4 Ways To Allow Your eLearners To Bloom

Allow Your eLearners To Bloom

Help your learners reach their Bloom’s potential through scalable, interactive eLearning.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is used widely for classifying the different objectives that educators set for learners. Since Bloom’s lower order cognitive objectives (knowledge, comprehension, and application) are all fairly straightforward to do online, they make up the bulk of current online training tasks. However, it often surprises me how quickly Bloom’s higher order cognitive tasks get overlooked when developing online training. The one exception here is the use of branched scenarios, which are fantastic but can’t be forced into every training topic we need to cover as educators.

Bloom’s higher order cognitive skills (analyze, evaluate, and create) are heavily focused on critical thinking. These, in order, ask learners to analyze situations based on their lower order knowledge, select and choose between presented options (listing and ordering with explanations), and propose new solutions or present a critical analysis of situation ideas. Since most higher order tasks require feedback from a teacher, an instructor, or a more knowledgeable other (MKO), this often gets a little tricky (but not impossible!) to facilitate and scale through eLearning.

Many learning professionals avoid using eLearning for these higher order tasks due to technological constraints, time or budget constraints, or simply because they just haven’t thought of some of the ways you can use eLearning to achieve the higher order objectives. There are, in fact, a few very effective ways to solve the problem of using eLearning to capture higher order cognitive objectives that we use often with our clients at Learnkit.

Reach Full Bloom Through eLearning

Solutions to the higher order objective challenge will involve some social participation, comparing against pre-prepared answers then rating confidence, or self-reflection, and doesn’t demand much in terms of instructor time and resources.

Here are 4 ways to create impactful, scalable eLearning that will allow your eLearners to bloom:

  1. Compare and contrast answers.
    Users are given a question to answer in long-form. Rather than have someone mark it, they compare their answer against a pre-prepared answer, and then compare and contrast the two. Users rate their confidence afterwards – this reflective activity is useful for engagement and retention. Great for the analyze stage tasks.
  2. Case studies.
    A bit more scaffolded than the option above. Have students read through a case study and then answer a series of questions. If it is a real-life case study then they can even evaluate choices, and once again check against a pre-prepared answer. The longer, step-by-step nature of case studies make them great for the evaluation stage tasks. This is a nice twist on standard branched scenarios that allows learners to stretch their critical thinking muscles.
  3. Reflective journals.
    We all know people love to talk about themselves! Students are asked to personalize the answers to questions based on their own unique experiences and current work situations. These are great once students have progressed to the create stage tasks. Answers can stay personal, or they can choose to share if they want. At this stage, the act of writing and thinking about the questions is enough to help consolidate learning in adults.
  4. Small projects submitted to a community.
    Higher order tasks can be given as small projects to be shared with the learning community upon completion. For example, eLearners may be asked to come up with a new sales plan or to critique a customer service conversation. Once completed and submitted to the community, instructors can rely on a small group of super-users who emerge in most online communities to provide feedback. Fortunately these super-users are often MKOs, which removes the need for an instructor, lets trainers act as moderators, and let’s this type of task become scalable.

While these higher order tasks may not give us the raw quantitative data we’re used to seeing when we stick with lower order tasks, there is something to be said for letting our learners flex their muscles and start personalizing their responses and experiences with eLearning. As long as we are providing feedback gates along the way, we should be able to incorporate higher order tasks and let our learners Bloom.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Writing Learning Objectives For eLearning: What eLearning Professionals Should Know

What eLearning Professionals Should Know About Learning Objectives

You have probably already read a lot about how important it is to have clear learning objectives before you begin developing your eLearning course; learning objectives are basically the essence of your online course’s goal, as they describe what you want your learners to achieve after completing it. Therefore, you do understand that when the learning objectives for eLearning are unclear or generic, so is the purpose of your online course, which is not only as ineffective as it sounds, but also very frustrating for your audience.

Having clear learning objectives for eLearning is also a great tool for building the structure of your eLearning content; knowing exactly what you want your learners to achieve helps you organize your eLearning material in a proper way so learning becomes as effortless as possible and thus more immersive.

All in all, there is no doubt that building clear learning objectives for eLearning is more than essential. But to develop them in the right way you need to know a few important things. In this article, I´ll delve into this critical topic and try to share all the information you need to know about how to write effective learning objectives for eLearning so that you will be able to develop and use them to your advantage.

