3 Foundations For Effective eLearning Design
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Effective eLearning Design: How To Make A Solid Start

"Change is the end result of all true learning" - Leo Buscaglia

1. Instilling The Right Mindset

Having the right mindset matters. Before you start learning or designing learning experiences, realize the importance of creating the right mindset for learning.

Fixed Mindset refers to the belief that improvement is not possible, or a person cannot change the state that he/she is in. The problem with this particular mindset is that it is very limited, and it does not necessarily promote improvement or learning.

Growth Mindset motivates us to do more than we can at the moment. If we have growth mindset, we can say things like "I can do better". The emphasis is on continuous improvement. This improvement does not necessarily mean we are not doing the right things at the moment, but rather, we can do things in better and more effective ways by improving ourselves. In other words, it doesn't mean there will not be any failures during the learning process, but rather that the learner would desire to try again to improve themselves.

It is important to instill the right kind of mindset to our learners or to ourselves when we learn new things. It should be our goal to design learning experiences that empower and encourage learners to move forward. As learning designers, the question we should ask is: "Does my course design look discouraging, or does it motivate students to achieve better?"

2. The Importance Of Focus

The ability to focus is a requirement for learning. When the brain is focused on a task or activity, it can transfer information to the hippocampus region of our brains. However, our focusing capabilities are limited. According to research, people can focus on a task only for 20 minutes maximum.

Instructors might want to put all the content and knowledge they have into a course they are teaching. Unfortunately, such an intention could result in unforeseen consequences, such as overwhelming learners with long texts and presentations.

Instructional Designers, however, should be mindful about how to design the course in a less daunting way. There are ways to design content in shorter yet comprehensive units. Doing so requires an understanding of the science of focus, and students' attention span. It is true that we would want the students to learn everything, but it is also true their focus is limited, and they can be easily distracted if the instruction is taking longer than usual.

So, while designing a lesson or learning something by ourselves, it is crucial to remember this rule and avoid overwhelming our learners. Learning experiences could be designed in smaller chunks rather than lengthy presentations or texts. Increasing the variety of activities can also be helpful.

3. Learning Should Be A Positive Experience

By now, we all heard this sentence: "Learning should be a positive experience." But what does it really mean? How can learning be positive or fun?

From a biological standpoint, amygdala is the part of our brains where emotions are processed. When amygdala experiences positive feelings, it helps the hippocampus region of the brain to focus on tasks better. In return, retaining newly acquired information becomes much easier. Try to remember a time when you had much fun or felt relaxed during a learning experience. It would not be wrong to assume your learning performance skyrocketed due to the lack of all the other factors affecting your learning negatively.

We would ideally want to evoke positive feelings in our learners or while learning ourselves. It is sometimes challenging to design such learning experiences. There are various ways to make learning a positive experience: Incorporating games into the lesson, making the learning a social experience (social learning) where peers or groups learn from each other (discussions, group work, peer activities), making sure the learning content is relevant to learners, adding a variety of activities, and using appropriate reward mechanisms. And most importantly, at the end of the experience, learners should feel that they have made some progress or engaged in some meaningful learning activities (learning that matters to learners).

There is much more to learning than what we read in this short post. But I think it is extremely important to consider these three factors while designing for effective learning. Please also share your comments and insights about key factors that lead to effective learning.

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