Putting the Learner in the Driver’s Seat

Ever notice that a long trip is seems shorter when you’re the one driving? When I’m a passenger and I don’t have anything to distract me, I feel like a trip can go on forever. But when I’m behind the wheel, my mind is constantly engaged, thinking, processing and deciding. I actually prefer driving a manual transmission because I feel like I have more control over the car. (Sidebar: Earlier today, Karyn Romeis posted a very another interesting analogy about learning and driving and I discovered it after writing mine. Ah! I love mini-zeitgeists!)

In a post entitled Here’s Why Unlocking Your Course Navigation Will Create Better Learning, Tom Kuhlmann discusses the number one reason (I’ve heard) for why certain people are adverse to eLearning courseware:

Courses need to be designed to accommodate the uniqueness of each learner. And that doesn’t happen by trying to control them.

Yes! Exactly!

As a consultant, I find myself trying to get clients to understand this constantly. They argue that they want to make sure that the learners don’t skip something very important and that they need to ensure that everyone understand everything the same way – this seems to be very important in the case of certification programs. Maybe they’d be better served consulting with the spirit of Asimov…

Tom then goes on to make a case for problem-based learning:

Locking the navigation is a solution to stopping learners from clicking through the course. However, it doesn’t address why they’re clicking through it in the first place and not focusing on the content. Instead of locking the navigation, create a course that removes the reason to just click the next button.

This is something every good face-to-face to trainer knows well. In order to avoid having a bunch of blank faces staring back at you, you need to interact with your learners by asking a question or by soliciting their opinion, anything to get that little hamster running. The advantage of face-to-face training is the visual feedback that learners are disengaged. In an online setting, you won’t get that feedback and disengaged learners won’t be paying attention to the content, as Janet Clarey and her commenters demonstrate in a post entitled: What to do while attending a boring online learning event: stealth learning.

The premise of problem-based learning is to stimulate the learner to think. You first present a problem, get the learner thinking about it, get them interacting with the content, give them feedback. The idea is rather then spoon feeding the content to the learner, you get learners to arrive to the ideas and concepts you are trying to convey.

It is no wonder that Serious Gaming is getting more and more press and is being considered by organizations as a effective way to deliver training. I’m actually quite excited as I’m designing my first serious game for a project I’m working on – and this is allowing me to design a whole other level of problem-based learning.

I’d love to hear other creative ways people are designing problem-based learning!

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