2 Key Facts About Learning Objectives

Let us start by introducing two key points:

  1. Learning objectives and learning goals are not the same thing.
    Learning objectives may be “the essence of your online course’s goal” as mentioned earlier, but they are not the same with learning goals. A learning goal describes in broad terms what the learners will be able to do upon completion of the eLearning course, whereas a learning objective describes, in specific and measurable terms, specific elements that learners will have mastered upon completion of the online course. The key words here are “specific” and “measurable”: Goals are broad; they help you focus on the big picture, though your learning objectives should be much more specific. Goals give you directions to write your learning objectives, but you should never confuse these two.
  2. There is some information which should not be included in your learning objectives.
    Your learning objectives should not include information about a) your audience and b) the strategy you are following to develop them. Both these elements are important, but they have no place in learning objectives. The only thing you need to have in mind when developing them is what your learners will gain by engaging in the eLearning activity.

Bloom’s Taxonomy: What You Need To Know And How To Be Used

Bloom’s Taxonomy was first edited in 1956 by the American educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom and outlined the following classification of learning objectives according to the cognitive processes involved in the mind of learners. From lowest to highest these are:

  1. Knowledge.
    Learners must be able to recall or remember the information.
  2. Comprehension.
    Learners must be able to understand the information.
  3. Application.
    Learners must be able to use the information they have learned at the same or different contexts.
  4. Analysis.
    Learners must be able to analyze the information, by identifying its different components.
  5. Synthesis.
    Learners must be able to create something new using different chunks of the information they have already mastered.
  6. Evaluation.
    Learners must be able to present opinions, justify decisions, and make judgments about the information presented, based on previously acquired knowledge.

Why Bloom’s taxonomy is important for developing your learning objectives? Because it helps you understand the level of cognitive processes involved in human learning, that is the natural order according to which your target audience will process the information you present. For example, the learning objectives for a compliance training course would be about making sure that the employees know the company’s policies and principles (Level 1: Knowledge), whereas the learning objectives of a productivity training course must be about making sure that the employees are able to put what they are learning to use in order to boost their performance (Level 3: Application).

Bloom presented his taxonomy in a hierarchical order; however, often eLearning professionals dismiss lower levels as unworthy, which is a mistake. Lower-level objectives should never be ignored; on the contrary, before achieving higher-order learning objectives, eLearning professionals should first make sure that learners have all the necessary requirements in terms of previous knowledge in order to proceed. A pre-test, for instance, may be used to identify potential knowledge gaps and recommend learners a quick revision before taking the module under consideration.

Knowing the order that cognitive processes involved in learning take place, will significantly help you set your learning objectives accordingly. But how can you make sure that you are communicating them clearly to your audience? We mentioned earlier that learning objectives need to be as specific as possible. Anderson and Krathwohl, back in 2001, worked on a revised version restating the Bloom's Taxonomy in verb format, facilitating the process of writing learning objectives by providing Instructional Designers with a list of verbs they can use to help their audience understand exactly what is expected of them. Here is a list of specific, measurable verbs you can use when writing learning objectives for each level of the revised Bloom's Taxonomy:

  1. Remember.
    Memorize, show, pick, spell, list, quote, recall, repeat, catalogue, cite, state, relate, record, name.
  2. Understand.
    Explain, restate, alter, outline, discuss, expand, identify, locate, report, express, recognize, discuss, qualify, covert, review, infer.
  3. Apply.
    Translate, interpret, explain, practice, illustrate, operate, demonstrate, dramatize, sketch, put into action, complete, model, utilize, experiment, schedule, use.
  4. Analyze.
    Distinguish, differentiate, separate, take apart, appraise, calculate, criticize, compare, contrast, examine, test, relate, search, classify, experiment.
  5. Evaluate.
    Decide, appraise, revise, score, recommend, select, measure, argue, value, estimate, choose, discuss, rate, assess, think.
  6. Create.
    Compose, plan, propose, produce, predict, design, assemble, prepare, formulate, organize, manage, construct, generate, imagine, set-up.

6 Extra Tips To Consider When Working With Learning Objectives For eLearning

Now that you know how to write your learning objectives depending on the level of cognitive processes involved in learning, let us have a look at some extra tips to ensure that you’re on the right track:

  1. Align eLearning assessment with your learning objectives.
    eLearning assessment
     is used to evaluate what your audience is learning; the more consistent they are with your learning objectives, the surer you can be that your learners are onboard with your eLearning course.
  2. Remember to use specific and measurable verbs when writing them.
    Consider using the aforementioned list of verbs and their synonyms.
  3. Make sure that your learning objectives are appropriate for your learners.
    Whom are you writing your learning objectives for? Managers? Customer service? New hires? The sales department? What do they already know and what is absolutely necessary for them to learn? Consider analyzing your audience before you begin developing your learning objectives.
  4. Ask yourself if your learning objectives are achievable and realistic.
    In other words, ask yourself if they are achievable within the time-span of the eLearning course, and if they are supported with the appropriate tools and resources.
  5. Use simple language and keep them short.
    Simple language is direct and engaging, whereas limiting your learning objectives in one sentence will help your learners focus better on what is expected of them.
  6. If several, organize them in subcategories.
    Dividing your learning objectives into subcategories, if needed, will help you avoid overwhelming your learners.

