There’s more to instructional design than a list of learning objectives. Often in a meeting, the first question out of an educator’s or designer’s mouth is “What are the objectives?” And who could blame them? Objectives are the foundational source of content presentation, delivery, and every type of mechanic. However, there is a danger that this focus on objectives can also encourage a level of complacency in instructional designers when developing their modules.
I think we all know what complacent modules look like. More often than not, the learner will find e-learning modules that spread content across several slides, continuously begging for the next button to be clicked, only to arrive at some pit stop called a “knowledge check.” After another series of “next” smashing, the learner is propelled to the “end of module quiz,” also known as the “unit test.” In many cases, they are just the learning objectives rephrased in question form.
Before you get your pitchforks out – hear me out.
I am not arguing that objectives are merely peripheral in course design, but I say they are not the be all, end all. When thinking of the learning objectives, the thought of how that learning will be received by the audience should always be front and center. To merely meet objectives by checking off boxes should not be the goal of instructional designers. Rather, the instructional designer should strive to enhance the learning experience.
The learner’s experience should be at the forefront of design because it increases the opportunity for experiential learning. With the increasingly fast evolution of technology, the trend towards experiential learning is definitely ascending. Before you know it, virtual and augmented reality will move into the learning sphere as the standard and videos will be a thing of the past. The current reality is that learners are taking up the reins of education and riding the horses themselves, navigating through the puddles of information surrounding them. The empowerment of self-paced learning necessitates a dynamic learning experience; gone are the days of presenting static information. With the information overload our learners are facing, it is crucial that the memorability and engagement value of e-learning courses address this concern and thrive in the digital space.
As instructional designers, or learning experience designers, the need for us to engage our learners should be viewed as a learning objective – and the most important learning objective at that.
Coming from a diverse background, I love mixing flavours, thoughts, and perspectives and infusing them into my own learning schema. With a Masters of Education from the University of Calgary and over nine years of experience in the field of education and training, I continue to explore the multitude of ways people learn. I also strive to find ways to incorporate the hype of technology into content to produce meaningful and memorable learning. In my spare time, I like to create priceless memories with my wife and two kids.