Friday, September 26, 2008

Dealing with the learner continuum in a computer based or web based environment

Today at work one of my co-workers had to vet a computer based module designed to teach people how to use Microsoft Outlook. He is very tech savvy, and after less than five minutes of exposure to the content he was like “Are these courses designed for fifth graders, I am sure if I gave my 5th grade son this he would understand.” This brings out a very important issue especially in the non-traditional learning environments........

Who should you tailor your course for?

Well for one thing every course should have a target audience and this should also be made clear some where in the course description/introduction and learners should have access to this. This will ensure that the content is tailored to this group and potential participants can determine if the course is for them or not.
Another method of filtering learners is to divide courses in to levels and explicitly state the prerequisite knowledge that learners need to have in order to benefit from the course.

Learners! Learners! Learners!
In customer service, the customer is always right. In instructional design the learner is always right. By this I mean everything that we do should be geared towards the learners and their needs and interests. It’s like clothes, your friend may buy an outfit and it complements her/him well, but you would never in a wild dream buy that. The same is for a course one learner from the target group may find the course engaging and interesting and another who is not apart of the target group may think it’s pathetic. The important thing is that it meets the needs of the target learners!

What happens when the target group is diversified?
Well we all know sometimes it’s not that simple as sometimes, instructional material has to be designed for a wide audience. In a face-to-face environment there is much flexibility where that is concerned. However, what to do in a web-based or computer based environment? Well this is where choices come in , give learners choices in their navigation, thus if they are familiar with some of the content they can move on. Have quick explanations and more detail ones depending on the learner. Have a look at these post from The Rapid eLearning Blog

How do you tailor your instructional materials to meet the needs of diverse learners?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Cup of Inspiration: Making the Lights Come On!

On Friday, September 5th, I attended The 21st Annual St. Louis American Foundation's Salute to Excellence in Education Banquet. It was a very well coordinated event and it was very inspiring. Each of the awardees did a video presentation/interview on what motivate them as teachers and this was shown at the banquet. Interesting but not surprising almost all the teachers said that what keeps them going is when the lights turn on for students…when you can get a student who was oblivious to the content area to respond and say…”I get it now…I understand”. For the kindergarten teacher it was the fact that most of them leave her class literate.
This should be the aim of every instruction to turn the lights on despite the age group. Here are some things to bear in mind when preparing for instruction to ensure that the light’s get turned on. These are especially relevant for adult learners:

Know your learners
-What are their interests?
- What attitudes and skills do they bring to the course?
-How do they prefer to learn?

Identify what you want them to learn
-Decide on the general outcome skills/knowledge that learners must have.
Example, should they be able to use software, carry out a process?
- Ask your self if learners are to achieve this general outcome what do they need to know and do?
Example, for software do they need to know parts and functions?
- It may help to start off broad and then further subdivide.
For example I may have: Interface of the software as 1 thing that they need to know and under that section have: Command tabs Command sets.
-Get the content for each area in details bearing in mind the level that your learners are at. Ensure that you provide enough information for them to understand; for procedures include cues where necessary……the things that they should look out for, avoid, as well as indicators that the process has been completed successfully.

Decide how learners will show understanding
From the content that you have developed decide for each section how learners will show you they understand, using what is called instructional objectives. These should be measurable, and student centered…the image below is an example of one and the components.

Decide how you will impart the information
Based on the nature of the content and your learners learning style come up with strategies, will use demonstration, role play, video presentations.
What delivery media will you use: Face-to-face, Self paced, virtual learning environment, hybrid etc.
How will you sequence it?

Develop your materials

What ever format you have chosen develop your materials so that it is appealing to the audience and conveys the message. This can be achieved by using the right images, font faces, highlighting important points etc.

Evaluate constantly
For each decision that you make get some feedback and use the information to revise what you have done.

Remember it’s all about the learner!!

How do you make the lights come on?