Now that you know how to create good learning objectives for eLearning, you may be interested in focusing on their alter ego: learning goals. Read the article Why and How to Develop Learning Goals Into your eLearning Course and find out how to use the learning goals to provide meaningful, interactive, and informative eLearning experiences for your learners.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

The Importance Of Learning Objects In Instructional Design For eLearning

The Importance Of Learning Objects: What eLearning Professionals Need To Know

A learning object is defined as "a collection of content items, practice items, and assessment items that are combined based on a single learning objective" [3]. Although the term originates from “object-oriented” programming, its use is completely different in eLearning, and has definitely nothing to do with programming languages and code [2]. eLearning professionals should  think of learning objects as small sharable “knowledge packages” that include all related learning material needed to cover a specific learning objective of the eLearning course.

The greatest benefit of working with learning objects is, without any doubt, reusability. As learning objects thoroughly cover a single learning objective in every way, that is information, eLearning activities for practice, and assessment, they consist by definition autonomous learning units that can be used in multiple eLearning courses, as long as the same learning objective needs to be covered. Whether being incorporated into an eLearning course addressing to novices, or presented to advanced learners for revision purposes, they offer eLearning professionals the benefit that they only need to be created once. This has a significant impact on both eLearning development time and budget.

Technically speaking, thinking of learning objects as SCORM files seems to be a good practice. In other words, eLearning professionals may consider them as packaged learning resources, each one of which can be uploaded as a single file, aggregating all necessary information to cover a single learning objective of the eLearning course. Although, it is a common practice for learning objects also to include assessment, personally, I wouldn’t recommend it, as I’d rather prefer to keep assessment separately of the eLearning object for reusability purposes.

Components Of Learning Objects In Instructional Design For eLearning

When working with learning objects, keep in mind that they are composed of the following parts:

  1. Title.
    The title of the learning object to be used should grab learners’ attention from the very beginning. A catchy title will raise learners’ eagerness to learn more about the specific topic under consideration.
  2. Subtitle(s).
    Although not absolutely necessary, it’s a great idea to also add subtitles in your learning objects, as they provide learners with further information about the content of the eLearning session they are going to attend, and they set learners’ expectation of what exactly the eLearning content is going to be about.
  3. Learning objective to be covered.
    Apart from arising attention, it crucial for learners to know in advance what they will be able to achieve at the end of the eLearning course, as well as how this particular learning objective is related to the rest of the eLearning course. Keep in mind that the entire concept of working with learning objects implies that only one learning objective must be presented at a time. However, it’s a good practice to show learners how much of the entire eLearning course they have covered so far, as well as how the particular learning objects fits the “big picture”.
  4. Overview of eLearning activities.
    Provide learners with an overview of what exactly will be covered, that is presentation of theory, examples, as well as the corresponding eLearning activities for practice. Finally, it is always a good idea to provide learners with information about the time they will  need to complete the eLearning activity. This is crucial when the eLearning course is also designed with mobile learning in mind.
  5. eLearning content.
    This is the actual eLearning content to be presented to the learners for acquiring the necessary information they need to master in order to proceed to the following topic of the eLearning course.
  6. Metadata.
    This part of information has nothing to do with the learner. Metadata is information of descriptive nature, added to the file for easier retrieval purposes in case of future use. It is a necessary component in case learning object repositories, such as the MERLOT repository of learning objects, are used [1]. All Learning Management Systems used today for eLearning, have some sort of designated resource management area for learning objects, that serves as learning object repository.

Last, but not least, learning objects have nothing to do with the instructional design approach to be used, whether behavioral, cognitive, constructivist or mixed, or with the way information and eLearning activities are presented to learners. Their content may range from plain text to online presentation with audio to case studies, interactive branching scenarios and project-based learning through collaborative eLearning activities. Whether in  text or in multimedia format, this makes no difference as long as they cover a single learning objective of the eLearning course. The variety of alternative media they can be presented with, also makes them ideal for adaptive presentation of content in eLearning.

4 Tips To Use Learning Objects In Instructional Design For eLearning

Here are some practical tips to follow in order to design and develop effective learning objects.

