Are you guilty of interrupting the learners learning?

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Provide learners the ability to interpret and form their own discoveries from the content via self-reflection. A story-based learning material that is free of a designer’s explanations of the events allows learners to learn faster.

I just concluded an extensive workshop on Story-Based eLearning design and one highly debated issue was about shorter and faster learning. Many think that learning today needs to be short and concise to facilitate instant learning.

Is there such thing as instant learning? If it exists, how do we apply the ideas so we can help learners benefit from instant learning?

One conclusion from the workshop discussion was that to arrive at shorter and faster learning is not about shorter lessons per se; although it helps. But it is about whether our eLearning design slows down or interrupts the learners’ learning.

We define instant learning as providing learners a miniscule of message to help them reflect on an issue. By helping learners reflect on an issue or content, we trigger the critical process of learning, which is the reflection of an incident and its meaning in the learners’ situation.

Are you guilty of interrupting learners’ learning?

Compare these two illustrations:

Illustration A

“Martin came in late. This was the last straw. Due to his repeated absences, he was terminated immediately.”

Martin approached his boss, Nancy.

“Nancy, this is really unfair! Although I was late and absent a few times, I also did a lot of overtime.”

“Well, that’s not enough to compensate for the absences.”

“Martin was furious. He felt dismissal was unjust. He wants to file a complaint.”

Does Martin have a valid claim?

Illustration B

Martin: “This is unfair. I have clocked-in a lot of overtime.”

Nancy: “It does not matter. Your overtime hours were not sufficient to cover the time lost during absences.”

Martin: “I feel I have been unjustly treated. I will file a complaint.”

What should you do Nancy?

What is the difference between illustration A and B? Which one has the potential to help in instant learning?

In illustration A, there are four characters or voices in the story: Martin, Nancy, the narrator, and you, as the learner.

In illustration B, there are only three characters or voices in the story: Martin, Nancy and you.

Which illustration will help speed up the process of a learner’s reflection?
I would suggest it is illustration B.

In illustration B, we removed the narrator. In illustration A, the narrator tends to slow down the delivery of the message. It often interrupts the learner. The narrator’s interpretation of the events deprives the learner the opportunity to interpret the story on his/her own.

What is one cause of this tendency to interrupt the learners’ reflections?

In the classical definition of story structure, there is emphasis on the “telling” side of a story. This is why we loved so much listening to our parents or grandparents who told us stories when we were children. As we bring story-based learning in corporate learning, we stick to the old behavior and continue to apply the “telling” approach.

There is another side of a story design – that is the learner’s interpretation of the events, issues and characters. Although the narrator helps the learner, it is far more important that the learner reflects on the events and not be influenced by the narrator.

The biggest challenge among designers when developing stories is not to push their opinions on the content they are presenting. Instead, they need to facilitate a learner’s innate ability to self-reflect. Designers find this process difficult because we are so accustomed to the role of content providers. This is like we are slamming the brakes on the learner’s learning.

For instant learning to be effective, learners must be allowed to draw their own conclusions through the process of self-reflection.

Tips for eLearning designers and developers who want to use stories for instant learning.

1. Allow learners to reflect on the content by making them part of the story.
2. Avoid giving your interpretation or descriptions of the story.
3. Always use the character’s own voice. Allow the characters to talk. Avoid interpreting what characters are going to say. Give characters the opportunity to speak.
4. Embed the lesson in the story. Refrain from giving your own opinion of the story simply because you are afraid that the learner might miss the point if you don’t offer an explanation.

Summary:Instant learning requires the ability of the learner to interpret a particular content. For instant learning to be effective, learners must be allowed to draw their own conclusions through the process of self-reflection.

References:Story Impacts Learning and Performance eBook.

List of Impact

Symptoms of Information Overload
Learners Don’t Know What They Don’t Know
Are Trainers Still Needed?

Related Posts:Instant Learning: How it works and how to make it happen?

4 thoughts on “Are you guilty of interrupting the learners learning?

  1. Thanks for this

    There might be something as instant individual understanding, but the learning research is solid that the concept of instant individual long term learning does not exist (people don't learn long term instantly)

    You are correct in reducing the content to only what is absolutely critical to understand and apply long term. More content equals more to learn, long term. In this scenario, less becomes more.

  2. Really enjoyed this post! What an interesting perspective. This couldn't come at a better time as I set out to edit and shape a scenario sent to me by a SME today! Thank you.

  3. Thomas, You are right. I think that long term learning is an accumulation of series of small instant learnings. Ray

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