discusses how the Nine Events can be used in game-based learning (his piece starts on page 4).

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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