In a recent conversation, I was talking about good design. Someone asked a question, and I elaborated that there was more to consider. Pressed again, I expanded yet more. I realized that when talking good learning design, it’s complex. However, knowing how it’s complex is a first step. Also, there are good guidelines. Still, we will have to test.
I’m not alone in suggesting that, arguably, the most complex thing in the known universe is the human brain. I jokingly ask whether bullet points are going to lead to sustained changes in behavior in such a complex organism? Yet, I also tout learning science design principles that help us. Is there a resolution?
The complexity comes from a number of different issues. For one, the type, quantity, challenge, and timing of practice depends on multiple factors. Things that can play a role include how complex the task is, how frequently it’s performed, and how important the consequences are. Similarly, the nature of the topic, whether it’s evolutionarily primary or secondary can also have an influence. The audience, of course, makes a difference, as does the context of practice. Addressing the ‘conative’ element – motivation, anxiety, confidence – also require some consideration.That’s a lot of factors!
Yet, we know what makes good practice, and we can make initial estimates of how much we need. Likewise, we can choose a suite of contexts to be covered to support appropriate transfer. We have processes as well as principles to assist us in making an initial design.
Importantly, we should not assume that the first design is sufficient. We do, unfortunately, and wrongly. Owing to the complexity of items identified previously, even with great principles and practices, we should expect that we’ll need to tune the experience. We need to prototype, test, and refine. We also need to build that testing into our timelines and budgets.
There is good guidance about testing, as well. We know we should focus on practice first, using the lowest technology possible. We should test early and often. Just as we have design guidance, these are practices that we know assist in iterating to a sufficient solution. Similarly, we know enough that it shouldn’t take much tuning since we should be starting from a good basis.
Using the cognitive and learning sciences, we have good bases to start from on the way to successful performance interventions. We have practices that address our limitations as designers, and the necessities for tuning. We do have to put these in practice in our planning, resourcing, and executing. Yet we can create successful initiatives reliably and repeatedly if we follow what’s known, including tuning. It’s complex, but it’s doable. That’s the knowledge we need to acknowledge, and ensure we possess and apply.