One of the worst things in the work place is a micro-manager. Anyone who’s ever worked for one (and yes we all have at some point it seems) will tell you that taking away a person’s autonomy is a quick way to take the initiative and fun out of the work place. Micromanaging is an example of controlling behaviour, a ‘control freak’ is exhausting in every respect and this includes your learning environment and learning itself.
So here’s a few simple steps to help you stop being a learning control freak:
1. Put yourself in the learner’s shoes If you really want to ensure you don’t design your learning in a way that micromanages your learners then try it from their perspective. If the learning feels constrained and limited then you’ve probably fallen into the trap of making it too restrictive. Chances are if you don’t like doing it, no-one else is likely to either. Go further and run your design through some neutral others.
2. Reduce the push A very early blog of mine was on the concept of pull learning rather than simply pushing information to learners. If you want them to have some feeling of control whilst doing the learning stop forcing everything upon them (push) and start allowing them to decide when they need more help and resources. One of the frequent errors that designers make on elearning in particular is that they spend a lot of time putting together a resource and then decide because of the effort that went in to producing it then it should be the mandatory for the learner. Regardless of how nifty your animation is or how long you spent creating a drag-and-drop example, if they don’t need it to reach the level then don’t force it on them.
3. Make it easy to start There may be nothing worse than learning that seems to require a Krypton Factor type problem solving ability to launch. Try to reduce seventeen required clicks just to get it going and if you can find ways to easily drop out and rejoin then you’re definitely going to improve the experience. Lots of learning systems and learning has too many steps to get going; this makes the learner feel like they have to jump through hoops for the sake of it and can really but a dampener on the whole affair.
4. Don’t make assessments too easy It may not seem like an over-bearing idea to have easy assessments, but if you make someone jump through a bunch of hoops and at the end of it they have to answer true or false to incredibly simple questions (or multiple choice where three of the four are stupid answers) then you’ve confirmed their belief that you were simply wasting their time so that they could perform mundane tricks for you.
5. Don’t punish learners I know it’s tempting to really want to hammer those damned learners when they get it wrong - but remain focussed on what your aim is here. If you have set aims (if not, this is probably another simple step) then, like a good classroom teacher, remain calm and help them achieve the aim through another path. For example, if you allow them to take the test at the start of the course, if they fail to achieve all the learning objectives that doesn’t mean you have to plunge them directly through all the media you’ve created just to make sure they get it. I like multi-pathway learning where you try to provide a path to get to the end from wherever you are and remembering that learning is the path rather than the destination (sounds like a deep quote about life itself almost).
6. Allow learning outside of your learning These days very few learning experiences are limited to what you’re taught simply in the classroom or elearning module. Learning is pervasive and we need to allow for the learning to go beyond what has initially been designed; whether that’s allowing for assessments on the job, or further study or self-reflection or just some links and the ability to blog.
7. Make it fun One thing that can get forgotten in all of this is that learning is supposed to be fun (so is work if it’s done right after all). Make your learning fun whenever possible, give people things to do and don’t forget that people will show more interest in things that they enjoy doing.
If all that fails you can just shout at them and tell them they must learn it :)