Creating eLearning In A Functional Context: 4 Rules To Apply

Creating eLearning In A Functional Context: 4 Rules To Apply
Summary: The saying goes that "knowledge is power", but this is only the case if learners know how to apply the information they've collected. In this article, I'll share everything you need to know about Functional Context, including its core interacting components, and 4 rules to help you apply this approach in your Instructional Design for eLearning.

How To Create eLearning In A Functional Context: Interacting Components And 4 Rules To Apply

Think of your eLearning course as a vast library, packed full of knowledge, skills, and task mastery. You invite online learners to come and peruse the shelves, pick the perfect titles, and then dive into the pages. But what really counts is that they are able to put their knowledge into practice. The most well-read among them might have a wealth of knowledge stored away in their minds. However, it simply won't be of use unless they know how to use it in the real world, that is within context.

Functional Context involves connecting new ideas and concepts to preexisting knowledge within context. Online learners must get the opportunity to relate to the subject matter and tie it to real world applications. It also allows them to make preexisting knowledge new again by refreshing their memories and putting it into practice. Tom Sticht is the founder of Functional Context approach, which has been used in organizations, literacy programs, and a wide range of other institutions.

Interacting Components For Creating eLearning In A Functional Context

There are 4 core components that should be taken into consideration for creating Functional Context for eLearning. Each of these components interact with one another to form a comprehensive eLearning experience that is relevant and relatable:

  1. Preexisting knowledge base
    This is the information that a learner already has in their long-term memory. Throughout the eLearning experience they are able to build upon this foundation by connecting new concepts and ideas.
  2. Processing skills
    Includes problem-solving, critical reasoning, and language skills. These abilities are all tied to cognitive functions.
  3. Learning materials and content
    The instructional online content that conveys the information to the learner. In the Functional Context theory this is often referred to as an "information display".
  4. eLearning Assessments
    Test and gauge a learner's ability to apply their knowledge in practical ways. eLearning assessments under a Functional Context approach should determine both theory and functional learning for any subject matter.

4 Rules To Create eLearning In A Functional Context

An effective eLearning strategy for creating eLearning within Functional Context should adhere to the following rules, which are based on Tom Sticht's recommendations:

  1. Meaningful content.
    All eLearning experiences should be meaningful. Their level of experience and prior knowledge must also be taken into consideration. Conduct in depth audience research to learn as much as you can about your online learners. Figure out what they know, what they need to get out of the eLearning experiences, and what they expect from the eLearning course. Surveys, pre-assessments, and on-the-job observations are all effective ways to explore the backgrounds and experience levels of your online learners. Once you have identified the skill and performance gaps you can create a more meaningful eLearning program that caters to their learning needs. If possible, encourage your learners to create personalized learning paths that focus on their specific goals, wants, and needs.
  2. Access to online resources.
    Online learners must have access to tools, resources, and materials that they can use during and after the eLearning session. Create eLearning materials that center on tasks, skills, and knowledge that employees use on a daily basis. For example, your sales staff needs to know how to successfully negotiate and communicate with customers in order to increase profits. Thus, their online training must focus on these specific abilities and omit extraneous skills that they do not require in the workplace. This also helps to reduce cognitive overload, given that they will only need to absorb information and skills that are relevant for their job duties. You should also offer them refresher online training courses that allow them to apply what they've learned on a regular basis, which leads to an increase in knowledge retention and recall.
  3. Practical knowledge.
    eLearning professionals should improve proficiency by providing practical knowledge, encouraging online learners to utilize processing skills, and inviting them to design their own eLearning materials, which requires a high level of comprehension. An eLearning course design within Functional Context must offer the "complete package". Online learners should engage in every step of the cognitive process: For example, they must be able to acquire knowledge they'll use in real world settings, then use their skills to determine how they will apply the information outside of the eLearning environment. Lastly, they are required to practice this knowledge by summarizing, reflecting, and creating eLearning materials that show their mastery of the subject matter. These eLearning activities also allow them to connect new ideas to preexisting knowledge in order to retain the key takeaways.
  4. eLearning Assessments should measure understanding in a contextual format.
    Unlike many other eLearning course design strategies, Functional Context relies on eLearning assessments that are qualitative rather than quantitative. Online learners do not receive a grade, but are provided with immediate feedback that helps them correct improper performance behaviors. Essentially, the eLearning assessments are not based on how much they know, but how well they can apply what they know. Scenario and simulation-based exams are highly effective testing methods under a Functional Context approach, as they give online learners the power to gauge the real world consequences of their actions and see how every concept and skill can be used, for example, in the workplace.

Functional Context can be used as an approach for any eLearning course that involves real world benefits and applications. Use this article as a guide to ensure that your learners can apply what they've learned in order to boost the effectiveness of your eLearning course.

If Functional Context could be summed up with just one word, this would be "meaningful". Read the article How To Create A Meaningful eLearning Experience: 6 Tips For eLearning Professionals to learn additional tips that can help you create more meaningful eLearning experiences for your online learners.