Extended Learning: Using Courses And A Podcast Or Blog To Create An Extended Learning Experience

Create Extended Learning Experiences Using Courses And Podcasts Or Blogs   

In Making eLearning Stick, Barbara Carnes highlights the strategies that can be used to improve the integration of eLearning objectives into sustained behavior change. As many designers and developers can appreciate, it is seldom the case that a discrete eLearning course can produce long-term effects. For this to be possible, eLearning professionals must find ways to create extended learning experiences, that is make learning more “sticky”.

Furthermore, eLearning professionals are often faced with massive amounts of content that must somehow be presented in a way that engages learners and promotes learning. Many of the popular eLearning books out there present this problem within the context of a stakeholder wanting to include every little piece of knowledge they have in their lead into a course. Often times, the solution (as is features in these books) requires you to sit down with the stakeholder and have a discussion about which pieces of knowledge actually contribute to meeting performance objectives. However, sometimes all that content really is necessary to cover. Maybe the training is covering a subject that requires a certain level of expertise, or where failure to engage in the target behavior really isn't an option.

I was recently tasked to take a massive amount of content and make it available online. In this case, the content to be transformed was the coach training materials for the HealtheStepsTM program, a physical activity and healthy eating program developed by researchers at Western University in Canada. Within this program, trained coaches use a proprietary health coaching protocol to motivate participants to improve their health behaviors.

As our research group wanted to make this program more accessible to those in communities around the world, making the training available for online completion was a natural step. However, the training had traditionally been done in person over the course of a full-day workshop. If translated online into a single course, it would take 8 hours for trainees to complete.

Step 1: Front Ending The Essentials

The solution that we are currently working to develop was to whittle down the content to the point where it –sufficiently– communicated the steps required to deliver the program, and then translated the rest of the content into blog posts and podcast episodes that can be “drip fed” to new coaches.

The training course can now be completed in under 2 hours, and provides a full walk-through of the program protocol. It includes engaging text, images, videos, assessments, and other interactions to foster a deep understanding of the essentials of the protocol.

However, it does not cover any content that may be considered supplemental to the basics. It does go into any detail concerning specific examples about what exercises to recommend for those with knee injuries, or how to foster confidence in individuals who may be attempting to live healthier after a lifetime of sedentary behavior.

Step 2: Drip Supplemental Content

Supplemental knowledge and skills, what could potentially be considered “softer” skills, will be addressed in blog posts, podcast episodes, and bite-sized modules that are constantly being posted on our website. For example, a podcast episode could cover the best recipes for those with gluten sensitivity issues, or a blog post could talk about the best strategies to deal with a difficult participant.

The way in which the content has been structured for extended learning –front ending the basics and then drip-feeding supplemental content– has two consequences: First, trainees are better able to attend to the protocol content as theirs is simply less to attend to. This leads to better comprehension. Secondly, we are able to build on this basic procedural knowledge over time by introducing more micro-content. A current trend in the eLearning field, microlearning (or bite-sized learning) is a small chunk of educational content that can be easily digested by a learner. Within the context of our program, this means that learners are able to practice and get better at performing the program at its most basic level, and then over time can continue to improve their coaching by integrating in the small tips and tricks we introduce on a weekly basis.

The overall result of this practice has been that our coaches are able to implement the program in an effective manner, which means healthier participants.

How could use this extended learning strategy in your own practice? It is well suited to address any behaviors that need to be extra “sticky”.

If you want to learn more about the HealtheStepsTM program, please visit www.healthesteps.ca, and follow me at @adamgavarkovs.

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