Instructional Design101: Step By Step Process Of Content Comprehension
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Step By Step Process Of Content Comprehension

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Marie Curie

In my earlier article we have seen the team that completed the project successfully had comprehended content effectively. Unlike the team that failed to complete the project within the given time, this team followed a systematic process of content comprehension. Here, let us see the process they followed.

1. Gather All Inputs

As discussed in the previous article, the raw content was provided in various formats such as PDFs, PPTs, classroom training audio transcript, and other printed material. The team transcribed the audio transcript and made soft copies of printed material. They then gathered all the inputs at a specific location.

Most experienced learning design professionals know that when they need to convert existing classroom training materials to eLearning, they will receive the content from various sources in various formats. When the complete content is placed in a centralized repository, it becomes easy for them (the whole team) to access it whenever required.

2. Get An Overview Of Each Document And Label them

The team read each and every document they received and got an overall idea of them. As the content was random, without any logical structure, they labeled and renamed the documents in an attempt to arrange content logically. In this process, they removed duplicate content and also identified related pieces of content and merged them.

Learning designers, after gathering all the inputs, need to have a glance at it, so that they get an overall understanding of the content. They can make sense out of it and that will help them in setting a foundation for the next step, i.e. setting a broad learning objective.

3. Set Broad Learning Objectives

Having a holistic view of the content, taking the overall training goal as the guideline, they had set a broad learning objective. This learning objective helped them phase out extraneous content.

Most often, Subject Matter Experts will be reluctant to get rid of content that doesn’t help meet learning objectives. Learning designers need to communicate and get their approval before eliminating any given content. Setting the broad learning objective helped the team select the most relevant content.

4. Follow The Active Reading Method

Now the team started comprehending the content using the active reading methodology. Understanding and evaluating the content with reference to your needs can be defined as active reading.

The steps for active reading are:

  1. You need to visualize the content that is creating the movie in your mind.
  2. You need to summarize or explain each topic.
  3. Keep questioning and interacting with the content. Then figure out what will happen next.
  4. Connect personally or to the media.
  5. Evaluate by making a logical guess or coming to a conclusion.

Some tips for active reading:

  • Underline or highlight key words and phrases as you read.
  • Make annotations in the margin to summarize points, raise questions, and challenge what you've read, jot down examples, and so on.
  • Read critically by asking questions of the text. Who wrote it? When? Who is the intended audience? Does it link to the other material you've studied in the module? Why do you think it was written? Is it an excerpt from a longer piece of text?
  • Test yourself by reading for half an hour, putting the text away and jotting down the key points from memory. Go back to the text to fill in gaps.
  • Look for "signposts" that help you understand the text - phrases such as "most importantly", "in contrast", "on the other hand", and so on.
  • Explain what you've read to someone else.

5. Research New Terms And Concepts

In the active reading process, the team came across many new words and concepts. They researched online to understand them and noted down some queries for what they did not get answers online or needed more explanation. The team, with the help of the project manager, had regular calls with the Subject Matter Experts to get their queries answered.

One of the toughest challenges learning designers face is understanding new concepts and terms they have never encountered earlier. Research and interaction with Subject Matter Experts will help them understand the content that is new and tough to understand.

6. Summarize The Content

After comprehending the given content, the team summarized the entire content. This helped them understand what the content exactly conveys.

Being able to summarize the entire content in a few lines is the measure of understanding of the content. Once the content is summarized, that gives the qualification to create an outline for the course.

7. Prepare The Course Outline

The final step in this process of content comprehension is preparing an outline. The team prepared an outline and presented it for their peers for review. They implemented the changes suggested and submitted it to the project stakeholder.

Once the outline is created, taking the help of peers before submitting it to stakeholders eliminates some errors that might have crept in without their knowledge. A fresh look from someone who is not involved in the entire process can help minimize errors.

One constraining factor that is unavoidable in the entire process discussed above is time. Many instructional designers, when they follow this process, may consume more time at the beginning of the project but, this process decreases the time consumed in the latter part and also reduces errors and rework.

For more information you can download our eBook Instructional Design 101: A Handy Reference Guide To eLearning Designers.

eBook Release: CommLab India
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