Today’s eLearning courses aren’t simply in-person courses moved online. Yes, you can use an existing in-person course as a foundation. If you don’t properly adapt your courses for online learning, you’ll end up with something like “death by PowerPoint” and lose your learners. However, you can avoid many of those common pitfalls with competent instructional design.
Instructional design is the way an eLearning course is organized and presented to learners. Following instructional design principles helps overcome the challenges of successfully adapting an in-person course for eLearning—like the absence of a physical instructor interacting with learners. For example, video lectures are a common component of many eLearning programs, but do not inspire the same level of engagement as in-person lectures do(as measured by not watching the video to completion).
The more engaged learners are,
—the more they are personally invested in their learning — and the better they’ll retain the learned material and use their newly gained skills or knowledge. For schools, that means more academic success; and for organizations, better ROI on training and development.
Here are a few ways instructional design improves learner engagement:
1. Following an instructional design model forces you to focus on the “why” of the course before you focus on the “how.” When developing an eLearning course, it can be tempting to jump right into creating the lessons and activities. However, if you don’t take the time to analyze your audience needs and learning objectives, course content could end up off target. Unclear objectives or irrelevant content will cause learner engagement to suffer.
2. Good instructional design helps learners focus of the material that is most important and relevant to their specific situation. This focus will prevent information overload by helping you determine what content is absolutely essential for learners (“must-knows”), versus the “should-knows” and “nice-to-knows”—which don’t necessarily need to be included in a course. Instructional design also ensures that individual learners are getting the right information, right when they need it; structuring the information in a way that helps learners understand and apply the concepts at the appropriate time in their learning journey.
3. Good instructional design helps learners self-motivate. Learners are motivated differently; for some, it’s competition. For others, it’s acknowledgement. Instructional design takes these motivations into account and incorporates rewards or gamification into the course, such as leaderboards, badges, progress bars, and more. If targeted correctly, these motivational tools can keep learners engaged with a concrete sense of, and control over, their own progress.
Whether you are developing a new eLearning course or revising an existing one, good instructional design is something that can increase engagement among your learners—however you measure.
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