Thursday, 26 April 2012

Analogical E-learning



For those of you who read my last blog (and I'm sure someone must have at least skipped through - thanks mum) I mentioned learning through analogies and how as it was my greatest teaching tool (although back then I think I called keeping it relevant as I didn't have the outrageously good command of the English language I now is possessing!).  The question here is whether you can create e-learning with the same type of theory.  I always taught some subjects that others would say were less exciting, but even I thought they were dull I never let that on to a class - ever heard 'now this bit's a bit dry..' and felt your heart sink?  I think there's interest in everything; you just need to find the relevance.
So analogical e-learning (copyright me) is in simple terms just making your e-learning relevant and interesting to the audience.  So here's what's true and often missed in e-learning for starters; how often would you try and teach a class without knowing something about them?  That brings us to the first tip for analogical e-learning:

Know your audience.  Why would you think writing an e-learning course would be any different but you'd be amazed at how many e-learning courses are written without the slightest consideration of the audience.  If you're writing for young people then use young people language in your course, not to mention other areas of content we'll come to.

Unlock the power of scenarios.  Scenario based e-learning (thanks Articulate, we love Storyline already) is rightfully at the forefront of e-learning as it puts things in context for the learner, but just making a scenario which is as clinical as the facts you're trying to get across is a bit of a miss in my opinion.  Stretch the scenario and make it more real; not just "Bill has left his classified file on the desk while he goes to talk to a co-worker" but try and create a character for Bill that would make him real.

Create empathy for your characters.  So this is just like a movie; I like a good action movie as much as the next guy with too much adrenaline and addicted to caffeine but the truth is good movies always have great characters that the audience (at least some of them) can empathise with or understand at least.  I watched a movie the other day and I hated all the characters and it got under my skin so I turned it off.  If you're using superficial characters you may have the same effect.  I know this isn't always possible, but when that girl with the swishy hair pops up in your next design, just question what she adds.  (obviously if you're just creating for guys, no need with personality just make them good looking - yes, that was sarcasm).

Run your metaphors.  You come up with a great scenario early on and use cool characters, but then they're gone and so has the whole scenario thrusting the learner into a new area just when they were relating to your story; shame.  I love running metaphors, not only because I think they're cool in my geeky way, but because they're immersive.  Remember when computer adventure games were text based?  (No, me neither, I'm too young obviously but..)  There were some great examples before cheap graphics changed and eventually ruined the genre.. 

Be funny.  Okay this is not straight forward for everyone.  Obviously I'm a funny guy.. no really, I am, and it's far and away the greatest tool a presenter or teacher has in their bag.  Why?  Because it causes an immediate rapport with the audience.  If they laugh with (rather than at) you, they are with you and that's half the battle won.  A little humour goes a long way even in an e-learning course, it's about fun and successful learning should always have a little of that sprinkled in.

Everything is a learning experience.  An old friend of mine used to say 'every day is a school day'.  He was clearly wrong as I never went at the weekend, but I get the point and he's right in that there's learning in everything.  I've seen some great e-learning with an old-school type assessment at the end.  Your assessments should carry the same flavour as your learning; why not make them fun and engaging and challenging and humerous (too many ands?).  If your e-learning is relevant and funky then make your assessment the same way and remember it's still a learning event and you can learn as much (and usually more) from getting things wrong along the way.

Create a safe-fail environment.  This one's less about the relevance of learning to learners but certainly helps create that relaxed informal learning feel.  Try and make it okay to experience all of your learning package; not just the one direct right path you had in mind if you were answering the questions.  Everything you do is about making sure the learner gets it, no matter which path they take - they should all be safe.

As ever thanks for reading and feel free to disagree or comment (I reserve the right to change my opinion at short notice though).  Hit me back at @NigelKineo on Twitter or nigel.young@kineo.co.nz for comments or place one on the blog.  Don't forget to follow me, unless you're the stalker type then please follow someone else as I've got enough issues of my own :)