What does it mean to connect the learner with the content? Have you seen the commercial by Johnson & Johnson where the baby says (thinks) “You’re doing OK, Mom”? Being a new mom myself, I related immediately. There’s a lot of anxiety around taking care of a new little person. The commercial acknowledges that you don’t have to be perfect to be a great mom… even the baby thinks so and loves you anyway. Any commercial with a sweet baby would likely get me, but this one especially drew me in because of the connection it established with my emotions and my situation. That’s what we want our training to do.
I’m currently working on an e-learning course on ethical decision making. This type of course typically presents a scenario and the learner has to choose what to do. The interactivity is important, but the content of that scenario is even more important. Learners expect an ethics course to present obvious scenarios with obvious behaviors. But this client acknowledges that ethics isn’t always black and white (a scary thought to the legal department, but reality nonetheless). We are planning a couple scenarios that reflect the gray area of ethics. Just the fact that the training acknowledges the gray-ness will help connect with the learner. It’s unexpected and it’s real-life. And we’ll use common situations these employees experience (such as hiring project subcontractors for work on their own home). As opposed to just saying “it’s unethical” to cover our backs (all the while knowing that it occurs anyway and in some circumstances is perfectly fine), the learner will experience the ethical way of behaving in the situation, and thus connect with the content. As I mentioned, we’re currently developing the training, so I’ll let you know how it goes.
I feel the need to mention the importance of objectives to help drive content that connects with the learner. Originally, we had this as one of the learning objectives for the Ethics course: “At the end of this course, learners will be able to describe the options and procedures for reporting ethical issues.” We later changed it to: “… learners will be able to properly report ethical issues.” What’s the difference? Well, the first objective lends itself to linear development where a narrator says: “Here is the procedure for reporting ethical issues…” and goes on to describe the procedure. With the latter objective (“Properly report ethical issues”) as a designer, I am encouraged to put the learner into a situation where they have to, albeit virtually, participate in the behavior. If you want the learner to properly report ethical issues, not just describe the process, you’re going to have to think beyond a narrator lecturing at the learner. Granted, the objective may be a bit harder to assess, but for content development, it’s a great motivator for the designer. We plan to put the learner into a situation and allow them the ability to succeed or fail at reporting unethical behavior… along the way, they’ll learn the proper reporting procedures. That learning will translate more clearly to the real-world because of how the training connected the learner with the content. Connect with, as opposed to lecturing at, the learner.
This post was the last design factor in my “Is Your Training Being Retained?” blog post. Feel free to check out the other design factors I discuss:
- Keep it Brief. Keep it Focused.
- Purposeful Interaction
- Repetition… Without Irritation
Thanks for reading. I’m off to work on connecting the learner with ethical decision making.