How to Use Analogies in eLearning
Much of the focus on eLearning design and development is on the choice of interactions, such as drag and drop, matching, fill-in-the-blank, and many other activities. The idea behind the use of interactions is to maintain or increase learner engagement. Although those activities serve a unique purpose, we often forget that learner engagement needs to include techniques that aid the “learning” process, rather than just the “attention” process. Our brains are “analogy making” organs and brain neurons continuously grow and connect to a network of other neurons. When new information is presented to us, our brains automatically attempt to make sense of this by linking the new information to our past experiences. Branch by branch (neuron by neuron) we create new knowledge… similar to how a young tree sapling turns into a 40-foot tall tree. New information (new tree branch) gets connected to existing knowledge (existing tree branches). This is why analogies help a learner’s “tree” to grow because they link new information to the learner’s existing knowledge.
When designing an eLearning course, the strategic application of analogies will help provide a shortcut to the learners’ understanding of new information. Developing analogies is sometimes hard work, but here are 5 tips on how you can create analogies with greater ease:
5 Tips On How You Can Create Analogies in eLearning
- Use objects or actions that most people are ‘familiar’ with (e.g., things found in nature, household objects, typical chores around the home, etc.) and link those to the ‘unfamiliar’ topics presented in the eLearning course.
- Use compelling visuals of the familiar objects or actions to trigger the learners’ recall of past experiences.
- Annotate the visuals with simple statements to help trigger recall of additional experiences.
- Link the new information to the visuals and annotations in #2 and #3 to complete the analogy.
- Assuming that you are designing an eLearning course for adults in the workplace setting, try testing the analogies with a few children you know who are between 10-13 years old. If they understand the analogies, then you are well on your way to helping adults learn better in the eLearning course you are designing.
Parker Grant is a Learning Designer at Learning Connects, LLC.
Parker is an award-winning and visionary learning specialist with 21 years of creating adult learning solutions for corporate and business environments. He leverages extensive knowledge in global training management, instructional design, and numerous cutting-edge adult learning strategies.
Parker has a passion for bridging research-based adult learning principles with educational technologies and classroom training to help create more effective learning environments. He has delivered adult learning presentations at the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning conference, World Aviation Training conference, and the National Safety Council conference in the US.