Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sparking Innovation in Your eLearning Design

By Shelley A. Gable

In scrolling through the Twittersphere, I clicked on a link to 14 Ways to Spark Innovation by Mitch Ditkoff.

The blog post offers advice for finding sources of inspiration for new ideas, which can apply to almost any type of role in any organization. Initially, I read it thinking about how I can be more innovative as an instructional designer.

As I continued reading, I started to feel as though the advice could also serve as design approaches for motivating learners and making learning stick.

Below I’ve listed some of the advice from Ditkoff’s post, followed by my training translations.

Follow your fascination.

In a nutshell, Ditkoff’s advice is to pursue ideas that grab your interest. So how can we create this effect for learners in training? How do we create a compelling and fascinating vision that inspires learners to actively pursue knowledge throughout training?

While outlining the “what’s in it for me” is certainly motivating, fostering fascinating is a somewhat different challenge.


The advice here is to become immersed in what you’re doing and avoid multitasking. How do we convince learners to immerse? In some situations, we can set an expectation that email and instant messaging must be off during training. But for eLearning situations that are truly self-paced, that may be difficult to achieve.

Perhaps if we manage to inspire fascination, learners will want to immerse. Complex (and relevant) scenarios in a problem-based eLearning lesson may accomplish this. If learners are intrigued by the problem and must really focus to figure it out, they may opt to log out of distractions for the sake of conquering the challenge.

Make new connections.

The original post emphasizes combining activities in new ways. For example, it simplifies MTV to the connection between music and television, and the idea of drive-thru banking to the connection between cars and banking.

This reminds me of two of Gagne’s instructional events: stimulate recall and present new content. Although many tackle these as sequential and separate elements within a lesson, they also work well when continuously combined. In other words, you can stimulate recall throughout a lesson and continuously connect new knowledge to existing knowledge to help learners make new connections.

Listen to your subconscious.

This makes me think of reflection. We all know the value of including practice and feedback as part of training – you don’t have to be in the training field to understand that. Though a piece we sometimes leave out is learner reflection.

Granted, people naturally tend to reflect on their experiences to some extent. But if our training is too fast paced, learners might not get a chance to consciously recognize what they’ve learned and cement that learning. Fortunately, we can prompt learners to reflect through individual activities, confidence measures, and insightful discussions. Social media in training can work wonders for this, too.

What else translates into design advice?

If you have a moment, take a peek at 14 Ways to Spark Innovation. And if any of the tips make you think of instructional design advice, please share those nuggets here!

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