Earlier this month I presented at DevLearn on connecting learning to the business and this week I did a webinar and a seminar on adaptive learning. During these sessions I noticed that our basic approach (Determine learning objectives, Figure out how to assess and then create only the content that is really needed) is far from standard. Most people create content, create an assessment and that is it. But the funny thing is that this ‘old school’ approach is the foundation of innovation at easygenerator.
Originally I’m a teacher in social studies and economics. They taught me that for every lesson you want to create you need to figure out your goal first and that you need to find a way to asses if that goal is reached in the end. Only then you could start creating your lessons. I did apply this approach through my working live: with teaching, with writing books (on bookkeeping – how boring can you get?-), when I create eLearning and even when I manage a company. I know it is not common practice, but I still believe that this is the way to go.
Old school didactics
Let’s first take a look at this old school approach.
As said you start out with your learning objectives. Creating sound and useful objectives is an art in its own right. I will not go in too much detail here but I’m a fan of the action mapping approach from Cathy Moore. The essence of this approach is that learning is not about obtaining knowledge but to (learn) to be able to perform a task. Cathy doesn’t link this to learning objectives, but if you do, they should state what the learner needs to be able to do.
The second step in the development process is the assessment: how do you prove that the learner is able to do the task? You can do this by asking questions, presenting cases, really anything that will measure the performance and comes up with a score. By the way thanks to our new emerging standard (‘Tincan API’ aka ‘the experience API’) we will be able to measure this in real live and use the outcome in an eLearning course). When you create good cases (or scenario’s) this assessment will be the learning experience by itself.
And only then you start creating the content. But in the spirit of Cathy Moore only the content that is really, really needed to (learn to) do the task. When in doubt leave it away, ‘less is better’ and much cheaper!
We have applied this principle in the authoring platform of easygenerator and it has become the foundation underneath the innovations we have created and will create in the future. I will explain.
In easygenerator we created a dashboard to create and manage your learning objectives. You can’t create a course without a learning objective (if there no goal there is no point in creating a course after all) in easygenerator.
After creating the course you need to set how to measure the progress in the course. You do that by connecting the Learning objectives to questions and cases. In fact you are determining how to assess the objectives. Finally you connect these questions to related information pages.
And this simple approach will change and enable a lot:
- It will change your design process and with that the kind of course you create.
- The learner is able to see the objectives and his progress on the objectives during the course.
- The course is able to present a personal study advice to the learner.
- You will be able to report the outcome per learner per learning objective, giving you meaningful data to evaluate you course and your contribution to the companies goals.
These are only the first developments we did based on this approach, a lot more will follow. This video shows you how this works for the learner and for the author.
Based on these very basic dialectical principles we will continue the innovation of eLearning courses and the creation process. Some of the things on our road map are:
- Create non-hierarchical metaphors and interfaces for eLearning courses (no book metaphor).
- Create better support for designing eLearning courses in our authoring environment.
- Implement TinCan
- Create learning maps, where the learner can navigate through on his journey to reaching his learning objective
- Create better support for case based and scenario based eLearning in the authoring environment
And there will be much more. But the bottom-line is that this idea is independent of a tool, it is how you organize your development process. You can do this on paper if you want, but I believe eLearning developers should do this much more, regardless of the tool they are using.