Redundancy and Coherence

Two principles of good e-learning design are to avoid redundancy and to keep things coherent and uncluttered. This week’s e-learning challenge was to present these good instructional design principles in a piece of e-learning. I decided to create before and after examples of two of the principles David Anderson outlined.

Redundancy
Although this may seem like an obvious thing to avoid, I see it in A LOT of e-learning courses. Back in my college days, we had a biology professor who had these extremely wordy PowerPoint slides and then he proceeded to read every word on them verbatim. It drove the whole class nuts, a lot of students scored poorly on his tests, and he seemed completely dumbfounded as to why. Instead of reinforcing the information, redundancy distracts from it. Here’s the redundant “before” version.

Click to view redundancy example

Click to view redundancy example

And here’s the much-improved “after” version.

Click here to view the solution

Click here to view the solution

Coherence
I’ve seen this principle violated most when IDs try to incorporate storytelling or branching scenarios for the first time. In e-learning, the stories only exist to reinforce the learning experience, not to detract from it. Strip the story down to its essentials, removing any extraneous details. Here’s the cluttered, long-winded “before” version.

Click to view It's Not a Novel

Click to view It’s Not a Novel

And here’s the elegant, much-improved “after” version.

Click to view the solution

Click to view the solution

 

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Turning Rules & Regulations Into Stories

rulebookheld

You’re in the unenviable position of having to create an e-learning course on regulatory requirements. How can you breathe life into Article 27 Subsection 42 so that learners won’t forget it five seconds after they exit the course? Just turn it into a story.

The previous training was in the form of a PowerPoint using those ubiquitous bullet points. It was drab and uninspired. 

Before - Slide with Bullets

Before – Slide with Bullets

“Now, how are you going to make that into a story?” you might ask. Well, think of it this way; ask yourself (or better yet, the SME) what would be the consequences if A27S42 were violated? Where there’s a rule, there are always consequences, and those consequences are…drum roll please, your story!

Consequences can be grouped into three basic categories:

  1. Direct – If you leave the bathtub running long enough, it’s going to overflow.
  2. Disciplinary – Maybe there is no good sensible reason you can think of for A27S42, but you know if you violate it, you could get fired or face disciplinary action.
  3. Legal or regulatory – Your organization could get fined for violating these, and those fines can sometimes compound daily until the issue is properly resolved.

I’ve only discussed the negative consequences here, but there may also be positive ones like rewards, recognition, bonuses, etc. for doing the right thing.

Once you have the positive and negative consequences, create characters in the course who go through their day encountering various scenarios where these rules come into play. Give the learner opportunities to explore what happens both when they obey the rules and when they don’t using simple branching, layers, or states. This is especially easy to do in Storyline, but is also possible in other programs. Here’s what the new, improved story version looks like:

Character is presented with real-life situation

Character is presented with real-life situation

Learner has to choose what to do next

Learner has to choose what to do next

Learner gets feedback based on their decision

Learner gets feedback based on their decision