Your Course Design Needs One More Thing

Have you defined what learning means to you? If not, here's how you can include this major piece of the instructional design puzzle to your course.

Point 1: Define what learning means to you and your course

Point 2: Carry your definition of learning throughout your course

Point 3: Find a way for participants to measure achievement in your course

How do you define learning?

If you're focused on designing the best PowerPoint slides for your course, please stop -- and instead think about what learning means to you. Does learning mean that your participants will:

  • change their views about a subject?

  • gain a new perspective on a subject?

  • acquire a new skill or behavior

Click here to find ten definitions of learning from Connie Malamed, the eLearning Coach. I like this definition:

“A process that leads to change, which occurs as a result of experience

and increases the potential of improved performance and future learning.”

- From How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles

for Smart Teaching by Susan Ambrose, et al.

Why should you define learning?

Your definition of learning determines the flow of the learning experience and the ways in which participants will measure their progress.

How should you add your definition to the design?

The key words in that definition are:

  • process

  • change

  • experience

  • improved performance

  • future learning

Now that you have your definition, see where you can include these concepts throughout the course.

What does process mean in a learning context?

The process in this case refers to the cognitive steps that a learner takes in order to make sense of the new information. My doctoral program mentor, Dr. Bill Elieson, captured the cognitive process well when he described engaged learning in terms of "Three Pillars of Cognition":

1. Attention -- A learner must pay attention to something in order to make sense of it

2. Association -- A learner must associate the new information with what is already known

3. Reflection -- A learner must look back on a consistent basis at the entire educational experience (readings, lectures, videos, discussions) in order to develop a new mental model of the topic

What does change meaning in a training session?

Change means that participants will take a different perspective or perform a new action. The key point to remember about going through change is that it feels uncomfortable at first. Therefore, you will guide your learners through the change process using a series of hints and cues that decrease as the session moves forward.

How should an experience happen?

An instructor who reads from PowerPoint slides is not providing a worthwhile learning experience. Instead, the instructor's role is to guide the learners through a series of targeted exercises that each focus on achieving a course goal.

Why measure improved performance?

You will never know what someone has learned during the class. However, you can observe how well a learner has demonstrated knowledge of the skills or concepts. Measurement begins with a pre-test, ends with a post-test, and features a series of interactive exercises that promote attention, association, and reflection.

How can you ensure future learning?

While you can’t force anyone to learn, you can provide the setting to increase the motivation, confidence, and skill levels to encourage participants to refine their skills outside of class.

In addition, senior managers should reinforce the concepts by recognizing individual and group performance improvements.


Point 1: Come up with your definition of learning Point 2: Design your course based on how you define learning Point 3: Include methods for participants to measure their progress

#Learning #Cognition #ImprovedPerformance #Attention #Association #Reflection

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