Technology should not be used as a method for delivering information to learners, but instead it should be used to aid learners in developing knowledge. Technologies should engage learners in meaningful learning, where learners are intentionally and actively processing information while pursuing authentic tasks to construct personal and socially shared meaning for the phenomena they are exploring and manipulating (Jonassen, Peck, Wilson, 1999). The sweet spot of technology-constructive activities is for technology to help learners articulate and reflect on what they already know and apply that to the new learning environment.
Excellent educational opportunities apply creative combinations of teaching strategies, using methods like instructional units, case studies, simulations, video units and other Web-based resources to encourage learners. Such courses can easily be designed with Captivate and should adhere to the following:
- The readiness principle, enabling learners to see the relevance of the material
- The experience principle, respecting the expertise learners bring to the course
- The autonomy principle, allowing learners to control their own learning paths through meaningful exercise and activities
- The action principle, emphasizing clearly and continually the connections between what is being learned and the real world in which it is applied
Finding the Sweet Spots
When starting a new course design, I like to play the “Why? Who Cares? So What?” game with SMEs (subject matter experts) and peers. This simple game allows a content designer to quickly identify important learning concepts.
The game is played by:
- Describing the thing you are trying to explain to the SME and/or peer, to which the other person asks, “Why?”.
- Provide an answer, to which the person then asks ‘Who cares?”.
- Provide an answer, to which the person asks, “So?”. At this point, when you are nearly ready to kill them for not getting it, you probably have the thing you should have said instead of whatever you said first (and second).
The most compelling and motivating reason/benefit is almost always the thing you say only after you have answered at least three “Yeah, but why do I care?” questions.
Once you have the content/activity clearly defined the next thing to do is define how the activity will be presented. Some suggestions are presented in the Content Design Suggestions below.
Content Design Suggestions
Context Matters – Try to place facts, concepts, procedures, examples in a bigger context. Even if you have already discussed the context, don’t be afraid to repeat that context again. For example: Instead of always isolating procedures, show the individual procedures within the larger context of where it usually appears or is applied. Highlight the procedure you are focused on by bolding it, drawing a box around it, increasing the size, adding rollover captions, images or slidelets, excreta, so that the learner is not overwhelmed by the number of steps in a process, and can focus on just the part you are talking about, but still be able to see how that new step relates to the rest of the procedure.
Also remember we are visual creatures and the brain can process visual information far more efficiently than words. These pictures can come in many forms:
- Use information graphics or diagrams to reduce the amount of text learners will have to read or to present complex concepts.
- Use visual metaphors to help learners tie new information to existing knowledge – making associations and making the information easier to recall.
- For difficult to understand procedures or concepts provide pictures of the thing being described with annotations.
- For new procedures where the learner may not be sure of what the finished product should look like – provide pictures of the end state.
- For multi-step or layered concepts it is helpful to provide pictures or video snippets designed to create attention and recall.
It is also important to provide different information channels that model real life by using, when appropriate; case studies, branching summaries, audio/video commentary and knowledge checks in the form of multiple answer, drag-and-drop and ordering question types.
Several of the free eLearning interaction assets available with Captivate 9 would aid in the development of these content types.
When designing courses, keep in mind that being terse is good for a reference document, but deadly in learning content. The best learning experience considers the way you would learn that particular thing in real life – but offers it in a safe, simulated, compressed form. Real-life learning is never terse; it is chaos and confusion punctuated with moments of insight (“Ah-ha!”) and clarity. It is a wave, not a straight line.