  1. Make them small.
    Always have in mind that learning objects are reusable online resources. Make them as small as possible in order to be used again and again and to fit a variety of eLearning courses. Making them small and to the point, that is meaningful, also means that it will be easier for learners to assimilate the information presented and stay focused to the intended learning goal.
  2. Make the information section either completely context-free or very context-specific.
    Despite the fact that we all agree on the importance of context in learning, surprisingly enough, there are two approaches you can follow with learning objects. Either make them completely context-free, by isolating the information to be presented from the context to be applied, for reusability purposes, or create multiple versions of the same learning object, each one very context-specific in accordance to the needs of the specific audience you are addressing to. If time and budget allows, I would strongly advise for the second option.
  3. Set lower-level learning objects as prerequisites for higher-level ones.
    Set learning objects of lower-level cognitive processes such as remembering and understanding as prerequisite requirements in order for the eLearning course to allow learners to proceed to other learning objects covering higher-level order skills such as applying, analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating and creating. This gives learners the opportunity to keep practicing already acquired knowledge and guarantees that they have mastered lower-level learning objectives before proceeding to more advanced ones. Human cognition is a well-structured process, and so your eLearning content should be.
  4. Offer variety by creating multiple examples of learning objects for the same learning objective.
    Developing extra learning objects for the same learning objective to be covered each time you revise your eLearning course may prove to be a good practice. Especially for an instructional design for eLearning based on a cognitive approach, this may be quite helpful as your learners will definitely need extra practice of prerequisite knowledge they should have, in most cases for revision purposes, before being presented with higher-order learning objects. Instead of presenting them with the same eLearning content they have already attended, surprise them and offer them variety. They will really appreciate it and you will enrich you eLearning course in a process of ongoing improvement.

Get used to the idea of thinking about you instructional design for eLearning in terms of learning objects. Use the above tips to create effective and reusable eLearning courses, taking advantage of the opportunity to enrich your eLearning course each time you revise it, maximizing at the same time your learners’ satisfaction from their eLearning experience.

Want to learn more about different approaches of Instructional Design for eLearning? Do you perceive behaviorism as old-fashioned and by no means applicable in today’s digitalized world? Read the article Behaviorism In Instructional Design For eLearning: When And How To Use to find out all you need to know about behaviorism in instructional design for eLearning, as well as in which cases it may be the most appropriate instructional design approach for your eLearning course.

References

  1. Cohen, E. B. & Nycz, M. (2006), Learning Objects and E-Learning: an Informing Science Perspective. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and LearningObjects, 2, 23-34. Retrieved on June 5th, 2015 from: http://www.ijklo.org/Volume2/v2p023-034Cohen32.pdf
  2. Nash, S. S. (2005). Learning objects, learning object repositories, and learning theory: Preliminary best practices for online courses. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, 1, 217-228. Retrieved on June 5th, 2015 from: http://ijklo.org/Volume1/v1p217-228Nash.pdf
  3. Wikipedia (2015), Learning object, Retrieved on June 5th, 2015 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_object

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

How To Create An Effective eLearning Experience?

Creating Effective eLearning

As we know, Instructional Design is the systematic development of specifications using both learning and instructional theory to ensure the quality of training. In professional training the aim of Instructional Design is to improve employee performance, as well as to increase organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Many Instructional Designers focus on the business objective of the organization while developing any eLearning curriculum, as business objectives can be achieved via the performance objective of the learners. So while focusing on eLearning effectiveness we should also focus on the eLearning course’s performance objective.

Choosing the right method is always important. However, equally important is creating eLearning with effective results, and this is still a challenge. eLearning is part of a conscious choice to choose the best and most appropriate ways to promote effective learning. Both facilitated and self-paced eLearning activities and content should conform to a set of quality standards to ensure the effectiveness of an eLearning program.

What Does Effective eLearning Mean?

  • Effective eLearning means getting the business objective fulfilled by delivering the whole bunch of courses to the learner and get their performance objective.
  • Effective eLearning provides learners with motivation by using delivering techniques.
  • An effective eLearning course takes a good deal of time, hard work, and a commitment to high-quality content.
  • Effective eLearning enables accessible, relevant, high-quality learning opportunities that improve learner engagement and achievement.
  • Effective eLearning altogether means creating for the organization long-term assets which bring effective results in terms of ROI.

4 Tips To Create Effective eLearning

eLearning can offer effective instructional methods such as practicing with associated feedback, combining collaboration activities with the self-paced study, personalizing learning paths based on learners’ needs, and using simulation and games.

There are many ways to create effective eLearning; some very important aspects are:

1. Set And Communicate Clear Goals.
There is no golden rule on how much time you need to put into creating the ideal content, but one thing is certain; you need to take your time to research material before making it available to your learners. A point we can’t stress enough: one of the reasons teams are unable to achieve goals is not having clear enough guidelines on how to reach them. Part of the curriculum of any course should be what will be done, when it will be done, and what is needed for the successful completion of tasks. It is, therefore, important that all instructors set and communicate clear goals to their learners in a manner which ensures not only that they will understand them, but also that they will be able to put them into action.

