Equip designers to engage learners

An instructional designer’s responsibilities include gathering and curating information in a way to fully engage the learner. With so much content and so many distractions for the learner, it is important to create the learning material in an efficient and calculated way.

Skills of a great modern instructional designer include:

  • understanding the right issues for learners
  • testing out concepts
  • designing active learning
  • motivating learners through useful content
  • curating and filtering content through collaboration
  • being tech savvy
  • designing through intuitive interfaces
  • writing engaging, yet brief, copy and content
  • visually communicating large ideas

Workplace elearning can make up as much as 50% of an employee’s learning, and designers spend a long time creating content that will resonate with these learners. To further enhance learning, designers can utilise the following learning theories.

Discovery-based learning

Child painting on paper

Developed by Jerome Bruner, this theory concludes that learners must play a more centred role in the learning experience. This theory is the closest to what we remember as kids growing up; learning through experience. Learners are encouraged to ask questions while engaging in self-guided exploration. Learners will formulate their own hypothesis and draw conclusions and insights based on data.

This theory has become the foundation of modern online training. Corporate learners are able to explore the subject matter independently and observe concepts from multiple angles. Learners are also able to take more initiative and take a more proactive and personalised approach to learning.

Inquiry-based learning

Young people in seminar theatre

Developed mainly by Joseph Schwab, inquiry-based learning involves social collaboration and problem solving. Learners acquire information through peer interaction and investigations of real-world challenges. This theory also encourages learners to actively participate in brainstorming processes.

This learning method helps build communication, active listening and reasoning skills. This theory is great for corporate learning because it helps resolve real-world challenges through lessons and exploration. Utilising social learning tools, learners are able to creatively overcome obstacles, which can improve the success of an organisation.

Situated Cognition Theory

Business people examining data

This theory relies heavily on active learning and was first introduced by Brown, Collins and Duguid in 1989. Learning is encouraged in a contextual format and is usually paired with exposing learners to realistic challenges. Case studies are a great way to illustrate the importance of a learning concept and can show learners how the concept may be used in a real-world setting.

Through this theory, learners are able to see a practical use for the information. This method for learning is great for corporate learners that have busy schedules. Building learning material that has contextual value helps learners see the practical uses for such information in an efficient and quick timeframe.

Elaboration Theory

Businessman writing on notepad

Charles Reigeluth developed this theory, which argues that content should be organised and presented in a specific order. Ideally, learners receive basic ideas first that build into the most complex concepts. This theory consists of three key steps:

  1. Look at the big picture to gain an overview of the problem or task to emphasise the relationship between concepts and learning problems
  2. Examine each concept more closely
  3. View the big picture again to see how each concept fits collectively

Breaking complex ideas and theories into smaller, manageable steps, allows learners to see the whole concept before analysing each component. This learning process increases knowledge retention and recall, leading to more effective training.

Individualised instruction

Person ticking assessment boxes

Through this theory, learners must have the option to explore topics on their own to fully understand the ideas involved. Each lesson concludes with an assessment to test their progress and ability. This concept also includes social learning activities to broaden understanding.

This type of learning gives learners personalisation and convenience with learning material. Online training resources are self-paced and give learners the option to focus on their own areas of improvement. Online group collaboration also improves learners’ social learning experience and helps develop vital skills for the workplace.

These learning theories set up the foundation of modern instructional design and should be used throughout training development to help engage learners. Read Part 2 of Modern Instructional Design to learn tips for engaging learners.