Preventing Elearning Burnout: Practical Tactics for Dealing with Elearning Content
Probably, at one time or another, you kick started a project with ill-defined goals. (Software projects usually start this way.)
And on top of that, in elearning, you have your organization’s content to deal with. Quite often (most often) it’s pouring in from a traditional face-to-face course.
Then what happens is a colleague comes to you and says something like this: “I have great news, the content is ready…you only need to make it interactive.”
That said, after a discovery session, a spirited debate, and most importantly, setting the content aside, a good instructional designer and interaction designer SHOULD be able to stitch together a learning experience.
To help, they use a model.
The “secret weapon” to avoid burnout (and boost creativity)
An elearning design model will help clarify a couple things:
Thing 1: It’ll help you distinguish between non-essential and essential content (that was absorbed passively in a workshop.)
Thing 2: It’ll help with activity design. Because an elearning model is an activity template.
Now, what I mean by activity template is a multiple choice question — a scenario plus a decision to make.
Think about it. Your day… in real life… is a sequence of decisions.
You don’t spend your time — at least time of any importance — regurgitating facts (definitions, dates, etc.) to people or inanimate objects.
No. The minute you jump out of bed you’re in decision making mode.
Corporate elearning should mimic this (ideally.)
Therefore, I strongly suggest you view content from an activity standpoint…not an organizational standpoint (information). Because if you can do that, you can create an elegant sequence of real-world decisions (i.e., multiple choice questions)
Anyway, let’s get back to the subject of models.
This or That: an elearning activity model
Activity models are a secret weapon you’ve gotta have in your design toolbox if you want to take content and mould it into interactive experiences!
A brief explanation follows:
First, the model already exists. (Meaning you have it in a repository or swipe file.)
Second, you decide if it’s worth prototyping for your project.
What I’m talking about is planned and premeditateddesign.
The purpose is to help you free up mental energy and answer two questions. Question one: How will you make the learning contextual? Second, how will you make the learning interactive?
Instructional design with an elearning model
While reworking content, a designer will find what looks like important information.
For example, if she’s designing compliance elearning from a Business Conduct Policy, she may find this statement: “Telling sexually explicit jokes or stories may constitute sexual harassment.”
Good to know, but what does that actually mean in a work environment?
And so, what does a good instructional designer do?
Well, first, she should investigate if that statement is worth highlighting in her elearning project. Is it important enough to put in?
You see, if in reality she’s told there aren’t any issues regarding dirty jokes and stories, then she should spend her design time on more important behaviour problems.
Remember this: a good ID tries to design for the serious, essential, high-payoff behaviours. (To help, she’ll look at data, and interview subject matter experts.)
The goal is to do just enough research to edit the non-essentials.
For example: Due to rapid growth, Initech developed a lackadaisical culture and now experiences higher harassment claims and turnover. Most of the claims are because of sexually explicit jokes and stories.
Well now, it might be wise for Initech leadership to invest in an elearning experience that simulates harassment scenarios.
So, they hire our designer to write short scenarios based on the policy, “Telling sexually explicit jokes or stories may constitute sexual harassment.”
Each scenario can finish with two choices, “Option A” and “Option B”. It’s that simple.
Now, after experiencing a few scenarios, Initech employees have context around their vague Business Conduct Policy. (Note: It’s okay now to reinforce the policy after the scenario.)
Get around roadblocks to get elearning done
A designer with the right model(s) should be able to get things done more swiftly, and more effectively.
Think of her as the Special Forces of your elearning project team,…
…showing up to discover essential behaviours, reinforce optimal performance,…and, requiring the deliberate (safe) practice in a scenario.