2. Focus More On Analysis And Design.
Analysis and Design stages are essential to ensure course effectiveness and learners’ motivation and participation. Analyzing learners’ needs and learning content, as well as finding the appropriate mix of learning activities and technical solutions, is crucial to creating an effective and engaging course. Course effectiveness and participants’ motivation depend on several elements, including:

  • Knowing well the subject matter.
  • The relevance of the content and course objectives for the participant: Do they meet existing needs?
  • Type of learning activities offered by the course: Are they interesting, inspiring, and well‑matched with the participants’ level?
  • Course duration, timing, and number of hours to be invested: Do they fit the participants’ availability?
  • Technical aspects: Is the technical solution appropriate to learners? Are the technical elements (e.g. the learning platform and its functions) clear and understandable to participants?

3. Qualitative Content Design. 
eLearning content must be accurately prepared and presented in order to be effective. Instructional techniques should be used creatively to develop an engaging and motivating learning experience. While eLearning content may consist of different elements, ranging from simple learning resources (e.g. documents and PPT presentations) to interactive content, simulations, job aids, and so on. Here storyboarding plays an important role in creating the design mindset of the content developer. However, there are some elements that the developer needs to focus on while developing high quality content:

  • High quality content, images, audio.
  • Creating easy navigation.
  • Maintaining a consistent look and feel.
  • Making the content easy to read.
  • Using the Color theory to create contrasting colors.
  • Using high quality artwork.
  • Using proper spacing throughout the course.

4. Evaluate Thoroughly.
Another important aspect of effective eLearning is evaluation, and it is very important to think about it in the design stage. First, you should establish the purpose of the evaluation. The purpose might be to:

  • Check the quality of the course to improve it before it is implemented.
  • Measure the effectiveness of training and learning immediately after the course has been implemented; or evaluate an old course to see whether it is still valid or needs to be modified.

For course efficiency I insist that you should evaluate the course:

  • During the development stage, to improve instructional courses or products (formative evaluation).
  • During or immediately after the implementation stage, to measure the effectiveness of education, training, and learning (summative evaluation).
  • Sometime after the course has been implemented, to understand if it is still valid or needs to be updated or modified (confirmative evaluation).

Evaluating learning activities is crucial for both self-paced and facilitated online courses. Evaluation allows you to assess learners’ progress, the quality and effectiveness of the course, and improve future learning activities and content.

In conclusion, learning and development effectiveness is always an important factor for Instructional Designers. Creating effective eLearning is always a challenge, but it can be overcome by using proper methodology and process as discussed in this article. Understanding the above points will make a real difference in fulfilling business and learner objectives.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

4 Ways To Set Up An Enterprise eLearning Program With Multiple Objectives

How To Set Up An Enterprise eLearning Program With Multiple Objectives

The pedagogy that is deployed in an eLearning program depends to a great extent on the targeted audience. For instance, kids often have very short attention spans. Consequently, the eLearning programs targeted at them are designed to be fun and interactive – something that will keep kids engaged. For older age groups however, the type of eLearning program depends on the end-objective. For one-way discourses, mobile apps and video tutorials are most effective. On the other hand, courses that need interaction among attendees are effected through video conferencing and chat applications.

In December 2014, our team analyzed the online learning setup deployed at one of the leading NetSuite partners in North America. Given that this is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) program that is used in a multitude of industries, the target audience included CTOs, account managers, manufacturing executives, small business owners, retailers, etc. In each case, the audience was seeking information on how a software like NetSuite could help their specific work objectives.

In the absence of a clear end-objective, popular enterprise eLearning systems like webinars can be a long-drawn, expensive affair. This is because every session would appeal to a specific section of the audience that does not have an incentive to return to subsequent discussions. Ultimately, audience acquisition could itself become a challenge for every new webinar session. So how would you design an eLearning program for an audience with unique objectives? Here are a few options:

