October 5th, 2016 Instructional Design

tips-imageBeing involved so heavily in the elearning industry means that I get to think quite a bit about how it is we learn and what works best.

I have written about many strategies and instruction design tactics of the years. Each one comes with merit touting studies backing-up their claims.

Every year there are new apps being released and trendy theories being applied to course creation. It is all very exciting and if you are a ‘learning nerd’ like me then you too love every bit of it.

As entertaining as all of these innovations can be I cannot help but to play “devil’s advocate” from time-to-time. Specifically, I found myself wondering if we are overthinking learning?

Could it be possible that what people are really interested in is the next big thing and not necessarily the fundamental component of learning: relaying (and absorbing) new information? Are we getting caught up in the theories of learning rather than the practical effectiveness of the learning content we deliver?

At the end of the day are we asking the one question that matters most: Can students understand and apply the lesson takeaways?

Yes, I know that these questions are rhetorical, but my personal belief is that they aren’t asked enough on a per-situation basis. Teachers need to assess their lesson plans, elearning developers should incorporate measurement tools, and workshops need to find ways to practice application.

In other words: let’s not lose sight of what really matters.

For the most part I think everyone involved in the learning industry stays on point. Consider this post just a friendly reminder to keep it up 🙂 .

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter


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I will share my perspective, if I may.
Theory is not pure speculation. Theories can be tested. From the theories we draw hypotheses and these are directly tested and sometimes evidence for their correctness is found and sometimes not. There is always some theory. It’s how we imagine how something works. There is a great value of theory in systematic study of what works best – practically.

Personally I don’t think that we do. Maybe if I was to point out not as much as shortcomings, but something that we have never really enough of, is research. Verification of theories.

Here are my thoughts: We are devising new ways for students to access content and to react to that content, but we are using technologies that are, like all technologies, doomed to obsolescence soon. This wasn’t true of books. Four four hundred years, you picked up a book to learn. Now, every time you pick up a piece of media or a digital device, it is being supplanted by something newer. If the power goes out, books – what’s left of them – are going to be the only permanently accessible source of easily accessible material.
The other problem is that the technologies require us to react and respond in ultra-specific ways. With books, you can write notes in the margins, go back a page, or two, or ten, and review. This is never as easy with digital tools. So I’m not convinced anybody can any longer do anything WITHOUT a digital tool. Can math students REALLY calculate anymore without a calculator? Can they answer questions without prompts, hints and multiple choices where they can intuit the answer, rather than know it? I don’t think so.

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