How can you design eLearning content that provides enough challenge for the learner? We talk to many clients who complain that sometimes eLearning patronises and can be boring. (Not any of our content obviously!)
When is the eLearning challenge big enough?
I started thinking about the extent to which we cater to learners when writing an eLearning course. Obviously the course needs to makes sense, it needs to tackle the problem the learners are facing and it needs to speak in the language that learners use. I’m not just referring to reflecting their rhetoric speech patterns here, although this could be useful to make the learner more comfortable, the way in which the problem is articulated also says a lot about the way the solution is going to be found.
If a person tells you ‘I need to know how to give details of our policy change without confusing the customer’, they don’t need a course that teaches them the intricacies of the new policy – they need to know how to condense the policy into something that a lay person can understand. I think this can be applied to my brother’s case - for example, he didn’t need obvious statements about equality and diversity. He needed his own ingrained ideas challenged and the company needed a course that took its learners needs well into account.
Pull versus push learning
But to what extent do we take this? When I was younger and I heard a new word and didn’t know what it meant, or I wanted to know where puffer fish lived and whether or not it was feasible to keep one in my bedroom, I was sent by my parents to the big encyclopedia on the bookshelf. Sans cover and held together at the spine with strategically placed, yellowing Sellotape; it was a daunting, smelly old thing that some long-bearded men had pulled together from years of research and chin scratching.
The parental logic behind this was that if I looked it up myself then that little fact would be stuck in my brain forever. On a rare occasion the effort of pulling that hefty tome of the shelf did put me off, but more often than not this theory worked.
As a 90s baby this worked for me as the age at which I was most curious came before Googling had become a household term, let alone as a verb. There is definitely something to be said for the effort made on the learner’s part to get to some information as a sticking agent in the memory. It could be that the instant access to information that the Internet brings means that we can now know more at any given moment, but that we learn less.
The writer Nicholas Carr put it very succinctly back in 2008:
"Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a jet ski."
A way of getting information that the learner needs into their brain could be to place a greater focus on challenging them to secure the knowledge for themselves, rather than handing it to them readily.
Game-based learning challenges
Game-based learning is in the perfect position to do this. It can get the learner in the mind set of the real life situations that they need this knowledge for as well as challenge them to use their own skillsets to solve problems. While it is important to the learner to cater to them in the sense of tailoring the course to suit their needs, it is also important to challenge them to do a bit of their own legwork in the course. Try out our gamified quiz on Security Awareness.
So to answer the question:
"Is it best to cater or challenge?"
Both, in different areas. Catering to the learner in the design of the course, its focus and its accessibility is paramount.
But so too is challenging the learner in order to keep their attention, exercise their abilities and ultimately keep that information in their minds.
What is your eLearning challenge?
If you have any questions or comments, we'd love to hear from you. If you need help with building more challenge into your eLearning content, check out our Content design services. Or if you would like to know how you can be more successful in your role and make a bigger impact in your organisation - read our corporate guide to digital learning.