  1. Case Studies.
    Educators do not typically consider case studies as part of an eLearning setup. But with enterprises, they are one of the most effective channels for awareness-building and education. With case studies you can narrow down the focus from specific functions to a handful of industries. This helps educators manage the end-objectives better. Another advantage of case studies is that different audiences within an industry can interpret learning in their own way. For instance, a case study about Enterprise Resource Planning in banking could provide marketing insights for a marketer while at the same time help a bank manager evaluate productivity improvements using Enterprise Resource Planning.
  2. Videos.
    While webinars only cater to a small group of attendees, video tutorials have a far wider impact. This is especially true if you are in an “evergreen” industry where content does not get outdated very quickly. Given the larger audience that video tutorials cater to, the costs incurred with producing videos may be better justified. Another advantage of video eLearning programs over webinar is that since these are not real-time, content produced may be reused in different forms based on the need. For instance, a “What is Enterprise Resource Planning” section that is made for a banking Enterprise Resource Planning video may be reused in videos produced for other industries as well. This is unlike webinars where the same content has to be produced uniquely every single time.
  3. Whitepapers.
    Whitepapers are the text-equivalent of videos. Like videos, whitepapers too could be used to educate target groups over a lengthy period of time, thereby justifying the production costs. Again, like videos, content sections produced for one whitepaper can always be reused in other whitepapers depending on context.
  4. Knowledge Bank.
    In an enterprise setup with multiple learning objectives, it is not possible to comprehensively answer all questions that your audience may have with one video or paper. Even if your content itself is evergreen, the questions that your audience may have would continue to evolve over time. For example, an enterprise software maker would have received questions about compatibility with Windows OS a decade back. But today there are likely to be more questions about compatibility on mobile and tablets. An effective way to deal with such situations is to build a knowledge bank. This is a repository of tutorials, Q&As, and other eLearning modules that have been developed over time. If you have a help-desk team, they may be put in charge or keeping the knowledge bank updated with answers to the latest questions. Over time, such repositories perfectly address all kinds of questions and concerns that your target group may have without the need for a dedicated production budget.

Creating the objectives of enterprise eLearning is quite different from an academic setup where there are tangible metrics that may be used to measure success (annual sales, for example). Deploying the right eLearning platform is not only a vital asset from an educator's perspective, but is also a marketing tool aimed at bringing more sales and ensuring customer satisfaction. What are your thoughts?

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Why and How To Use Performance Goals in eLearning


Performance Goals in eLearning

The secret to success for any eLearning deliverable is knowing what you want to achieve beforehand. Do you want to boost customer satisfaction ratings by equipping your learners with the right skill sets? Do you want to help your learners to master a specific task? The most effective way to get the desired outcome is to set performance goals that will serve as a guide throughout the entire design and development process.

Why Performance Goals add Value to eLearning Courses

Defining performance goals before you even begin the development process allows you to design eLearning activities, content, and assessments that are centered around enhancing learner performance. Doing so, performance goals add value to your eLearning deliverables because they serve as a guide that enables you to integrate specific skill building tools and information into your eLearning deliverables.

On the other hand, an eLearning deliverable that hasn't successfully incorporated performance goals will not provide the learner with ample opportunity to practice the newly learned behaviors or link the content with real life scenarios. As a consequence, the learners simply won't be able to see its value and they won't become active participants in the online training process. This may lead to an eLearning deliverable which is wholly ineffective, making it a total misuse of the organization's resources, both in terms of time and money.

How To Develop And Use Performance Goals in eLearning

When you are trying to develop and utilize performance goals, there are a few things that you may want to bear in mind:

  1. Develop performance goals that can be measured or observed.
    One of the key differences between learning goals and performance goals is that performance-based goals are designed to achieve measurable results. Ask yourself: after the learners complete the online training event, will they be able to perform the newly acquired skills effectively? For example, will the company's customer satisfaction rates be enhanced thanks to the newly acquired skills? Therefore, when you're developing your performance goals, you will want to clearly define the desired outcomes and how these can be assessed, observed, or measured. It's also essential to integrate exercises that give learners the chance to explore their weaknesses and improve upon them through newly learned behaviors.
  2. Understand your eLearning course audience.
    Before you define your performance goal(s), you must analyze your core audience. First of all, you need to consider their current knowledge base and experience level. Then, you will have to wonder: what are they hoping to achieve by taking the eLearning course or attending the online training event? What are their skill sets today, and which skill sets do they need to develop? What are the organization's expectations from the eLearning course? How will the results of the eLearning course be measured (i.e. on the job performance or manager reviews)? In order to answer each of these questions you'll probably have to carry out in depth research into your current practices and procedures, so that you can identify the functions or procedures that you'll need to focus on during the design and development process.
  3. Always show how acquired knowledge converts to real-life action.
    The key to creating and using performance goals is to show learners how they can apply what they have just learned in the real world. For example, will they be able to carry out a sales task after finishing an online training module? Will they have the ability to boost their sales numbers? Overall, are learners going to be equipped with the knowledge they need to become better at what they do on a daily basis? When formulating your performance goals, always include an action word, such as “apply” or “achieve” and be precise about what your eLearning course will offer them, so that learners will have a clear idea of what they will be able to do once they complete it.
How To Link Performance Goals Into Your eLearning Course.

Performance goals should always be mentioned in the description of the eLearning course or online training event, and listed in the syllabus. In order to link these performance goals into your eLearning course, you can create activities and assignments that mimic real life processes or focus on practical applications of a specific skill. Often these activities may come in the form of collaborative scenarios with peers or discussions with more experienced colleagues. Assessments are also an invaluable tool, because they give you the power to evaluate whether the learner is actually acquiring information or developing skill sets that are part of your performance goals. If you find, through an assessment, that the learners simply aren’t progressing as they should, then you can intervene to help them get the most out of the experience moving forward.

