Learners in the frame

The learner’s perspective is key. We must walk in their shoes to design and provide learning that serves their needs.

Not a ground-breaking thought but it was really brought home to me by  Tom Kuhlmann in this post. The concluding paragraph really resonated with me: ‘One of the best things you can do to make your elearning courses effective is to shift the focus away from content delivery and place it on how the learner will use the content.  This lets you deliver a course that is engaging and relevant to the learner’s needs.’

The theme was reinforced in this slideshare ‘How to save the world with eLearning scenarios’ which states on multiple slides: ‘Our job is to help people solve problems’ (rather than to help them learn.)

It was great timing as I was just about to start work on the veterinary radiography tutorial I’m hoping will act as a showcase to help me get back into Melbourne Uni. Instead of sitting down and mapping content as I have done previously, I started by considering what situation the learner would be in when they needed the information and what problem they would be solving at the time. I amended my planning template to include columns such as ‘What does the learner need to do?'(ie what is the task or problem) and approached content with ‘What does the learner need to know to do the task/solve the problem?’. My template development is still in its infancy but has progressed dramatically in the last few months, along with my understanding of the relationship between relevance and engagement.

I have mentioned the learner-centric approach to 2 veterinary educators in the last couple of weeks and both commented that it was an interesting idea. They were unfamiliar with it. Both are dedicated professionals and excellent clinicians but have received very little training in teaching and learning, which disadvantages them, their students and, ultimately, the patients.

My take is that if the design of many courses started from the learner’s point of view rather than the volume of content, many of us may do our jobs better. I know I would.


About rebekahmcbrown

I am a veterinarian with a special interest in instructional design and developing eLearning in the veterinary and medical areas. I write teaching materials for both face-to-face and online learning as well as writing and editing articles.
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