Who is Your Audience?

Instructional designers agree on one fundamental concept of course design: you must know your audience. This article focuses on an emerging audience and proposes a not-so-new strategy for designing eLearning that works for it.

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This royalty free image comes from pexels.com.

WHAT WE KNOW
Today, we consult a large body of research dedicated to the design of online learning. We have come to know this audience of learners fairly well—including three distinct subgroups: K-12, adults working full-time, and post bachelor students. Research consistently points to interactivity and student engagement as key components for successful online learning—and instructional designers get that. A 2007 article states:

The success of an online course depends greatly on how actively engaged students are with the instructor, with their classmates, with the content, with technology, and with course management tools. (Mingsheng Dai, Online Cl@ssroom).

Businesses hire instructional designers to develop onboard training and incremental training that features libraries of topics designed to help employees do their jobs well. According to one eLearning blogger, for eLearning to be effective with an audience of employees, it has to “look and sound great,” “be real,” and “flexible.” (Young, Meghan, July 29, 2013, eLearning Industry).

Leaders recognize that eLearning has found momentum and led to an increase in material learned, retention rates, revenue, and savings. (Karla Gutierrez, 2016, April 7, SH!FT). Course designers have tailored eLearning to the student and employee audiences at a 900% growth rate since 2000. Are you ready to meet the needs of an even newer audience?

WHAT’S EMERGING
Early in 2017, Julie and Kenneth Kendall, Rutgers University, published an article stating that more and more executives are “being groomed to serve as organizational leaders.” Their study shows that executives make up a slightly different audience from the learner/employee audience that we see featured in most eLearning research. (p. 62). Now, the Kendalls are calling for a new kind of online learning, one that reaches an “executive” audience. These folks are seasoned professionals, rising to leadership roles in corporations, and have had success in their companies, with loads of real-life experience. Sounds like a new twist on what we understand the “learner” to be.

THEY HAVE STORIES TO TELL
Taking what we already know about eLearning design and tailoring it to an executive audience, the Kendalls discover from their research that executives engage well with story. They have stories to tell. They know the ins and outs of how the business runs. They know how to set company standards, and can give you a list of best practices from memory (and experience).

The Kendalls propose incorporating storytelling to innovatively enhance executive education. By addressing the following elements in every great story, learners can engage by telling their own stories, while others discover new learning or validate their own experiences.

  • The call to adventure
  • The quest
  • The struggle
  • The transformation
  • The resolution
  • The moral
  • The epilogue

By now you’re thinking: storytelling is nothing new! But incorporating story as a method/strategy for course design to reach professionals who have valuable experience strikes me as innovative and fresh. Kudos to the Kendalls for featuring this emerging audience and finding a strategy that works!

Can you even imagine what could be accomplished with story? I’m going to spend some time figuring that out. Be sure to come back here for more!

Have you been looking for a way to make executive education work for your client? Have you discovered strategies that work well? Do you expect to be designing executive education in the future? I’d love some feedback.

author-gwen

References:

Dai, Mingsheng (2007, December). 10 ways to engage students in an online course. Online Cl@ssroom, Retrieved from https://www.hartnell.edu/sites/default/files/llark/online_classroom_newsletter.pdf

Gutierrez, K. (2016 April). Facts and stats that reveal the power of eLearning [Infographic]. Retrieved from http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/301248/15-facts-and-stats-that-reveal-the-power-of-elearning

Kendall, J. E. & Kendall, K. E. (2017). Enhancing online executive education using storytelling: An approach to strengthening online social presence. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 15, 62-81.

Young, Meghan (2013, July). E-learning and employee onboarding: Designing the right blend from start to finish. eLearning Industry, Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/e-learning-and-employee-onboarding-designing-the-right-blend-from-start-to-finish

Motivation in Education: Relevance

Woman Student Typing
This royalty free image comes from pexels.com.

Throughout this series, we’ve explored Keller’s ARCS Model for Motivation, which includes attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction—four components used in successful face-to-face, online, and blended learning environments.