In addition, learners should be aware of how the performance goals will enable them to earn more, advance up the corporate ladder, or develop their professional knowledge. You can do this by offering constructive eLearning feedback that ties performance goals to real world consequences or rewards. In many instances, the improvement in overall performance should speak for itself, given that the learners will be able to show off their newly learned behaviors and skill sets if performance goals have been successfully utilized.

To conclude, knowing how to develop clear performance goals is equally as important as knowing how to put those goals into action when designing your eLearning deliverable. By using these eLearning performance goal tips and techniques, you can make your Learning and Development strategy effective, productive, and cost efficient.

If you'd like to learn more about performance support tools that can help learners reach their goals and effective apply the skills they have learned, the article Performance Support: More Than Just Training features tips on how to choose the right tool for your training needs.

Are you wondering how to use the 5 "Moments of Need" model In corporate eLearning? Read the article The 5 “Moments of Need” in Corporate eLearning and How to Address Them to find out more!

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Make E-learning Easier: The Nature of Knowledge

The result of learning is knowledge. Our brains store and retrieve this knowledge. However, our brains are not mere databases of individual knowledge records. They are organic and alive, full of specialized tissue, blood, electrical impulses, and chemicals. The way our brains process knowledge is dynamic and multifaceted.

Our learned knowledge is stored in long-term memory organizational structures known as schemas (early schema theorists include Immanuel Kant, Frederic Bartlett and Jean Piaget). A schema is a collection of related and interconnected knowledge. If you are a nurse, you have a nursing schema. When you acquire new nursing knowledge, it is stored into this schema. However, it is not just stored. It is connected and integrated with the other schema knowledge. This integrated capability provides you the ability to recall and put to use all of the knowledge relevant to your work.

How can we use this knowledge to facilitate learners’ schema-building process through instructional design?

Benjamin Bloom’s cognitive domain taxonomy of learning objectives provides us a guide. This taxonomy consists of six levels, and is presented here in a revised version developed by Lorin Anderson and associates:

revised version Bloom cognitive taxonomy

  1. Creating – new meaning or structure from more basic elements
  2. Evaluating – appraising and judgments creating new meaning or structure from more basic elements
  3. Analyzing – examination leading to conclusions
  4. Applying – use learning to solve problems
  5. Understanding – comprehension of knowledge
  6. Remembering– fact-based information

These six levels advance from higher to lower order thinking skills. Fact-based remembering is the simplest, while creating is the highest. All the levels have value, and the higher levels cannot be obtained until the lower ones are accomplished.

So what do these levels have to do with developing a schema? These levels can be used as a schema development process. A newly developed schema will only contain relatively simple fact-based knowledge. A simple job aid is an example if an instructional product that provides this level of knowledge. The most developed schema allows higher-level performance. Experts or masters have achieved these higher levels.

How do we incorporate these concepts into our work? When designing, first consider at what cognitive level your learners need to reach to accomplish your learning objectives. Then make sure your instruction includes activities and evaluations that achieve these levels. Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer, in their book E-Learning and the Science of Instruction, state that “All of these processes require an active learner – one who selects and processes new information effectively to achieve the learning result” (pg. 44). When properly designed and implemented, e-learning is well suited to this task. Its rich capabilities enable us to design the activities learners need to actively take charge of their learning and maximize their schema development process.

Here’s an example of a set of learning objectives for a constitutional law class using all six levels of Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy:

  • Remembering
    Given a list of US Constitutional Amendment titles, you will be able to identify the primary subject of each of them.
  • Understanding
    Given your book’s descriptions and interpretations of the US Constitutional Amendments, you will be able to write a summary of each one’s significance.
  • Applying
    Given a case identified as constitutionally germane, you will be able to write your determination of which amendment(s) is/are relevant.
  • Analyzing
    Given a case, you will be able to analyze it and state if and how it includes constitutional issues.
  • Evaluating
    Given a court’s decision on a constitutional case, you will be able to appraise and then explain their reasoning and your opinion of the soundness of their judgment.
  • Creating
    Given a client’s legal case, you will be able to determine if there are constitutional issues, and then write a court brief explaining your argument and reasoning.

Once you have clear objectives, the learning activities and evaluations needed to achieve them should be apparent. By structuring your design based upon how our brains work, learners will more easily and effectively learn, and are then prepared to put their knowledge to work. In addition, your instruction is less likely to cause cognitive overload, as described in the Make E-learning Easier: eLearners’ Brain Pain related article.

