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: Accessibility to massive content in this Digital Information Age can be overwhelming and sidetrack even those with the best intentions. It is therefore important that designers focus on the intended context of their lessons rather than allow themselves to be distracted by too much information during elearning development. Minimizing content to its essentials can be an effective way to accelerate eLearning. It allows context to float to the surface like oil over water.
Well developed elearning programs put premium on embedding context rather than just provding content. A critical step to achieving this is distinguishing content that learners need to know or must know. It is lean yet significant. Otherwise, it does not create the intended learning impact. As we apply the approach to creating micro-lessons with the embedded context, learners are drawn to discover it and enables them to glean the critical knowledge and retain it more easily.
The quality of content and the process by which we synthesize content are factors that affect learning. Content that simply overloads our minds and makes learning incomprehensible can even lead to confusion. In this light, context takes precedence over content.
In my blog Context is King, I wrote:
“With the massive information and content growth and the speed of information change, the next generation challenge is not content but rather how to make sense, how to discover and how to apply the ideas from the content. In essence, how to find the context becomes more important. This is known as Contextual Learning – a learning that connects content with what the learners already know and benefit from its immediate usefulness. It is not the amount of information that we provide learners that is important. It is what is meaningful and immediately useful to impact their performance.”
Here are points to ponder for elearning designers:
• Content development doesn’t work like a piggy bank. Storing too much information in one single lesson weakens the learning framework. If you keep on dumping content without providing the process on how to weave everything into one symbiotic modality, your lesson becomes good for nothing.
• Context focuses on micro-lessons that lead to rapid learning. Uncovering a single lesson from one page is more practical than unearthing multiple lessons from a whole book.
• Contextual learning limits the scope of the lesson but it does not mean that the learner has lesser learning.
• Context enables designers to focus only on what is relevant and disregards novelty and unnecessary information embellishments that do not contribute to the eLearning structure.
In his article 4 Weapons of Exceptional Creative Leaders, Charles Day wrote:
“The context gives us the ability to say no with confidence.Great leaders are not necessarily braver leaders. They’re just better informed about the consequences of their choices, which makes it easier for them to make the hard ones. The result is they are able to keep their companies focused.When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 as its CEO, he began saying no to virtually every request by Apple’s developers. He understood that saying yes was a distraction from where he knew he needed to take the company and having context gave him the confidence to stand by his convictions.
Many leaders fear saying no and see it as limiting. But more often than not, it’s the right answer when you’re clear about where you’re headed and are in a hurry to get there. Context requires that you build from the future back. Once you know where you’re headed, the decision whether to turn left or right at any given fork becomes increasingly clear. Context is only relevant if it’s based on current information. Because the world is changing in real time, exceptional leaders actively welcome disruptive thinking.”
What is said about contextual leadership can also be applied in contextual elearning development. Designers who are keen on contextual learning safeguards their lessons by saying “no” to:
• Information overload that defocuses the learner from the heart of the lessons
• Bland, boring and conventional designs that fail to challenge the creativity and rationality of the learners
• Knowledge spoon-feeding that induces procrastination rather than participation