In 1985, American educational psychologist Robert Gagne created a nine-step process of instructional design which can guide the process of learning. The process is called ‘The Events of Instruction’ where in each event has a definite purpose of supporting learning and leads to definite outcomes.
Gagne’s model can serve as guidelines to creating a result-oriented e-learning instructional design for workplace training too. Below are the Nine Events of Instruction and the Do’s and Don’ts that must be kept in mind:
STEP 1: GAIN ATTENTION
Gaining attention is inevitable for a course to take off successfully. Unless something within the course really grabs the mind of your learner, he will not glean much out of it even though he may sit through it.
Beginning a course with storytelling or presenting an interesting animation is a good way to kick off a course without making it too formal and boring from the start.
Do not make it formal. Employees may unconsciously perceive the first exposure to the course as a sort of preamble to the whole course and if it’s boring or too formal from the start, you would have lost their attention by the time you present them with the key knowledge or information.
STEP 2: PROVIDE A LEARNING OBJECTIVE
It is important to set expectations. Why are they here for a classroom training? What would they gain from the e-learning tutorial? Unless employees see value in the course, they will take it half-heartedly.
Learning objectives must be concise and specific. Try to present 4-5 small objectives out of each course if possible (that doesn’t mean you lengthen courses). The idea is to get them to prepare a mental checklist of the things to learn which they can mentally keep checking off as they go about the course.
Do not make objective statements that are too wide, too general or too technical sounding. For that, chunking content into smaller e-learning modules is very important.
STEP 3: STIMULATE RECALL OF PRIOR KNOWLEDGE
This step is all about building a connection between what employees already know and what they will add to that. Here, relevant previous concepts and experiences are retrieved from their memory and new information is correlated with them.
Use small, objective assessments in e-learning that test learners’ existing knowledge and also serve as a recap before they are exposed to new information. Create ‘mind maps’ and graphic representations to illustrate how the e-learning course will help them connect the dots between their existing level of knowledge and the desired new level.
Do not make the assessments too lengthy or too difficult. Remember, these are not assessments for testing employees’ core knowledge – the goal is to recapitulate relevant information only.
STEP 4: PRESENT THE MATERIAL
The actual learning begins at this stage when employees get exposed to new information. Learn more about creating an effective content strategy here.
Use a variety of resources such as videos, audios and multimedia to create engaging courses. Chunk information into small portions in a logical manner.
Do not bombard learners with too much information or too many interactive elements on a single screen as it leads to cognitive overload. Keep the learning experience neat and controllable from the employees’ perspective.
STEP 5: PROVIDE GUIDANCE FOR LEARNING
E-learning is less about teaching and more about guiding and directing.
Using techniques like mnemonics, case studies, storyboarding, analogies and observational learning can help learners acquire the desired skills and knowledge that you might be presenting in step 4 above.
This step isn’t about presenting them with new information, rather it is about helping them how to learn to learn and retain information better.
STEP 6: ELICIT PERFORMANCE
Now is the time to make sure that employees have acquired the skill or knowledge the way it was meant to. Allow learners to practice, demonstrate and apply their learning in electronic or real-life mock sessions (which will depend on the context).
Use role playing or gamification to allow learners to practice and enhance the newly gained knowledge. Give space for corrective learning and reduce fear by observing a model’s behavior go unpunished in a feared activity. If you’ve taught them new information, ask questions to test the understanding and maintain learner attention.
Do not ask learners to always ‘imitate’ what they have learnt, especially in case of observational learning. Instead, use modeling and allow them to identify the mistakes in the case you presented and demonstrate the correct course of action.
STEP 7: PROVIDE FEEDBACK
Employees must develop the trust that what efforts they are putting are being noticed and evaluated sincerely.
Use tests, quizzes or verbal comments to give a detailed feedback about how employees demonstrated their knowledge and how they could do it better. Appreciate when employees perform well and support negative feedback with specific reasons so that employees take it as constructive criticism.
Never belittle employees with a harsh tone. Giving negative feedback is a critical task as you might completely lose learners’ motivation and faith if you just point out mistakes and do not suggest ways to correct them. Also, do not delay the feedback process so much that it loses relevance and employees forget how or what they had done.
STEP 8: ASSESS PERFORMANCE
This step calls for proper assessment to evaluate learners as well as to improve the effectiveness of the learning course based on learners’ performance. Good scores mean employees are able to learn what they must, and general poor performance of employees might have you rethinking about the instructional design.
Try making assessments as much fun to do as possible, while reinforcing the learning objectives. Use essays, short questionnaires and open questions to test their learning.
While making assessments fun, do not lose relevance of the subject or use language which is confusing. It is also a good idea to give feedback after this step.
STEP 9: ENHANCE RETENTION AND TRANSFER
There is an old saying about making effective presentations – to tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and finally tell them what you told them. This enhances retention of knowledge by helping the learner to cue himself on the goals of the e-learning course.
Inform employees about similar problem situations, provide additional practice and review the lesson.
Do not introduce new terminologies or concepts at this stage as you must focus on closing and completing the information transferred.
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