A few basics for creating an engaging lesson/learning module:
- Plan. Don’t wing it.
- Determine your objectives and desired outcome.
- Establish how you will determine mastery.
- Mine your resources.
- Outline the lesson/course.
- Build it.
- Add the bells and whistles.
The course is just part of an overall process. For an instructional objective to be met and the course to be effective there must be ongoing performance support outside of the course. The learner must be motivated to engage in the content and to motivate the learner, relevance has to be clear. Motivation can also be driven by opportunity. Meetings, projects, deadlines, task lists, family, and life in general are barriers to training. When categorizing tasks for the day training is not likely to be in the urgent and important category. Training is usually put in the “I will get to it when I can” or the “Oh my gosh it is due tomorrow” category. If designers create training with time management in mind everyone’s life is made a little easier and training is more effective. Compress activities and implement/suggest opportunities for practice to make training relevant to the participant. A few minutes here and there is a lot easier to manage than a sixty minute required commitment. There is a time and place for long sessions, but periodic required training is not it. Saving progress is an essential feature. Chunk the module in such a way that there are natural breaks.
Planning is the key to breaking up the content into natural pauses. Story-boarding is an effective planning tool for planning. A storyboard is an organizational tool to establish the order of presentation, what resources are needed where, and where best to place learning checks. That is an oversimplification, but it explains the idea. PLAN for engagement. Preparing learning checks will chunk the material and engage the learner. Within the learning check, you have an opportunity to re-loop and review- TAKE IT.
Most understand that learning and presentation is a cycle. You explain what you are going to tell them. You tell them. Then you tell them what you told them. I do not think of it in a circular pattern of instruction. For me, loops are preferred.
In your loop learning, stimulate prior knowledge. Offering examples that relate to what the learner already knows can provide relevance as well as an opportunity to review prior material. Another opportunity to re-loop is by providing the chance to interact with the content.
Before building, gather all the resources necessary for success. Mining of resources can take place before story-boarding or after. I prefer both. I gather the resources I know will be required. After outlining I usually find it necessary to add to my resource list. Think of it like cooking. Before cooking you must check to see if you have all of your ingredients then purchase what you need. If you have all of your ingredients out, measured and ready for use you are not in a frantic rush to heat, stir, measure the next ingredient, and add it before whatever you are cooking is ruined by a delay. Having all resources ready for use in an easily accessible folder or bank will make your instructional design process smoother and less stressful.
When building your learning module, keep content frames clear, concise and uncluttered. Words, words, and more words is not necessary. Stick to the major points and add narration for explanation. Add images to enhance the topic and assist the learner in making connections. While bells and whistles can be exciting and provide a tool to grab attention, don’t over do it. Too many bells and whistles become obnoxious after repeated use. Keep in mind, just because the learning module is professional and serves a learning purpose, that does not mean it can’t be entertaining. Lastly, if you are bored creating it, how will the learner required to complete it feel?
Keep it simple. Make it relevant. Plan and don’t wing it.