In chapter 6 of his book Designing Successful E-learning, Michael Allen describes 4 elements that contribute to effective instructional design.

Meaningful learning experiences

If the content is not meaningful to the individual, the learning will not be able to assist in the learning process.

Notice his perspective here.  Dr. Allen views the learner as a partner in learning not merely a consumer of content.

The learning will have trouble maintaining focus, practicing sufficiently, and being able to apply learning outcomes if any occur.

Does anyone set out to create learning that is so boring that it can’t keep their audience’s attention?  Of course not.  But if you can’t keep their attention how can you expect them to attain the learning goals?  My advice, don’t take your learner’s attention for granted.  Consider what aspect of the content is important to them and use that to gain their attention.  Once you have earned their attention you can focus on other aspects they may not be as interested in or aware of.

Memorable learning experiences

Learning activities must make a lasting imprint on the learner if behavior subsequent to instruction and posttests is to be improved.  Is there sufficient impact, perhaps through imagery, surprise, amazement, practice, or other devices to help learners retain what they’ve learned?

That sets the bar pretty high from what I have seen in e-learning.  Have you thought of surprising or amazing learners with e-learning?  What would that look like?  Dr. Allen points out that this “isn’t just about novelty.”  Surprising someone may be memorable but it doesn’t translate to learning.

Motivational learning experiences

Learners must have motivation to learn, or they won’t, and learners must have motivation to transfer their learning to actual performance, or they won’t.

How often do we ask if our participants are motivated to learn?  We assume they are, but are they?  What will motivate a person to apply what they’ve learned?  They’ve completed the lessons.  They’ve passed the test.  They’ve earned their continuing education credits.  But will they change how they do their work?  Will they think differently?

Measurable results

Although the 3 Ms provide design direction, they are just the means to the Big M; what we really want is measurably improved performance that begets needed results.  We’re not talking just about posttest scores here, but an authentic ability to perform more effectively after training.

Dr. Allen is making a big assumption when he writes that everyone reading his book wants measurably improved performance.  If you adhere to ISPI’s performance standards then you understand the importance of measurable performance.  If this is a new concept for you, read here.

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