Building Practice & Prove-It Learning Experiences for E-Learning

build practice and prove learning experiences for e-learning

Much of the online training is content created with an e-learning tool and placed as e-learning courses. However, these courses are not necessarily the best at getting people to learn. I know there are some in our industry who will stand on their soapboxes and tell everyone that it’s not real eLearning in the first place. They are free to do so, but they are wrong.

It’s real e-learning, it just might not be complete e-learning. It all depends on the objectives of the course.

Content is part of the learning experience

When it comes to content, I don’t see the difference between a PDF, PowerPoint slide deck, web page, or “e-learning course.” It’s just content packaged in different media. And the content is part of the learning experience. If anything, the “e-learning course” can add a level of interactivity and novelty that the other media cannot.

The key point here is that content is part of the learning experience, but it is not the learning experience. And that’s where the criticism holds. Content needs context that highlights its relevance to the learner.

If you’re just building a content-focused course, and the course has performance expectations, then you need to consider two things for the learner:

  • How do they practice using the content?
  • How can they show their understanding?

It is not enough to create superficial interactivity and simple multiple choice quiz questions.

Build a practice and prove-it learning experience outside of the e-learning course

When you boil it down, you can build practice and prove-it activities into the eLearning course, or you can build them outside of the course. Remember that a multiple choice quiz is not a proof activity.

The e-learning course is part of the overall training goal. If the course is mostly content, build practice and prove-it activities outside of the course.

Here is an example of how I did this on a previous project.

We trained machine operators. Initially, they were trained on the production floor. However, the training they received was not consistent, which proved to be a bit challenging for the new hires. So we built e-learning courses that covered the machines, how they worked, how they were maintained and the production workflow. This gave the students a solid understanding of the process and what was happening on the floor. Because of this, they entered the production environment with confidence and some context.

In the production environment, we created a working laboratory. The machines slowed down and they focused on individual tasks rather than the whole process. It allowed them to practice applying what they learned in the e-learning courses. And we assigned a peer coach who monitored their work. At one point in the process we put them on a live machine and they were able to demonstrate their new skills.

In this example, the e-learning courses were used to present content consistently and at a pace that worked for the students. And the interactive learning experience happened outside the course on the shop floor.

Build a practice and prove-it learning experience as part of the eLearning course

Building practice activities within the course requires you to step back a little from the content. Instead of focusing on the content that is in the course, focus on the decisions a person needs to make and then what content supports those decisions.

In general, content-heavy courses follow a linear process from start to finish. However, a performance-based course focuses on how to use the content to make the right decisions. To build a performance-based course, you need clear, measurable goals. And then you build an environment that is relevant and meaningful for the learning experience.

When it comes to getting them to practice, I always say, “Let’s throw them in the pool!” Put them in situations where they have to make decisions or do something as if they were doing it in the real world.

For example, a typical content-based course explains the company’s policy on sexual harassment and then concludes with a simple quiz. But a performance-based course puts the learner in a situation where they have to deal with sexual harassment issues. And then they make decisions (practices) that hopefully comply with company policies. Based on their decision making, they get the relevant content and feedback. And at some point in the process, they can demonstrate the appropriate level of understanding.

The main points in all of this is that if you have performance requirements but your courses are mostly expository content (which is typical), then you need to consider how the learner can practice doing the things they should be able to do for outside the course. . And it requires a mixed solution where they go through prove-it activities to demonstrate their competence around the goals and expectations.

The other option is to build meaningful decision-making activities into the course where they can practice making decisions and ultimately demonstrate their skills.

So the click-and-read content-based courses are fine. However, if you have performance expectations and the practice-and-prove-it activities are not part of the online course, they must be built outside of it.

When you look at the courses you’re going to build, what percentage would you say is expository content versus performance-based content?


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