In my last post, I shared different strategies to motivate students through gaining and maintaining their attention.

Today we’ll look at practical ways you can motivate your students through course content that’s relevant to them in and outside of the classroom.

How is this Relevant?

Keller (1987) believed that “relevance can come from the way something is taught; it does not have to come from the content itself” (1987, p. 7, author emphasis). He defines relevance as “a perception of personal needs being met by instructional activities or as a highly desired goal being perceived as related to instructional activities” (as cited in Chesebro & McCroskey, 2002, p. 83).

Chesebro and McCroskey expressed Keller’s definition in simpler terms: “we perceive something as being relevant if we perceive it is related to our personal needs (e.g., needs for affiliation, control, achievement) or our personal goals (e.g., career goals)” (2002, p. 83).

If students perceive your course content and activities as relevant to their personal needs, personal goals, or both, they will become motivated to learn and remember the course content long after your class ends.

Strategies to enhance content relevance include:

  • Value: Help students value course activities and make sure that they expect to succeed at the task.
  • Experience: Explain how the course content builds on students’ existing skills and knowledge; discover students’ interests and relate their interests to the course content.
  • Present worth: Explain why the course content is relevant and important.
  • Future usefulness: Explain how the course content relates to future activities and experiences that students will encounter, in and outside of class.
  • Need matching: Link the course content to students’ needs for affiliation, power, and achievement.
  • Modeling: Refer to alumni or professionals who demonstrate or model the value and relevance of the course content.
  • Choice: Provide meaningful alternative methods for accomplishing a learning outcome.
  • Engage: Ask students to determine why and how the content is relevant to them.

All of these strategies require “teachers to have some knowledge and understanding of their students” (Chesebro & McCroskey, 2002, pp. 88, 90).

One of my favorite Communication professors at Spring Arbor University helped her students recognize the value in class assignments. She showed us the future usefulness of the content we were learning, in and outside of class. In COM100: Introduction to Communication, our Relational Transformation assignments throughout the semester challenged us to improve our communication with others by intentionally communicating with people in new ways, or in ways that would challenge us to be better and more effective Christ-like communicators.

Once I saw how the course content was relevant to my personal needs and goals, I became more motivated to learn and remember the course content and as a result, excelled in my classes. I still apply the lessons I learned from those assignments in my communication with others to this day.

In my next post, I will discuss how to gain and maintain students’ motivation by improving their confidence.

Reference:
Chesebro, J. L., & McCroskey, J. C. (Eds.). (2002). Communication for teachers. Pearson.
Keller, J. M. (1987). Development and Use of the ARCS Model of Instructional Design. Journal of Instructional Development, 10(3), 2–10. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/30221294

Ann2

Three Ways to Become Student-Centered

Our eLearning Team is moving toward student-centered learning in our courses. This approach is often miles away from how the course existed in the past, or how the subject matter expert envisions the online course to be.

I have found three ways to help our team and SMEs move toward becoming student-centered in all of our course development projects.

First, provide onboard training for online/blended instructors. Next, build interaction into every course. And finally, establish and sustain teacher presence while facilitating the course.

1. Step into their shoes.

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Image used with a creative commons license.

At the conclusion of the faculty training course that I facilitate for my university, participants consistently express value gained from “being a student” in the course. This constructive approach to training creates a safe space for future instructors to experience the nitty-gritty challenges that their students will also face. This is what they tell me:

  • Initially they are faced with their own misconceptions about online education and are forced to make time management decisions during the first week of training.
  • They experience gratification that comes from timely instructor feedback and encouragement.
  • They discover asynchronous momentum that develops in the discussion forum, and begin to research, practice, and develop strategies to create and sustain this kind of phenomenon in their own courses.
  • They experience tools within the LMS for the first time, and recognize the value of a Wiki activity, a Reflection journal, and publishing a video reflection in the Blog.

