Point 2: Can your Learners answer “Why am I taking this course?”

I’ve been asked to expand on the 10 points in my post Blending Organizational Standards and Branding with Learning Theory. Here is some more detail on the second point: Include why they are taking this course.

During my 20 years in the classroom, I began each class with q discussion on the lesson’s topic. I do this to elicit prior knowledge, uncover needs, find strengths in learners that could be shared in the course (learner centered, flipped classroom, etc.) and to find knowledge gaps. While doing my MEd in online learning, I found I could not do this as easily. Courses I created online didn’t have the same elements as in-class courses, primarily, the courses didn’t make it clear why they were taking the course. I see many eLearning courses that lack this critical step.

The vast majority of courses I’ve seen begin with an engaging video or story to present the topic. For example, I took a course on bear awareness that had a statistic on bear maulings; the course had captured my interest. This step is similar to the introduction of a PowerPoint presentation.

I also knew the topic of the course I was taking, it was about bears and bear awareness.

Like many courses, this one then presented the overview: In this course you will learn blah blah. Okay, that’s all well and good.

But what wasn’t answered was, where do I fit in? There was a gap between the engaging start and the lesson objectives that needed to be filled.

Here’s how to connect the learner to the topic: Write an all-encompassing goal that includes the objectives of the lesson.

“You work in an industry that asks you to do work in remote areas. This course will give you the tools and information needed to prevent you or your coworkers from being attacked by a bear. The information in this course can also help prevent bear encounters when camping or taking a walk in the park, not just on the job. We sometimes hear about bear attacks, but we rarely hear about the hundreds of close calls each year. Watch this course and stay safe.”

This paragraph may or may not imply the same objective that the engaging start had, but all courses must clearly state what he Learner will learn and how it will be beneficial. Tuck this small paragraph between the engaging start and the overview. This way the Learner will know exactly why she or he is taking the course and better connect with the content presented, making for much better learning outcomes.

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