You have a slide deck or handout that has been a proven success in a classroom setting. Now it’s time to transform this material into an instructor-less course. Each teaching point in an instructor-led environment now needs to be translated into an opportunity for learners to interpret and learn for themselves.
Where do you start? Where should you focus to create a course that is as effective? What techniques can increase your chances of creating an effective course?
Remember, it’s not just the medium that’s changing, it’s also the method(s) of absorption.
Identify the Main Point
Every lesson has a concept that is the most difficult to grasp. Start with this concept as the center of your new learning, and as your first task to tackle. The exercise of transforming a concept from “lecture” to self-paced learning just might help you explain the concept even better than you had been teaching it before! Be your own critic, and don’t let yourself off the hook until the material is free of questions or need for clarifications in your own mind.
Cater to Multiple Learning Styles
It’s important to continually remind yourself that the learner may not be able to ask questions if they’re not understanding the material as it is presented. Planning material that plays to multiple learning styles can alleviate some of this learning logjam.
Where possible, reiterate the same concept in verbal, visual, aural, and even physical styles. There is nothing wrong with presenting material in text form if you are conscious that some learners may absorb it more efficiently and effectively if it is presented to them as a graphic or audio, or by experiencing something physically.
Self-Paced: Linear or Nonlinear?
To me, one of the main benefits of developing for an instructor-less environment is having the freedom to determine what material needs to be delivered in a strict linear or in a nonlinear manner.
Where it is difficult to create instructor-led training that truly allows each learner to take the amount of time necessary to absorb, instructor-less environments lend themselves to this type of learning. Where it is difficult or impossible for the learner to control the order of instruction in an instructor-led environment, learners have the opportunity to control the pace, can revisit material as many times as necessary, and in many cases can control the order in which the learning material is presented.
Decide the material that could potentially be detrimental to understanding or hazardous in the real world were it not presented and learned in a strict order, and utilize whatever means are at your disposal to present this in a linear way. All other material can be constructed in a way that allows the learner to engage at the pace and in the order that assists in their learning.
Activities, Reviews, and Assessments
Be judicious with forms of assessment. If done correctly, assessments can be reassuring instead of stressful for the learner. Nothing breeds confidence like success, and success in the form of assessment can propel the learner forward through the experience.
- Have a key concept that requires mastery before proceeding? An activity that requires participation before proceeding or requires total participation to achieve course completion can set the stage for impending assessments.
- Ease the learner’s anxiety about impending assessment with ample opportunity for review. Interactivity such as a set of Flashcards provides the learner with a low-stakes assessment while they are reviewing previously presented material.
- It seems like a simple concept, but for each assessment question, be sure that you can point to a place in the material where the answer can be found. Use incorrect and correct feedback in assessments to reinforce understanding (correct) or direct the learner to where they can revisit material that will help them understand (incorrect).
Interactivity with a Purpose
Interactivity should always be used as a vehicle to deliver in a more effective manner than can be achieved through passive learning. Here are a few presentation elements that lend themselves to interactivity:
- Labeled Diagrams: Can be replaced with a Hot Spot interactive, allowing the learner to explore and reveal labels.
- Complex Infographics: Should be broken up and revealed in a series of steps that guides the learner through the visual in a logical manner.
- Lists: A list that contains lengthy passages of text can be presented as an Accordion interactive which allows the learner to expand each panel at their own pace and in the order that helps them learn
- Graphs: Graphs that demonstrate change over time can be placed in a Tabs interactive or a Layered Image that allows the user to manipulate the presentation for compare/contrast purposes.
- Demonstrations: Can be replaced with Interactive Video, Simulations, or Branched Scenarios interactivity.
Introductions and Summaries:
Intro and Summary slides are an excellent opportunity to supplement passive information with a question and a means for the learner to arrive at the answer such as an activity.
There is some work to be done, but the beauty is that the learning is going to be read and interpreted in many different ways, from many different perspectives, in many different voices. Your job is to make sure that every learner, no matter their particular route, comes away with the same understanding.