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January 26, 2007

Shatter Your Courses

When considering online learning opportunities for your clients or fellow employees, don’t think in terms of online courses. Instead, think--online resources arranged to be educational. Unfortunately, when considering e-learning, we often limit ourselves by placing all of the content into a nice, neat, and (seemingly) convenient course.

We diligently prepare a course so that our learners can progress screen-by-screen until they ultimately are confronted with some type of an assessment and then a fancy congratulations screen. We spice up the course by adding drag-and-drop exercises, multiple choice questions, and sometimes we even include an audio track or a short video.

The problem with this approach occurs when the learner just wants to look up one piece of information, or they don’t have time to sit down in front of the computer to click screen-by-screen but they do have a two-hour drive and would like to put the audio on a portable music player, or they have 15 minutes and want to practice the drag and drop. Or they are killing time at the airport and would like to download the short video on to their smart phone.

When designing training, think of a training toolkit instead of a course. All of the learning materials or assets available in one location but disaggregated/broken apart. If someone wants to download the video to a video player, they can do that, if they just want the audio, they can do that, if they just want to take the final assessment, they can do that. The more options we give today’s hectic and fast-paced learners, the more likely they are to take advantage of the learning we offer.

The old construct of a “course” really needs to be shattered; we need to think of pieces or chunks of learning. What some call nanolearning. The ability to get just the right content in just the right format at just the right time is what learning should be about—not progressing dutifully from one screen to another.

Karl Kapp is the Assistant Director of Bloomsburg University’s Institute for Interactive Technologies and a professor of instructional technology.

His own blog is located at  http://karlkapp.blogspot.com/

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