Philosophy and Approach to eLearning and Behavior Change in Adults*
Freeman Consulting and Development embraces a philosophy and approach to eLearning instructional design that recognizes established adult learning principles, understands the target audience, clearly articulates the learning objectives for that audience, and reflects the principles of performance support.
Motivation. Adults are motivated to learn if they believe the training will benefit them. It is important to develop a “need to know” in adult learners at the outset of the course. Learning objectives for the course should be articulated in the course introduction. At the beginning of each course lesson, there should be an explanation of how the topics covered in the lesson pertain to the learning objectives.
Practicality. Adults are practical. It is easier for learners to retain information in long-term memory when there are links to personal experience and knowledge. One way of making this connection is to ask questions about previous experiences, an understanding of previous concepts, or a body of content. Adults have accumulated a foundation of life experiences and knowledge that may include work-related activities, family responsibilities and previous education. They need to connect learning to this knowledge/experience base. Experience is a source of an adult’s self-identity.
Capturing Attention. For any learning to take place, the eLearning course must first capture the attention of the learner. For example, starting each lesson with a thought-provoking question or interesting fact can stimulate curiosity and motivate the adult to learn more. Also, adults want to be active in the learning process. ELearning interactions, learning reinforcement questions, and case study exercises are examples of engaging the adult learner in an active manner. Education is subject-centered, but adult training often should be task-centered.
Practice. Adults benefit from practicing what they have learned, especially if it involves the application of new knowledge or skills. Upon completing instructional modules, it is often useful to give adult learners an opportunity to apply what they have learned. An exercise that asks the learner to make decisions in the context of a scenario is one example of this.
Connection to Job Performance. In a workplace setting, training is typically intended to tie directly to improving job performance. Within the field of training and development, considerable attention has been paid recently to how training can better connect to performance improvement. The idea of “performance support” in instructional design reflects this interest. Simply defined, performance support seeks to provide task guidance, relevant information, and productivity enhancement to the learner at the moment of need. ELearning, which is accessible, flexible, and modular, can be an important training delivery channel for performance support. With eLearning, it is possible to consider the context of the learning scenario and the level of experience of the learners.*Ideas presented in the above subsection reflect the work of Malcolm Knowles and Robert Gagne.