Constraints Compel eLearner to be Creative

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Our belief: At Vignettes Learning we use stories in eLearning; however, we make them interactive. The emphasis is getting learners involved in the story and not just telling the learners the story.
Synthesis. eLearning designs should not spoon-feed learners. Developers and designers are encouraged to create modules that challenge the intelligence and creativity of the learners. Knowledge spoon-feeding would create infants out of learners.
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The job of eLearning designers should enable learners to reflect, discover and decide rather than just giving information out. Creating the proverbial comfort zone in eLearning designs is the formula for boredom. The so-called ‘comfort zone’ induces students to become passive. It dulls their minds and suppresses creativity.

Facilitators and trainers shift the control of the learning from the learners to them by giving too much information and data. Overly eager designers tend to manipulate the modules to attain their desired results. They want the learners to win the ballgame according to their terms and biased outcomes.

Intellectual constraints build mental muscles. Muscles are formed by consistently engaging them with artificial stress and constraints. You don’t need Arnold Schwarzenegger to tell you that. Likewise, designers must push elearners’ to critically think and carry some mental burden to arrive at or discover learning nuggets. Let them travel through a labyrinth and discover their way out in the quest to acquire knowledge.

As an eLearning designer, I understand the dilemma that my fellow colleagues face in the industry. By designing lessons that give more control to learners, we make ourselves ‘obsolete’. It’s a scary thought, right? I aired this matter in my blog : Are Trainers Still Needed? In that blog, I wrote:

Informal learning, social learning, or learning based on the learners’ choices or options are certainly redefining the roles of trainers, learning specialists and even learners themselves. As they take more control of their own learning on their own terms, this becomes a frightening scenario to many learning specialists.

“Letting go of control” pushes trainers to rethink their roles in the learning process. However, rather than balk at the prospect, it is about time that this becomes an open issue. Years ago, letting go of control was like committing suicide where trainers are concerned.

Truth to say, we trainers, never had total control. We’ve always felt, thought and convinced ourselves that we control learning because we instruct and teach knowledge. However in reality, learners choose to learn based on their own personal goals. So, this openness about losing control is not entirely novel news. It should no longer be a surprise.

Interestingly, this is the same concept that Adam Richardson wrote in his Harvard Business Review article entitled ‘Boosting Creativity Through Constraints’. In that article, Richardson writes:

Conventional wisdom holds that the best way to boost a team’s creativity is to unshackle them from constraints. The less they have to worry about, the more open they’ll be with their ideas, the theory goes. Budget? Unlimited! Ideas from outside? Bring ’em on! Different business model? Consider it entertained! Unfortunately this approach can actually be counter-productive.

Some constraints are realities that must to be dealt with — laws of physics, or perhaps a budget. Other constraints may seem immovable but upon inspection are actually assumptions based on the past — your business model, or which customers and needs you serve, for example.

Constraints have a Goldilocks quality: too many and you will indeed suffocate in stale thinking, too few and you risk a rambling vision quest. The key to spurring creativity isn’t the removal of all constraints. Ideally you should impose only those constraints (beyond the truly non-negotiable ones) that move you toward clarity of purpose.

If a constraint enhances your understanding of the problem scope and why you’re doing what you’re doing, leave it in. Insights into user needs, for example, are great because they provide focus and rationale. If the constraint confuses or overly narrows scope without good reason, remove or replace it. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations of constraints; it’s not always easy to tell ahead of time what the right mix will be for a particular project or circumstance.

Here are some tips on how to build constraints that compel learner’s creativity:

  • Ask or post the right questions in your modules. Target the learner’s blindside. Post unexpected questions that are not answered by yes or no.
  • Use hyperlinks and links in your lessons. Let you eLearners navigate through other knowledge references.
  • Present contradictory ideas and compel your students to take a stand. Opposing views fuel discussion. Collaborative learning is attained when there are clashes of ideas and concepts.
  • Do not feed your students with your conclusions or recommendations. Guide them through but do not dictate as to how the learning should be concluded.
  • Provide a feedback mechanism so that you can challenge the answers or conclusions of the elearners.
  • Whenever possible, use learning games. This can make learning entertaining.

Related Blogs

Are Trainers Still Needed?

Are you guilty of interrupting the learners learning?


Boosting Creativity Through Constraints by Adam Richardson