7 Tips For Using Analogies In eLearning
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How To Use Analogies In eLearning

eLearning professionals are much like cartographers. We create a learning atlas that points our learners in the right direction, providing them with a navigational compass. We show them the stops they need to take along the way in order to reach their ultimate goal, and map out the lay of the virtual learning land. One of the most effective ways to help learners relate to the eLearning experience is by using eLearning analogies exactly like the one you just read. Here are some tips for adding analogies to your eLearning course:

  1. Brainstorm abstract concepts that tie into the subject matter.
    Analogies in eLearning should consist of two parts; a concept that ties into the subject matter and a more abstract concept that can be compared to the original one. While you may already have a firm grasp on the original concept that needs to be addressed, coming up with an abstract concept can be challenging. A good practice is to find a quiet distraction-free spot, and try to come up with as many similar concepts as you can think of. Write down anything that comes to mind. Then go over your list and choose the top two or three. Examine each idea, determine how it compares or contrasts to the core concept, and choose the one that is most similar.
  2. Determine which characteristics should be compared.
    No analogy is complete without comparable characteristics. For example, if likening your online course to a vast repository of information, you might compare the books within the library to eLearning lessons or modules. Determine the key traits of the original concepts as well as the underlying abstract idea, and then see how you can pair each characteristic when writing the eLearning analogy. You can do this by creating a three-column chart, wherein column A lists the notable characteristics of the original concept, column C lists the traits of the abstract idea, and column B describes how each relate to one another. If you cannot identify a sufficient number of relatable traits, then you may need to go back to the drawing board and choose another abstract concept.
  3. Stick to the familiar.
    Though the abstract concept should be unrelated to the subject matter, it must also be familiar to your audience. Do some research to determine how much your learners already know about the topic. For example, if you are going to compare the core concept to a computer, make sure they know enough about computers to understand the eLearning analogy. Conduct surveys, ask them to complete quizzes, and hold one-on-one interviews to learn as much as possible about their current knowledge base and background. Also, take their cultural background into consideration so that you don’t end up offending them by using an inappropriate abstract idea.
  4. Always lead-off with the concept or idea.
    Every eLearning analogy should begin with the original concept, then lead into the abstract idea. This gives learners the chance to access their memory banks and find the previously learned knowledge they have for the topic before introducing them to an entirely new concept. Also, if you really want to use an abstract idea that may be unfamiliar, take a few moments to explain the concept in advance. This offers them the chance to get up to speed before they dive into the eLearning analogy.
  5. Use a variety of different analogies throughout the eLearning course.
    It may be tempting to stick to one analogical theme throughout the eLearning module. However, by doing so you run the risk of making a permanent association between the two concepts. Your learners will begin to tie that specific abstract concept to the subject matter, and may have difficulty applying the knowledge they’ve learned in the real world. In addition, using a single analogy in eLearning may exclude members of your audience, especially those who may not be as familiar with the abstract concept. For example, if you are comparing the key idea to baseball, those who are not interested in sports may be missing out. But if you follow the baseball analogy with one that pertains to art, you can expand your reach.
  6. Add a visual element.
    Analogies in eLearning may be word-centric, but you can also include a visual element to make them more interactive and relatable for your learners. Visual learners, in particular, are going to be able to connect with the eLearning analogy more effectively if you have an image or graphic alongside the online text. Be creative when choosing your images, but don’t be so vague that learners cannot connect the visuals with your written analogies in eLearning; this will only lead to confusion and diminish the value of their eLearning experience.
  7. Pair eLearning analogies with supplemental information.
    While analogies in eLearning may offer a wide range of benefits, they can also be limited in scope. In order to be truly effective they must cover a very specific idea or concept, which means that other elements of your eLearning course may be left out. You can remedy this, however, by including links to supplemental learning resources, such as articles and videos, or bullet lists that cover the other key takeaways. Analogies in eLearning are, ultimately, great starting points to introduce a topic, but do not consider them as comprehensive learning tools that delve into every aspect of the eLearning course. Think of them as small windows into the subject matter, giving learners the opportunity to take a glimpse of the idea and get a general overview without exploring the entire subject.

Make learning fun, engaging, and easily digestible by using these top tips to integrate eLearning analogies into your next eLearning course.

Want more tips on how to create memorable online learning experiences? Read the article 7 Tips To Create eLearning Experiences That Stick to discover 7 top tips for how to develop eLearning courses that stick, so that your learners can acquire, absorb, and apply the knowledge they need.

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