This is one in a series of thoughts on some broken areas of ID that I’m posting for Mondays. The intention is to provide insight into many ways much of instructional design fails, and some pointers to avoid the problems. The point is not to say ‘bad designer’, but instead to point out how to do better design.
When it comes to closing the elearning experience, not surprisingly too often we drop the ball here, too. Our endings tend to be too abrupt, and merely rehash what has been learned, and, if we’re lucky, point out further directions. Not that we don’t want to let them know what they’ve learned, and indicate that if they want to go deeper, they should go here, and they’re now prepared to learn about this thing over there. But there’s so much more!
First of all, if we’re viewing this as an experience, developing motivation and addressing the emotional components, and we should be, then we should close off the experience emotionally as well. We should acknowledge the effort they’ve put in, and celebrate the fact that they’ve learned the ability to do something new (and it should be do something new, if you’ve got your objectives right).
Ideally, we’d personalize this, and say something like”you did really good on A, but your B was a little weak, try a bit of C to build that up” or whatever. We don’t always have the ability to track performance at this more granular level, nor the ability to make the learning content adapt in that way, but it’s conceptually feasible and you should be thinking about how you might accomplish that.
Also, in the introduction, we drilled down from the larger context in the world (right?), and we should similarly drill back up. Let’s reconnect the learner with the broader context, and reactivate and associate the learning experience by letting them know how what they now can do plays a role in the world. It’s not just “you learned X”, but “you learned X, which means Y”.
Finally, let me add a valuable lesson I learned. I was working on some content for speaking to the media, and the SMEs (hello, Jane & Susan!) had a nice statement format that worked really well (with a memorable acronym: the SEX statement – Statement, Examples, eXplanation – I’ve never forgotten it :). However, they realized that the opportunities to apply it might be few and far-between, so they encouraged ways to practice it. They suggested using it with co-workers, bosses, even your kids!
The important point was the effort they put in to help you keep it active until you needed it, and that’s too often an element we forget. We can and should stream out reactivations at a rate that is appropriate for how soon and how often we’ll apply the skills, but our decision about how to support the learner’s retention should be conscious and related to their task and practice opportunities.
Note that this can and should be all done in a minimum amount of words. It doesn’t take much, a sentence or two at most, unless it’s been a big elearning experience, but it is appropriate.
So, in summary, make sure you wrap up the learning experience with the same care that you began it. Make it an experience to be remembered!