Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Being a Good Coach through eLearning Feedback

By Shelley A. Gable

I have a friend who plans to volunteer as an assistant coach for his son’s soccer team in the fall. He told me about some of the advice he found on the web about coaching, and I realized that much of what he learned can be applied to coaching in eLearning as well.

Most eLearning lessons contain knowledge checks of some sort, such as scenarios followed by a multiple choice question, hotspot questions that prompt learners to recognize something in an image, and simulations in which learners work through a procedure.

What happens when a learner answers one of these knowledge check questions incorrectly?

In many eLearning lessons, a box appears that says something like, “Incorrect. Please try again.”

That’s a missed opportunity.

Instead, we should write feedback for incorrect responses in a way that coaches the learner. We should provide hints that help the learner figure out the correct answer and/or understand why the selected answer is incorrect. That way, the mistake results in reflective learning, rather than just another guess to get through the activity.

If we take that coaching approach to incorrectly answered questions, then we can also apply some of the principles my friend learned about coaching a soccer team.

Below are a few of the coaching nuggets he shared with me and how I apply them to eLearning...

Teach life skills with sports skills. This sounds a lot like connecting a guideline for a specific situation to broader principles that apply in many situations.

In an eLearning lesson, the corrective feedback for a particular scenario could help learners to recognize cues within the scenario that lead to a correct response and explain how those cues align with related organizational values.

Encourage players even when they aren’t playing well. When learners answer a knowledge check question incorrectly, you could tell them that they’ll have an opportunity to apply what they’ve just learned to an additional scenario.

This can create a sense of accountability to figure out how to complete the task correctly, since they know they’ll have to do it again shortly. Additionally, it lets learners know that even though their first attempt was unsuccessful, they’ll have an opportunity to be successful before the training ends (an important part of helping learners feel satisfied with the training experience, as outlined in the ARCS model of learner motivation).

This approach could also feed into a larger remediation strategy for struggling learners. For instance, learners who answer all questions correctly might only need to complete a couple of scenarios. Learners who answer several questions incorrectly could move into another segment of training with additional practice scenarios. In doing so, you might transition to the remediation portion with a slide that reminds learners of key content, urges them to apply lessons learned from earlier scenarios to the ones that follow, and offers an encouraging statement about their probable success.

Manage the players’ parents. Many of us have seen (or at least heard about) the parents who get a little too involved in their kids’ games. While the connection to eLearning for this example is a bit loose, we can liken it to manager engagement. Just as the right kind of involvement from parents can affect kids’ sports performance, the right support from managers can improve learner performance on the job.

While we should take steps to engage managers as part of the eLearning project initiative, we can also nudge learners to proactively approach their managers about aspects of the training. For instance, if a learner struggles to answer certain types of questions or complete certain tasks, corrective feedback might encourage discussing the task with a manager or requesting an opportunity to observe a peer performing the task.

How do you coach learners in eLearning feedback?

If you have other principles you follow when writing feedback for incorrectly answered knowledge check questions, please share!

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