Content Comprehension: The First Step In The Instructional Design Process

Why Content Comprehension Is Crucial In The Instructional Design Process

Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
― Albert Einstein

Recently we received a major eLearning project on compliance training. About ten courses on various compliance topics were to be developed. The raw content was in the form of PDFs, ppts, video lectures, webinars, and audio transcripts of classroom training. It had a lot of legal terminology and jargon that was difficult for professionals outside the legal department to understand. As the timeline was short, the project was divided between two teams. Both teams went nuts initially. But after the initial struggle, one team sailed smoothly and completed the project. Their output was excellent! The other team continued to struggle and fell short. As a result, we were not able to submit the project within the deadline. Both teams were clear about the performance objective of the training, had discussions with SMEs, and followed the same process. But one crucial step that made the difference was content comprehension.

What Is Content Comprehension?

In the systemic design process of instruction for eLearning, after the training need analysis and setting the training objective, the initial step for an eLearning Instructional Designer is Content Comprehension.

Content comprehension is the process where the Instructional Designer collects all the raw content, reads, and understands it before setting the enabling learning objectives and breaks the course into various modules. Here, you need to know content comprehension is not synonymous with reading.

Reading is a simple process of deriving meaning from the content. It doesn’t involve in-depth understanding of the content, whereas comprehension is an involved and in-depth activity of thinking and constructing meaning from the content.

For example, you read a newspaper or magazine daily. You don’t try to think in-depth and analyze. But when you are asked to write a blog or an article for a website, you try to understand it, go deep and construct a meaning that helps you write that article. That’s comprehension.

The team which completed the course successfully had gone through the whole content of the 10 courses. Though all the courses were not interlinked, they got a fair idea of the content i.e., they comprehended the content well. They had a defined process to comprehend the content. The other team just took the content of the five courses assigned to them and neglected the content that was not assigned. They thus struggled to understand the information provided. This led to an output that was far from expectations and also resulted in cost and time overruns.

Now I would like to ask you a few questions.

As a Learning Designer:

  • How good are you with content comprehension? 
  • What is the importance you give to content comprehension? 
  • What is the time you spend in comprehending content?

I think you have never assessed yourself on these points. So it’s time for a self-assessment.

This test measures five activities in the scheme of the Instructional Design process against 3 parameters. How do you rate each of these activities in terms of the level of difficulty, its importance, and the time spent on each activity? Take half a minute to rate each step.

Activity Level of Difficulty

(1-10)

Importance

(1-10)

Time Spent

(1-10)

1. Content Comprehension
2. Preparing the Outline and Learning Objectives
3. Creating the Storyboard
4. Visualizing & Deciding Interactivities
5. Formulating Assessments

This is how the majority of our Learning designers rated.

Activity Level of Difficulty

(1-10)

Importance

(1-10)

Time Spent

(1-10)

1. Content Comprehension 9.5 9.5 9.5
2. Preparing the Outline and Learning Objectives 8.0 8.0 8.0
3. Creating the Storyboard 7.0 7.0 7.0
4. Visualizing & Deciding Interactivities 7.0 7.0 7.0
5. Formulating Assessments 7.0 7.0  7.0

What do we conclude? We can say that content comprehension is relatively difficult compared to the other activities. It is the most important step, and the time consumed for content comprehension is also high.

So, how do you deal with this crucial and most difficult step in the Instructional Design process? In my subsequent articles, I’ll be helping you with this aspect. Meanwhile, you can read our eBook on “Instructional Design 101: A Handy Reference Guide to eLearning Designers” to know more about Content Comprehension.

The eBook is specifically designed to provide fundamental concepts that Instructional Designers need to know to design digital courses that are purposeful and meet instructional objectives efficiently. It is for everyone associated with eLearning. It contains proven tips and shares the tricks of the trade which go a long way in making first-rate online courses. You can use this incredible resource to find answers to the questions listed below and much more.

  • How can you apply learning principles effectively to churn out a wonderful digital course?
  • What are the essential elements of an Instructional Design process? How are they useful?
  • What are the various eLearning standards? How can you develop incredible online courses, by adhering to these standards?
  • What does it take to set the winning learning objectives for your digital course?
  • How can you chunk the content provided by Subject Matter Experts, effectively and efficiently?
  • How can you create top-notch assessments for your eLearning course?
eBook Release: CommLab India
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