I often come across instructional designers who are pretty much stuck with things that they had started out doing early in their careers. While over time, their exposure to tools, kinds of courses, and abilities to handle content and clients have increased, what I see unchanged is their approach to instructional design. Unfortunately, most organizations, training companies, trainers and instructional designers are still hesitant about adopting newer methodologies. Bloom, Gagne, and ADDIE continue to be the cornerstone of instructional design even today. While these are good as foundation stones, the fun is to evolve and explore newer techniques and methods.
To begin with, let's check out 5 things IDs can think differently about!
1. Overcome the itch to design: Every ID must overcome the itch to design. This is almost always responsible for training that is content-centric and not learner-centric. As soon as you receive the content and the project specs, do not jump into design. Spend substantial time on the analysis phase, understanding your learners. Ask these questions about your learner:
- What is the profile of my learner?
- Why do my learners need training?
- What relevance can I show my learners through this training?
- What will they achieve at the end of the training that will significantly change the way they work?
- What is my learners motivation to attend this training?
Answers to these questions will help you design training that maps to your learners' needs. You may be itching to design a game-based learning, a scenario-based or a comic strip-based learning, but if the learner analysis indicates a video cast, then so it be! Remember, course design is not a designer's fancy imagination, it is a blue print of your training module and should directly map to your learner's needs, wants, and motivations.
2. Do not restrict yourself to the available tool or the content dump: The content dump is just a dump of information. Often, IDs start story boarding using the content dump, and are trapped in a content-centric course. At the most, the content dump is a convenient warehouse for all your content needs for the project. You must get out of your mindset of only eLearning or only ILT. When you think of training, ask questions like what is the best mode of delivery such that my learners learn. For example, if I'm going to train the on-the-road salesmen, how should I deliver my training? Will an eLearning work just because we specialize in it? Or, will an ILT be most effective just because the organization has trainers to deliver them? Or, can you use mobile learning since most salesmen are glued to their mobile phones 24X7? Bottom line is - think beyond content - think about your learner and what will benefit them.
3. Define the goal of your training: The goal of your training is the outcome of your training; not just the objective defined in your statement of work! It is good to design learning objectives - these are your grid lines in PPT. For example, your learning objectives may be: 1. Explain the selling process to village entrepreneurs. 2. Recruit village entrepreneurs as per the specified process. 3. Explain the steps to maintain sales records. These are your learning objectives that your learners will achieve by the end of the training. While it is important to address the learning objectives, keep in mind the overall goal of the program as you design the modules - which is to make the salespeople more productive.
4. Do not handle your learners with kid gloves: Your learners are adults so treat them like adults.
- Offer genuine choices - not forced choices or invalid choices. For example, do not offer learners the choice of an unstructured path knowing very well that the course design is linear.
- Don't have no-brainers as practice exercises - just for the sake of practice.
- Focus on "Do" rather than on "See" - Adult learners prefer learning through metacognition
- Do not provide examples that look good in a grade school workbook. Give them real life problems and expect them to come up with real life solutions.
5. Explore and experiment: Experiment using music, videos, audio, visuals that map to your learners' expectations. Do not be afraid of bold design. In fact, one of the key outcomes of learner analysis is the visual strategy of the course. Once we decided to do away with the conventional "Back" and "Next" buttons on the interface of an online training program; instead learners navigated based on the scent of information on each screen. Similarly, for a classroom training, we supplemented the classroom mode with some outdoor activities where the learners had to sell real-life products in real time! Explore various methods of testing the course. Your very stringent QA round can only help detect bugs and errors, they cannot spot hurdles to learning that your learners encounter while going through the course. Go ahead and let your learners test the course. You'll be surprised at what you observe - it can be a humbling and enlightening experience!