Monday, July 14, 2008

Focus on Action in eLearning Design

My job involves coaching and mentoring a great many instructional designers - both within our own eLearning development projects and as a service for many of our clients. One of the biggest challenges I face in this regard is getting designers to get to the essence of a training challenge and cut out all extraneous content that detracts from the main learning objectives. Less is indeed more when we can get from A to B in a short, straight line.

I recently came across an excellent technique called "action mapping" that I will start using to help focus eLearning on intended outcomes based on desired actions. Cathy Moore, in her very informative blog (Ideas for Lively eLearning), lays out succinctly how action mapping can work in this slideshow:

Moore advocates an approach to eLearning design that works backward from the intended business goal (expressed as an action). This avoids the trap of a linear information content dump and piling up irrelevant information that does not really help learners get to the desired goal. Action mapping is a four-step process as follows:

1. Identify the business goal.

2. Identify what people need to do to reach that goal.

3. Design activities that help people practice each behaviour (the "to do's" noted in #2).

4. Identify the minimum information people need to complete each activity.

By starting with a clear goal and focusing on required actions to reach that goal, we can provide a great deal more focus to our learning design and avoid the information dump that unfortunately characterizes much of eLearning today.