 

More about Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy (thanks to Deborah Ash, Ph.D. for these links):

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Why and How to Develop Learning Goals Into your eLearning Course

Many instructional designers and eLearning professionals may spend a great deal of time focusing on the visual elements of their deliverables or concentrate on the interactive components that they'll include in each eLearning module. Indeed, these are important and add value to the overall effectiveness of your eLearning course. However, the top priority for all eLearning professionals is to determine the learning goal(s) beforehand.

The learning goal(s) is the core element, and only after you define it you will be able to provide the best possible eLearning environment for the learner. Once you've carefully formulated the learning goal(s) of your eLearning course, all of the other aspects of your eLearning design and development strategy can fall into place.

How learning goals can add value to your eLearning Course

Even if you have the latest and greatest eLearning software, the fact that you don't have a predetermined goal of what you want to achieve will prevent you from achieving it effectively. Learning goals add value to your eLearning courses because they allow you to custom tailor assessments, subject matters, and eLearning tools in order to achieve your primary objective.

When learners enroll in your eLearning course or sign up for the online training module you created, they are doing so for one very specific reason: they want to acquire a particular skill set or build upon their already existing knowledge base. However, if your deliverable misses the mark and doesn't offer learners those skills or information, then it won't possess any real value to them. You may have spent countless hours fine tuning each page, or devote resources to purchasing the ideal eLearning authoring tool, but it will all be for naught without the presence of learning goals.

Developing focused learning objectives gives you the power to design learning aids that take the learners one step closer to achieving the end goal. They allow you to create eLearning experiences that motivate and engage the learners. In addition, the clearly defined learning goals that you've incorporated into your deliverables provide structure and clarity for online educators and facilitators, who can offer further support to learners.

How to develop and use learning goals

When you are trying to develop and utilize learning goals effectively, there are a few things that you may want to keep in mind:

  • Know your target audience
    Having a clear sense of who your audiences truly are, their interests, their current skill sets, and their level of experience is key to determining your learning goals. Find out about their current knowledge base, such as whether or not they know the basics of company processes and procedures. Researching all of these in advance will allow you to not only develop a winning strategy, but finely tune your goals in order to customize each and every element of your eLearning course. You may find valuable the 6 Key Questions To Effectively Analyze Your eLearning Course Audiences article.
  • Know the desired outcome
    You need to have an in depth awareness of what your learners want to get out of the eLearning course. Are they trying to master a specific professional skill? Do they need to learn about the policies of a company (i.e. for new employee orientation)? Will they be taking the eLearning course in order to expand their knowledge of a particular subject? Knowing the desired outcome will enable you to create a strategy that encompasses necessary information, tools, and activities. For additional info highly encourage you to read the How to design assessments that promote the learning process article.
  • Know how to communicate objectives
    The learners who decide to sign up for your eLearning course should know exactly what they are going to achieve by completing it. So, before beginning the development process, create a statement that describes the learning goals concisely, succinctly, and summarily such as: “Upon completion of this eLearning course you will know how to effectively utilize a point of sale system”, or “Upon completion of this eLearning course you will be able to utilize social media for marketing”. Clearly communicating your goals is just as important as developing them. Be as specific as possible and tell your audience precisely what your eLearning course is going to offer them. I highly encourage you to read the How To Write Aims and Objectives for eLearning Courses article.

How to link learning goals to your eLearning course

Aside from stating the learning goals in the eLearning course description and syllabus, you can link goals to your eLearning course by creating exercises and learning materials based upon pedagogical objectives. Resources and references should tie into the goals themselves, or take the learner closer to achieving the goal. Assessments are also essential, as these will allow you to gauge whether the learner is actually acquiring the information/skills, or if further action need to be taken in order to reach the desired learning goal.

It's important to incorporate periodic recaps into your eLearning course plan or curriculum, as well. For example, after each section completed you can create a summary or exercise that centers around the learning goals. This motivates the learners, as they are consistently reminded of what they will obtain by completing the eLearning course, and also allows them to more effectively retain the information for future use. In addition, try to omit any irrelevant content from the eLearning course, especially if they do not serve directly the learning goals. This extraneous information can lead to cognitive overload and distracts the learner from the core objectives.

While you are creating and implementing your interactive eLearning strategy, it's important to always keep one eye on the learning goals. Never lose sight of what you want learners to get out of the experience, as a whole. Even the most aesthetically pleasing, highly immersive, and well designed eLearning courses simply won't be successful if the primary learning goals aren't achieved.

Looking for more information about how to effectively formulate effective learning objectives? The Use Perfect Learning Objectives To Boost The Quality of your e-Learning article delves into the basics of learning goal creation and how to enhance the quality of your eLearning deliverables, including a detailed explanation of how to write a clear and concise learning objective.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.