Being a student helps them understand the reasons for decisions made in the course design, and highlights strategies they must employ for students to have a successful online experience.

2. Design interaction.

ARE YOU THERE
Created using Adobe Photoshop.

 

Researchers find that designing the course to include social presence is a sure way to become student-centered. Creating opportunities for interaction and communication among members leads the way for social presence, which Richardson and Swan (2003) describe as: “The degree to which a person is perceived as ‘real’ in mediated communication. (p 70).

Julie and Kenneth Kendall, from the School of Business-Camden at Rutgers University, believe that storytelling works well to enhance social presence in an online course. When designing an online or blended course, consider presenting a scenario, a story, or case study through video, audio, or text. Then, ask students to share their perceptions, and interact with one another over them.

The Kendall’s found that four highly valuable functions result from this type of interaction in an online course:

  • members get a feeling for what has happened (experiential),
  • the decisions made and consequences that follow are explained (explanatory),
  • concepts, policies and strategies are validated (validation), and members are guided to a preferred outcome leading to success (prescriptive). (Kendall & Kendall, p. 68).

When designing an online/blended course, be upfront about why you are student-centered and make every decision accordingly.

3. Work hard at communicating.

Adobe Spark(3)
Meme created using Adobe Spark; quote attributed to Roy Williams.

Lala Hajibayova, writes in “Student’s Viewpoint: What Constitutes Presence in an Online Classroom?” that the Community of Inquiry framework informs presence in a practical way by recognizing that both instructor and student contribute to learning. Three types of presence work together in the COI framework: cognitive presence, social presence, and teacher presence.

Hajibayova believes that teacher presence buoys both cognitive and social presence, holding all three together for a strong student-centered online environment. She discovered that students perceive teacher presence when they receive regular communication through varying channels. Think engagement in discussion forums, email messages, course announcements, timely feedback on assignments, and thoughtful responses to questions they have asked. (Hajibayova, p. 22).

It takes considerable time in the first week of a course to establish instructor presence. You will stay busy answering questions via email, posting announcements to clarify expectations, involving yourself in the first discussion forum to model the type of activity students will need to embrace. Once students can trust that you are there, you can ease off a bit and rely on key instructor functions built into the course, like grading, feedback, facilitating discussion, and interacting with students in the private journal. As one training participant in my course put it:

“Teaching online is not a weekend job.”

These are just three strategies for becoming student-centered when designing online and blended courses—of course there are many more!

Our team would like to hear from you – what strategies have you found to be successful, and why do you think they worked so well? Do you have a story to share about teacher presence? Interaction? Putting yourself in your student’s shoes? Leave a comment to start the conversation!

References

Hajibayova, L. (2016). Students’ viewpoint: What constitutes presence in an online classroom? Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 55:(1), 12-25.

Kendall, J. E. & Kendall, K. E. (2017). Enhancing online executive education using storytelling: An approach to strengthening online presence. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 15(1), 62-81.

Richardson, J., & Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses
in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous
Learning Networks, 7(1), 68–88.

author-gwen

Visual Tools: Convert Your Content into a Format That Pops

Are you an instructor who’s thought, “I have all this content that my students need to know—why aren’t they getting it”? Have you considered converting that bland text into a format that pops? Let’s discuss why you should consider using visual tools to bring your information to life.

Why would you want to use a visual tool like an infographic? According to Educause, an “infographic” displays a lot of data and ideas with images from simple to complex in a visually appealing online format that can be interactive.

Converting your content requires the following steps:

  1. Start by analyzing your content to determine what format you are going to use. You want to make sure that it is meaningful and relevant to the topic at hand.
  2. Ask yourself: “what are the instructional objectives?” Are students required to remember facts and concepts to build a foundation so that they can later connect, elaborate, synthesize, and apply it to other information? This was my situation when I created the history infographic below. Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy is a useful tool for considering instructional objectives. Bannister (2002) also provides useful tools for Developing Objectives and Relating them to Assessment.
  3. Finally, what format will you convert the information into? Your answers to Question #2 will help you determine the format that you will use. An infographic is best to present facts and concepts; if you want to use embedded audio or video, an interactive presentation works better.

