There is a wealth of online resources instructing course authors and content creators about how to get learners to make the most of their online courses. From detailed theories on instructional design to tips on the gamification of learning elements and everything in between, the information is all there.
But with so many concepts working in tandem, course authors can sometimes find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information to process. At the same time, they also risk massive disengagement levels from their students.
Incorporating all the latest eLearning trends can definitely do wonders. But if you’re in a crunch, and need a quick fix to your disengagement problem, sometimes it’s better to take a step back and consider the basics. How well do you know your learners? And do you teach them the way they want to learn?
These questions form the basis of Learner-Centered Design (LCD). The idea seems deceptively simple. However, many eLearning platforms often lose sight of this. Let’s change that!
The Principles of Learner-Centered Design
Learner-centered design theory was first developed in the mid-1990s and details four principles that can be used to create engaging learning environments based on the learners’ preferences.
- The content being taught to your learners must be relevant and should connect to their personal lives. A good measure of this is when the learners can see themselves applying course concepts in real-life situations.
- Any new concepts learned must build on your learners’ prior knowledge. Students learn best when they can reflect on old concepts and gradually take in new, more complicated information.
- Learners must be able to bounce their ideas off their peers and collaborate with them. Group problem-solving exercises expose learners to others’ perspectives and help them reach their own conclusions.
- It is important for all learners to have a community they can interact with, especially when they learn virtually. Social learning can help students plan, collaborate, and learn more effectively.
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Incorporating Learner-Centered Design in eLearning Platforms
Focus On Your Learners
One fairly obvious way to incorporate LCD into your eLearning platform is by knowing and designing your content according to the target audience. It would be helpful to do a quick learner analysis to determine the demographic of the learners attracted to your course. With that knowledge in mind, the way the content is presented can be tailored to fit the learner profile, instead of the other way around.
The more in touch you are with your students, the better they can learn. Some students may need your content to factor in accessibility, varying levels of engagement, or a certain instruction medium. By accommodating these needs, your students will be able to make the most of their learning.
Clarify Learning Goals
Providing your learners clarity on what they would be able to achieve after taking your course is a great way to make sure that they are invested in learning. Generally, all eLearning platforms provide learning objectives but there is a difference between simply highlighting the topics you expect to cover, and actually communicating to learners what they can expect to gain from the course.
Framing objectives in a way that highlights goals does not sound like a big deal, but to the learner, it can make all the difference. For example, simply telling your students that they would cover ‘Victorian era literature’ is a lot less attractive than stating that they would be able to ‘critically analyze Victorian literature from a 21st-century perspective’.
Keep It Real and Measured
The learner-centered design also calls for providing hands-on and interactive learning exercises. Your eLearning content must be grounded in reality and students must see themselves applying their knowledge in real-life situations. A good way to do so is by leveraging real-life examples or scenarios in the content.
On top of that, the materials must be designed in a way that does not overwhelm the learners. The content must be designed keeping in mind the learner’s cognitive load. Overwhelming learners can quickly lead to burnout and is detrimental to any constructive learning.
As one of the principles of LCD, students learn best in a collaborative environment. Online platforms, in particular, require a special emphasis on group-based learning activities. To this end, eLearning platforms must incorporate modules within their courses that need learners to work together. Exercises like group assignments, presentations, or live demos are just a few examples.
Equally important is the presence of discussion forums and a culture of open communication between students as well as the instructor. These discussions can foster a sense of community among learners that are otherwise separated by great geographical distances.
Another way to incorporate LCD in your eLearning platform is by ensuring that learners get feedback on their performance regularly and transparently. The feedback must not only come from the instructor but also from peers who can offer a unique insight into the learners’ thought processes and performance.
Additionally, students must also be able to evaluate the course and give feedback to their instructors. By ensuring this, both learners and subject matter experts can work together to create better learning experiences in the future.
Take All The Help You Can Get
Learner-centered design is really just an exercise of putting your learners first. That being said, implementing LCD can take skill and practice. To make it easier for both you and your learners, take all the help you can get in making your eLearning content engaging, productive and thoughtful.
To that end, Edly can help you build versatile learning environments that put your learners first. Our instructional design services can help you take your content to the next level, and satisfy your learners. Get in touch with us and request a free demo!