An increasing number of subject matter experts are sharing their knowledge in a variety of ways. One of them is the creation of learning content. Facilitating this is the core role of my company Easygenerator. We provide a hassle-free authoring platform for them to share knowledge effortlessly. We know that the software must be so intuitive that anyone can log in and, without any training, can start creating learning material. We also know that we have to guide and assist subject matter experts to help them create effective learning materials.
Subject matter experts often start with what we call a “PowerPoint mindset”; they are focussed on transferring the information as if they are creating a PowerPoint presentation. As a result, subject matter experts often create very content heavy courses that are not effective learning materials. In this blog, I will give some tips on how to change this mindset and with that help subject matter experts to create better and more effective learning.
Moving away from a PowerPoint mindset
The main problem with the “PowerPoint mindset” is the focus on content. Because of this focus, most subject matter experts will just start with writing. They will pour out all the knowledge they have in order to share it. While their intention is great, this does not lead to effective learning material. They will create content heavy courses that are not engaging or effective.
- Set a goal: The start of the process should be setting a goal, or a learning objective combined with determining your audience. This will give you a first indication of which knowledge you have to share and will give you more focus.
- Define the questions: As a second step, you need to determine how to assess these objectives. What kind of questions or assignments can you give the learner, so they can prove that they have achieved the learning goal.
- Create focussed content: The third and final step is creating content. But with one important limitation: only create content that the learner will need in order to answer the questions or do the assignment.
We found that with this simple approach courses will be between 40% and 60% smaller. The time to create the materials will be proportionately less and a higher percentage of learners will complete the course. Courses created in this way will be rated significantly better than courses created with a PowerPoint mindset.
Beating the forgetting curve and enabling microlearning
The other thing that will have a big impact on the effectiveness of the materials is to create a series of small learning nuggets with a repetitive pattern. I will first explain why. In 1885 the psychologist Ebbinghaus discovered that you will forget most information you learned within a matter of hours. When you receive new information you will store it in your short term memory. But that memory has limited capacity. New information needs to be stored there and therefore your brain needs to remove “older” information. Only information that is transferred to your long-term memory will be saved, the rest is lost. Research shows that you will lose over 90% of that new information. This is called the forgetting curve. One of the most effective ways to beat the forgetting curve is repetition.
When you are repeating the information you have better retention that can go up from 10% to 90%.
There is a second element to consider, that is that shorter e-learning courses tend to be more effective than long ones. These short courses are called learning nuggets or microlearning. If you combine these two you get a really interesting solution. The rules are simple:
- Create courses that will take no longer than 15 minutes to complete.
- Build a series of them, making sure every course repeats parts of the previous one
In Easygenerator, for example, we have a feature that will show a page to the learner based on his result (fail or pass). On this page, you can include a link to the next module of the series. This way you can build a string of learning nuggets with repetition built in to beat the forgetting curve.