6 Tips To Incorporate Discovery Learning Into Your eLearning Course
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How To Incorporate Discovery Learning Into Your eLearning Course Design

We all have different modes of learning. Visual learners prefer a demo or instruction video, while textual learners would rather read instructions. Others are experiential learners. They want to try things out for themselves and train as they go. Whichever educational technique you prefer, you’ll remember more when you put things into practice. Think about your early school days. The teacher’s lectures went in one ear and out the other, but you probably still recall every experiment you ever did. This is because discovery-based learning gets you more engaged and enhances memory recall. Here are 6 top tips to help you incorporate discovery learning into your eLearning course design.

1. Use Open-Ended Questions

The idea is to get online learners to learn things for themselves rather than spoon-feeding them information. If they figure it out on their own, they’re more likely to remember what they have studied. Prompt them with open-ended questions rather than true or false, or yes or no questions. This may seem challenging in an online setting because you can’t ask a question and wait for them to respond. After all, you’re not in a physical classroom. The alternative is to have ‘live sessions’ once a week, where everyone can have synchronized discussions via chat or teleconference. You can also assign them a homework question in preparation for each lesson. Ask an open-ended query that they should reply with a short essay of 100 to 200 words. Another great way to pose open-ended queries is to start an eLearning group. Post a daily question that gets their mental gears turning and prompts them to explore the topic on their own.

2. Flow From Known To Unknown

Start off with ideas or concepts that online learners have already explored, then introduce new topics that tie into their existing mental schema. They’ll feel more comfortable venturing into fresh training territory if they start on familiar ground. For example, they need to learn more advanced customer service tasks or skills. Lead off with a simulation that recaps the basics, such as active listening and communication skills, which will prime them for the new concepts and refresh their memory. Then move onto the more involved topics and invite them to access online training tutorials, demos, and branching scenarios on their own.

3. Encourage Self-Reflection

A crucial component of discovery learning is self-reflection so that online learners can evaluate their own cognitions and assign meaning to the content. Use real-world examples and anecdotes to help online learners reflect on the topic. Another way to encourage self-reflection is by incorporating essay-based assessments. Because eLearning courses are often graded using computer software, you may wonder how essay questions will work. If you assign them as homework, you can have a human course coordinator look at them between modules. These ‘essays’ help online learners, too, because they realize they know more about the topic than they thought. They build on the information they already have, and research to learn more. This way, they are already engaging in the discovery mode of learning.

4. Create Context

The traditional form of learning works by rote. You are expected to know certain facts and regurgitate them on demand. The danger with this kind of knowledge is that it’s often remote. As kids, we learned our multiplication tables and algebra, but we had no idea what they were for. As adults, we often do mental sums without being consciously aware we’re using times tables. However, we rarely use calculus in daily life unless we’re engineers. When you offer an eLearning course, think about where your online learners will use the knowledge, then couch the lesson that way. For instance, an engineering scenario will help online learners more than a test question to solve a + b = c.

5. Set Up Study Groups

The whole process of going from known to unknown works best for collaborative tasks. Group work is notorious for some people doing all the work and others skirting. Avoid this by keeping a record of all sessions. Divide online learners into pairs or groups. Give them projects they can do via social media or by communal text. You can join each group as a modulator or admin. This way, you can review the exchange to see who took part and who didn’t, grading by participation. You could also create an inbuilt chat room or online discussion as part of your eLearning course.

6. Give Feedback

You may have noticed by now that unlike regular eLearning courses, discovery learning needs hands-on participation. Well, screens-on supervision is essential at any rate. The human element is important, so you need an online instructor that online learners can access by phone, email, or in-course webcam. Schedule one-on-one sessions where the online instructor can give them individual feedback and ask questions. It can be a video call, audio call, or chat. Let your online learners know the online instructor’s ‘consultation hours’ so they can book their slots in advance. Another great option is a peer-based mentoring program that facilitates feedback and collaborative support.

Discovery learning was first "discovered" by psychologist Jerome Bruner in 1961 and it’s still relevant today. There are lots of ways to incorporate it into your eLearning course to improve the real-world application. Use open-ended questions as take-away assignments between modules. Guide online learners to piggy-back off their current knowledge, broadening and deepening their skill sets. Offer context, and encourage online learners to use eLearning Project Management platforms and apps for group work. Remember, the key to successful discovery learning is empowering online learners to seek knowledge on their own and take the initiative.

Want to learn more about the Discovery Learning Model? Read the article Instructional Design Models and Theories: The Discovery Learning Model to learn the principles behind one of the most popular Instructional Design models today.

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