Thursday, December 18, 2014

This Is How I Draft an eLearning Lesson

By Shelley A. Gable

You’ve completed your analysis. And, you’ve designed a course, which consists of several lessons. So, you’re at the point where you’re about to start drafting lesson materials.

How do you approach an individual lesson?

For instance, do you start writing the lesson introduction and work your way through to the end? Do you start with certain types of content? And, at what point do you write assessment questions (when applicable)?

Personally, I sketch the lesson activities and assessment questions first.

Suppose I have a lesson with a few objectives. Each objective specifies a behavior, which I need learners to perform at some point during the lesson. And most of the time, I need to later test them on those same behaviors. Therefore, I should test those behaviors in a way that’s consistent with how learners practiced them in training.

Since this much is a given, this is where I like to start.

I grab a piece of scratch paper (kind of old school, I know), and I loosely divide it into three columns.

In the left column, I abbreviate the lesson objectives.

I use the middle column to jot down notes about the hands-on activities I’ll use to prompt learners to perform each objective’s behavior. Simulation? Resolving scenarios? Something else?

Though I don’t write out the full activity in that middle column, I make notes about key components to incorporate. Perhaps specific types of details to include in a scenario, or coaching-oriented reminders to call out when writing feedback.

In the right column, I figure out how to set up corresponding assessment questions. Sometimes I can make the assessment question almost identical to the activity (e.g., using similarly structured scenario-based questions). Sometimes I need to figure out a variation, due to assessment tool limitations. Of course, the aim is for the objectives, activities, and on-the-job behaviors to align as closely as possible.

When I put fingers to keyboard to type the actual lesson materials, I create in this order:
  1. Write activities.
  2. Write assessment questions.
  3. Write content that goes between the activities (e.g., references to job aids, explanations, etc.).
  4. Write lesson introduction and summary.

Why this approach?

For me, this keeps me focused on the objectives so learners have ample opportunity to practice the stated behaviors. It helps me make sure that learners spend a larger proportion of the lesson time doing rather than being told. It helps me better differentiate critical versus nice to know information. And, it helps ensure alignment.

Granted, this sequence might not work well for everyone. And, I realize that most instructional design models suggest starting with the assessment questions. However, this is the approach that works for me.

How does it compare to your approach?