When you were a kid, what were some of your favorite games and activities? Oftentimes, insight into a child’s future career can be gained by watching how they play.
One of my favorite “toys” as a kid was my family’s handy-dandy cassette recorder. Although now archaic, it was cutting edge in the 70s. My love for recording began at age three, as I unashamedly performed such songs as “Happy Birthday” and “Old Susanna.” As I got older, I started putting together my own radio shows, which I thought were genius works of comedy.
So, how did this childhood interest translate into a career? I became a professional broadcaster.
Yes, it’s true. For the first twenty-plus years of my adult life, I worked in radio. I’ve hosted music shows, served as a reporter and news anchor, conducted interviews, and scripted more commercials than I can count. I have even taught audio production and broadcasting courses at the college level. Those childhood interests really were a forecasting of my future.
Fast forward to my current career as an instructional designer. How does my broadcasting background mesh with eLearning? Surprisingly, in many ways. Here’s what instructional design can learn from the world of broadcasting:
Rule of Radio: Take the First Exit
I was mentored by a talent coach who encouraged me to “Take the First Exit” when communicating an idea on the air. Put simply, don’t overwhelm your audience with verbosity. Take the shortest route to the destination by stating information concisely.
Instructional Design Takeaway: Avoid Unnecessary Content
Cognitive load theory contends that extraneous material can inhibit learning. After all, the human mind can only handle a limited amount of information at once. Clark, Nguyen, and Sweller (2011) argue that eliminating non-essential content from the learning environment will result in faster and better learning.
Rule of Radio: Prepare Your Audience for What’s Coming Up
Good radio hosts tease what lies ahead. For example, “Stay tuned for your opportunity to win concert tickets right after this song.” This builds anticipation and keeps listeners engaged.
Instructional Design Lesson: Prepare Your Students for Learning
Have a new concept to introduce to the class? Use scaffolding to sufficiently support the learner. According to Chen (2014), this will promote engagement in the task as well as achievement of the learning outcome.
Rule of Radio: One Thought Per Break
On-air personalities report the news, share humorous anecdotes, give prizes away, and more. However, they don’t do it all in one announce break. Rambling on and on will cause the listener to tune out.
Instructional Design Lesson: “Chunk” Your Material
Chunking refers to breaking down large amounts of content into smaller “bite-sized” pieces. As you do so, be sure to cut out extraneous information. According to Pappas (2013), staying on topic is one of the most challenging aspects of content chunking.
Looking at the elements above, we see a common thread: avoid information overload. Whether it’s a radio listener or an online learner, simplicity is the key to engaging your audience. Have any of your former jobs prepared you for the world of online learning? Have any of your childhood dreams become reality through instructional design? If so, I’d love to hear about it.
Chen, S. (2007). Instructional Design Strategies for Intensive Online Courses: An Objectivist – Constructivist Blended Approach. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 6(1), 72-86.
Clark, R. C., Nguyen, F., & Sweller, J. (2011). Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load. Somerset: Wiley.
Pappas, C. (2016, August 18). 6 eLearning Content Chunking Strategies to Apply In Instructional Design. Retrieved September 06, 2017, from https://elearningindustry.com/elearning-content-chunking-strategies-apply-instructional-design
Wright, B. (2017, August 06). Take the First Exit. Retrieved September 06, 2017, from http://www.hisair.net/brian-wright-take-first-exit/.