Learning Doesn’t Happen In A Vacuum
The thing we love most about the process of designing eLearning is that each individual comes to the training table with their own unique experiences, perspectives, and even biases. It’s what makes each project so rich and nuanced. Unfortunately, some training sees learners as blank slates rather than individuals, applying the same training to everyone regardless of their backgrounds. It’s what often causes disengagement, ineffective training, and ultimately dissatisfied learners.
At ELM, we design based on a principle called Learner-Centered Design. Learner-Centered Design (LCD) is an approach that focuses on learner engagement in order to improve teaching and learning outcomes. If traditional methods see learners as blank slates, LCD views them as layered, active, and individual participants. It switches the focus from active instructors and passive participants to active learners and more passive administrators. In this way, the learning path becomes deeply personal and intrinsically motivated. It involves creating learning environments where learners feel comfortable asking questions, taking risks, and making mistakes.
How to Make Learning Fun and Easy
While they may seem like glib terms, “fun” and “easy” are some of the most important foundational characteristics of any learning experience. Regardless of the topic, LCD has been proven to help participants learn more effectively by increasing motivation, improving retention, and reducing stress. That’s where “fun” and “easy” come into play. By designing courses around those two principles, any topic can be taught in a way that is motivational and engaging. LCD frames learning experiences to prioritize the individual learner. At the same time, instructors benefit from LCD as a catalyst for gathering feedback and better understanding what learners need to succeed.
When utilizing LCD to build a training experience, we use these five factors to help us put learners at the center of every program.
Start With The End In Mind
Objectives are integral to every training program, but in traditional training, they’re often confused with outlines. An outline of a program is a great way to organize modules and let learners know what to expect; they aren’t, however, a substitute for goals and objectives. One of the first steps in designing an effective learning environment is to start with the end in mind. Rather than simply stating the topics users will learn (“Product Knowledge,” for example), highlight how the training will affect learner behavior in conjunction with overall goals (“Increase confidence in explaining products to prospective clients”). See the difference? One is simply declaring a topic, while the other makes it clear what learners will gain from the training experience. That’s LCD. Putting the learner first and increasing motivation by letting them know exactly how to gauge their mastery and success by the end of the course.
If you’re not sure how to frame your goals in a meaningful way to make learning both fun and easy, consider categorizing your organization’s objectives into “tasks” or “tools.” Traditional learning focuses on giving tasks. LCD is all about giving learners the tools and teaching them the skills they need to be successful.
Create A Positive Learning Environment
A solid learner-centered design includes a variety of different activities, such as group work, individual study, practical tasks, games, simulations, and role-play. It also involves creating a safe and welcoming environment for learners. The learner environment is integral to a robust and impactful LCD because it helps users comfortably and safely practice new skills, collaborate with their colleagues, and build confidence before heading back into the “real world.”
Feedback is an essential part of any learning activity, and it benefits both instructors and learners in equal measure. First, learners need to understand what they did well and where they need improvement. Tools like knowledge checks, multiple choice questions, peer interactions, and time for reflection all help strengthen the bond between content and memory for learners. This feedback can also help gently correct and redirect learners long before they complete the course, which means a more personalized approach.
At the same time, instructors can use feedback gathered throughout the course to tailor the experience for future iterations. Even something as simple as an informal post-course interview can give administrators the information they need to tweak the experience, expand on the activities learners found most useful, and skip the stuff users found redundant or confusing. Choosing to utilize LCD means that the process is never fully complete; there’s always room for improvement for both learners and instructors.
It’s not just about providing feedback; it’s also about being flexible. If a learner has made a mistake, it’s not helpful to correct them immediately. Instead, ask questions such as “What do you think would help you learn more effectively?” This will allow the learner to reflect on their own mistakes and get creative with solutions.
Flexibility is what makes LCD such an engaging way to create learning experiences. When learners can customize their training path via enrichment activities, toggling their pace, and reviewing topics, the experience becomes more personal. That flexibility encourages better retention and more meaningful interactions as the learner becomes their own motivator. Rather than simply clicking through to get to the end, learners are the architects of their own growth and development. A “Choose Your Own Adventure” of eLearning is always more engaging than mindless training by rote.
The most interesting thing about LCD is that it rarely changes the content of an eLearning course. In most cases, the information remains the same. Instead, it’s about the way that content is delivered to learners. Individuals come to each learning opportunity with rich backgrounds, personal histories, and existing knowledge and LCD takes those into consideration to create more meaningful learning experiences. Ease and fun might seem low on the list of learning priorities, but by delivering on them (and the learner) first, you’ll find that your training programs become more meaningful and positive—no matter the content.