5 Tips To Use Mistake-Driven Learning In Your eLearning Courses

5 Tips To Use Mistake-Driven Learning In Your eLearning Courses
Summary: Mistakes should not be perceived as errors, but as opportunities to expand our educational horizons. But how can you give your audience the chance to learn from their mistakes, instead of treating them like obstacles in the learning process? In this article, I'll share tips that will help you design eLearning experiences that allow your learners to benefit from their own mistakes.

How To Use Mistake-Driven Learning In Your eLearning Courses

Eli Siegel, a noted poet and educator once said something that all eLearning professionals should bear in mind: “if a mistake is not a stepping stone, it is a mistake”. By giving your learners the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and getting rid of wizards and genies, and any other learning guide, any eLearning course can be transformed into a highly effective eLearning experience. Here are a few tips you can use to incorporate mistake-driven learning into your eLearning courses.

  1. Give your learners the chance to explore the consequences of their actions.
    You can give your learners the opportunity to see how their actions and decisions lead to real world consequences, either good or bad. You can design games that encourage the learners to make choices based upon pre-existing knowledge or skills, or scenarios that pose questions or situations they might encounter in the real world. By doing this, they have the chance to explore the true benefits and rewards of acquiring the subject matter, and to explore the negative consequences, in a risk-free environment. In other words, they get to make wrong choices during the eLearning course, so that they don't make them outside of the virtual classroom, which is the essence of mistake-driven learning. You can even have them reflect upon why the choice they made is incorrect. For example, if you design an eLearning scenario that involves a disgruntled customer and the learner handles the situation with a less-than-ideal response, you can ask him/her why he/she made the particular decision.
  2. Say “goodbye” to wizards and “hello” to troubleshooting guides.
    Rather than walking your learners through the entire learning process by integrating wizards and genies, you could allow them to explore the topic on their own, deal with challenges, and use troubleshooting guides to come up with their own solutions to problems they might face in the real world. While a wizard might hold their hand through the entire experience and give them the opportunity to grasp the idea more quickly, it won't help with knowledge retention. They simply won't be able to effectively absorb and remember the steps involved, given that they haven't been given the chance to learn from their mistakes and delve into the process on their own. It's similar to the old adage from the Spanish philosopher, Maimonides: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. If you give your learners the tools, knowledge, and wisdom they need to solve problems or complete tasks, rather than just telling them how to do it, they are better equipped to actually deal with these challenges outside of the eLearning environment, and use mistake-driven learning to their benefit.
  3. Make learning, not activities, the star of the show.
    When designing your eLearning course, remember that the main goal is to offer your learners a truly memorable eLearning experience. Instead of distracting them with learning activities that are highly interactive or feature impressive graphics, why not focus on the content development itself? By doing this, you negate the need for genies and wizards in the first place. Integrating activities that focus more on the subject matter and less on flashy or fun graphic design elements will allow you to avoid confusion and give your learners a clear and concise eLearning experience. I'm not implying that interactive activities should be omitted, to the contrary, in fact, but they should not be so complicated or challenging that they overshadow the information you are trying to deliver.
  4. Immediate feedback is key.
    If you are going with a mistake-driven learning strategy, it's imperative that you offer your learners immediate feedback. While your learners need to know when they make a mistake, they also need to know why they made it and how they can remedy the problem moving forward. Essentially, they need to be aware of which behaviors need to be modified or which knowledge needs to be collected. This will also provide them with that extra motivation they need to boost their performance and to learn how they can improve their skills or expand upon their knowledge base to deal with real world challenges that they might encounter in their personal or professional lives.
  5. Don't let them stray too far away from the correct answer.
    When you're creating eLearning scenarios or simulations that revolve around mistake-driven learning in your eLearning courses, it's best to not let your learners veer too far off the eLearning course. If you are designing a series of scenario questions that leave plenty of room for making mistakes, you should limit the amount of incorrect paths that a learner can travel down. For instance, if they are straying further and further away from a favorable outcome, then stop them where they are and offer them feedback that they can use to rethink their choices. It's wise to give them the chance to stop and rethink of their choices and to offer them that extra bit of help they need to understand what they are doing wrong and what they need to fix it!

These tips can give you the ability to use errors as learning aids through mistake-driven learning in your eLearning courses, rather than viewing them as learning hurdles. After all, “to err is human”, but transforming those errors into learning opportunities is a gift that eLearning professionals can give to their audience.

While making mistakes might be essential for learners, the same cannot be said for eLearning professionals! Read the article Common Mistakes In The Development Of An eLearning Course where you will find the 10 common mistakes that eLearning professionals will want to avoid when developing an eLearning course.

In addition, in the article Top 11 eLearning Mistakes That eLearning Professionals Should Avoid you will find tips that will allow you to circumvent the pitfalls of eLearning design and development, so that you can move forward on the path to eLearning success.