How often do you learn something new? And I mean completely new – something you’ve never heard of before or perhaps something you’ve never tried. What’s the process that you go through to learn this new knowledge or skill?
I’ve recently learnt something new, something I’d never dared try before – rollerblading. Now I know that the typical e-learning course isn’t daunting, potentially painful nor, to be frank, initially terrifying but I’ve been surprised at how many parallels can be drawn from my experience of learning this new skill and the way information can be taught and conveyed in e-learning.
In an online course, the learner might be introduced to a topic and taken through it step by step. Gradually, as they progress through the training, their knowledge increases until by the end they have achieved a desired level of competence which might be assessed in an end of course test. Now, priding myself on having an element of balance, I had hoped that I’d master the basics fairly quickly. However, I soon learnt that balance isn’t enough on wheels; I struggled to keep track of what my feet were doing and even where they were going! So how did my ever patient instructor teach a nervous and uncoordinated person to learn something totally alien to them? I noticed that his approach was very similar to that used in an effective e-learning course.
Animation and video can be an interesting way to convey information, replacing static text and image screens and increasing the learner’s engagement. Likewise, instead of telling me how to perform a parallel turn, my instructor would show me. That might sound pretty obvious but, most importantly, he then challenged me to do it myself – alone. Practice makes perfect, apparently! Furthermore, rather than telling me why I wobbled or, embarrassingly, fell flat on my backside, he would ask me why I thought I was finding something difficult or what I thought I was doing wrong. This test then tell approach was definitely crucial to my learning as it made me think for myself whilst forcing me to correct my mistakes as they happened, which is always the best way to learn (and remember) information.
I know that I wouldn’t have absorbed half of the information given to me if my instructor had merely told me the facts. It’s the hows and the whys that have increased my knowledge the most, improved my ability to balance and move on eight wheels and, of course, motivated me to persevere! Clearly, explaining the reasons for complying with something like a process or regulation and outlining the benefits of a certain behaviour or approach will be far more encouraging and inspiring – and luckily those taking Saffron’s e-learning courses will be able to practise and make mistakes in a far more safe environment than when rollerblading!