Two easy-to-use infographic tools are Emaze and Piktochart. You can sign up for a free account, but keep in mind that it only gives you access to certain templates. You can still create some cool visual presentations and interactions with the free templates.

Below, I’ve shared two examples that I created using these free tools. In the first example, I created an infographic using a Piktochart. In my Black Political Thought infographic, I asked learners to connect how black ideologies and politics shape current American events and culture.

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 10.49.55 AM

In the second example, I presented Great Peacemakers to the Trailblazers Toastmasters club. Rather than sharing handouts with globs of text, I used Emaze to create an interactive visual presentation to engage my audience throughout my presentation.

https://app.emaze.com/@AOCTQZWW/tnmj_tm8Powered by emaze

My audience gave me great feedback with meaningful Glows and Grows (a reflection and assessment strategy meant to improve presentations).

This time you might use an infographic or interactive visual; the next time you may want to transition your content into an eLearning activity. In my next post, I’ll discuss how to use PowerPoint to create an interactive scenario.

References

Bannister, S. (2002). Developing Objectives and Relating them to Assessment. The Center for Teaching and Learning.

7 Things You Should Know About Infographic Creation Tools | EDUCAUSE CONNECT (01 February 2013) by Educause_learning_initiative

author-tara

5 Ways to Write Relevant, Engaging, and Useful eLearning Content

Pen, Paper, and Laptop
This royalty free image is from www.pexels.com.

Writing content for an online or blended course is different than lecturing in a face-to-face course. Great eLearning content doesn’t just happen—it is intentionally designed to reach the student at their moment of need. As you develop your course, keep these five tips in mind to write relevant, engaging, and useful eLearning content.

Know your audience:

Consider the learner’s needs as you write your course content. Elearning demographics are shifting. Online learners are oftentimes older than the traditional campus student. It’s likely the online student studies around a full-time job and raising a family.

How can you frame the course to include their life experiences? What information is most meaningful after graduation? Do they need to pass an outside certification exam? What insights can you share to make that process smoother?

Tell a story:

From a young age, we discover our world through story. Stories inform and inspire; we’re more likely to retain what we’ve learned if we’re engaged on a personal level.

In “Wired for Story (2012),” Lisa Cron explains:

“We think in story. It’s hardwired in our brain. It’s how we make strategic sense of the otherwise overwhelming world around us. Simply put, the brain constantly seeks meaning from all of the input thrown at it […]” (Cron 8).

Storytelling works well with interactive scenarios. Instructional Designers use tools such as Articulate, Camtasia, and Captivate to build the scenario—all they need is your content to make them stellar!

Be real:

In academic writing, we’re taught to remove the “I” (first person) to create an objective distance. Elearning content is not as formal (nor impersonal). I’m not suggesting that you write in emojis and text speech. Your tone should be authoritative yet conversational. If you address the student as “you” and use inclusive language such as “we” and “us,” he or she will see you’re authentic and relatable.

Provide relevant content:

Quality content delivers useful information to the learner. Research current ideas and trends and remove any content that doesn’t meet the student’s needs. Museums curate art pieces around a theme or topic. Your content should curate links to relevant articles, books, videos, etc.

Encourage growth:

Marketers use calls to action as milestones to guide users to an outcome. In your course content, use learning outcomes to engage students and create a meaningful learning community. Ask questions at critical points in the course. Use the Discussion Board forums to invite student interactions. Include journals and blogs as spaces for online instructors to work with each student as an individual.

Are you an Instructional Designer, eLearning subject matter expert, or online instructor? How do you provide relevant, engaging, and useful content to students? Comment below to join the conversation.

Cron, L. (2012). Wired for story: The writer’s guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence. New York, NY: Ten Speed Press.