Originally posted July 5, 2018.
That’s why we’ve put together this simple three-step process, which you can follow whenever you create a course.
- Define your goal and learning objectives.
- Then decide how you’ll assess whether those objectives have been reached by creating questions and follow-up activities.
- Only after completing step 1 and 2, start adding content that’ll help your learners answer these questions.
By following this straightforward process, you’ll end up with courses that are shorter and much more effective. It’ll help you set boundaries and encourage you only to share genuinely relevant content.
Let’s take a closer look at what each step involves.
1. Defining your goal and learning objectives
When creating a course, it’s tempting to start by writing the content first and then finishing it by adding a few questions at the end. The problem with this approach is that you often wind up with “PowerPoint-type” courses that are often neither engaging nor effective.
In the words of Stephen Covey: “Always start with the end in mind.” In other words, ask yourself what you want your learners to know and/or be able to do after they’ve finished the course.
Once you’ve come up with a clear answer, you can then define the goal of your course, as well as its underlying learning objectives (or specific sub-goals).
Here’s an example:
Goal: To train technicians so they can restore disrupted services on telecommunication towers and ensure business continuity after a natural disaster such as a storm or an earthquake.
Upon completing the course, technicians must be proficient in
- Evaluating affected zones and estimating the damage.
- Identifying which equipment is impacted.
- Replacing broken and damaged parts to ensure continuity of service.
2. Deciding how to assess whether those objectives have been reached
This step involves putting in place an assessment where you check whether learners have acquired the right knowledge.
Course authors often feel tempted to include assessments that involve choosing a “correct” answer in a multiple-choice format. Often, they also include “true or false” questions or ask learners to complete a sentence by filling in the blanks.
This approach isn’t entirely effective when it comes to adult learners, who find it much more useful to demonstrate their new knowledge as part of realistic scenarios.
That’s why we recommend creating unique assessment questions that simulate real-life work situations as much as possible. They allow learners to apply their new knowledge directly and stop the exercise from becoming a knowledge-checking trivia game.
When coming up with great assessment questions, it helps to identify a list of all the tasks you expect your learners to be able to perform after completing the course.
We also recommend choosing “high-impact” questions that stimulate reflection and critical thinking, rather than “low-impact” questions which that purely on knowledge recall and retention.
Using the training technician example again, we’ve provided some examples of both low-impact and high-impact assessment questions.
Which of the following routers is compatible with our servers?
Although this question helps promote knowledge retention, it doesn’t actively encourage knowledge application. If a real-life situation requires learners to choose between different options, they’ll probably instead refer to a job aid or a cheat sheet than having to recall details from memory.
Following a major hurricane, most of the WiFi cabling has been damaged, requiring technicians to fix everything from signaling to cabling to setup. In which order should the following measures be taken?
- Option 1
- Option 2
- Option 3
This question stimulates learners’ critical thinking by setting them a challenging and realistic task that’s similar to one they might face on the job.
3. Add content that is relevant to your questions
Step 1 and 2 should have provided you with enough clarity on the aim of your course and how to measure whether your employees can apply it in real-life situations.
Only now does it make sense to start identifying which information learners need to know to complete that aim and do well in your assessments. This information will become your course content. Completing the first two steps will force you to stay focused on sharing only essential content without digressing into unnecessary detail.
Here are some examples of what might be included in your content:
- A cheat sheet or a list of router specifications for technicians to refer to during emergencies.
- A detailed list of troubleshooting procedures.
For further information on making your course as effective as possible, read our article “Using variety to beat the ‘forgetting curve’”, or any of our other blog posts in our series on e-learning best practices.