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Tips For eLearning Professionals

10 Habits Of Top-Notch eLearning Professionals

What separates the best from the rest? I’m sure that the first word that comes to mind is “talent”. Granted, talent is important; but it is not enough on its own. How often in life haven’t you seen talent being wasted by lack of motivation, focus, and hard work? Unfortunately, or fortunately, talent is not the trait that separates the good from the mediocre. The high achievers of this world share two other characteristics: Determination and will. To stand out from the crowd of eLearning professionals, you need to be determined to succeed. To rise above the rest you need to be in love with what you do, work hard, and really want to make a difference. You also need to start doing what successful professionals do. This is why in this article, I will share 10 habits that separate the successful ones from the mediocre. Building these habits takes time, practicing them over and over again, and figuring out what areas to work hard at without losing focus and faith. But guess what? It is certainly worth the effort.

This is what Top-Notch eLearning Professionals do to stand out from the crowd:

  1. They don’t give up.
    Thomas Edison had famously said “I have not failed; I’ve just found 10.000 ways that won’t work”. Persistence is the key to success; if you are not able to accept that failure is inevitable when working towards your goals, you will not be able to achieve anything more than random successes related to pure luck. Failure comes in many forms, e.g. making mistakes or facing rejection, but not giving up is critical. Failing is always hurtful, but the way you are dealing with it is the deciding factor: Will you allow it to teach you something or prevent you from moving forward? The first choice is what top eLearning professionals go with; they learn from their mistakes, analyze their unpleasant experiences, and use the data to get a little closer to their goals every time. We all make mistakes and we all get rejected at one point or another. Your focus should not be on how to avoid mistakes, but rather on how to use any challenge in your favor, i.e. how to use it to develop your critical thinking and problem solving skills. This is the only way to deal with a mistake: Learn from it
  2. They respect every project they take on, whether they like it or not.
    Top-notch eLearning professionals
     are not snobbish about eLearning projects. If you’re getting paid for your work, you need to do your best regardless of the job. There are no unimportant projects or unimportant clients; every single task you take on is equally important. Of course there will be difficult clients, impossible Subject Matter Experts, and boring assignments, but what will separate you from the rest of the pack is professional responsibility. If you absolutely hate a project or a client, maybe it’s better to cut ties with them. But if you decide to take on the particular project, you must respect your work and deliver an exceptional product.
  1. They value time.
    High achieving eLearning professionals don’t waste time. They know that constantly taking breaks from what they are doing will not help them achieve success. They highly value their time, because they know that it is their most treasured asset. Valuing time does not mean overdoing it and burning out, because to deliver a professional work you need to have a clear head and a well rested mind. But poor time management skills will lead to missing deadlines, appointments, useful networking opportunities, and, most likely, your professional credibility. So, make a habit of valuing time, yours and others’ around you, and start by developing your time management skills, now.
  2. They do not procrastinate.
    Speaking of “now”, procrastination and success don’t go hand in hand: On the contrary, procrastination slowly, but very effectively, reduces and ultimately kills motivation, which is the fuel of success. Are you the type who waits for the market to get better? Or for their current project to be completed? Or for their kids to finish school? Maybe you should modify your plans and adjust them to your timetable. But don’t waste time: Create smaller goals, more feasible and realistic. Stop slipping further behind week after week. Move towards your goals taking a smaller step; but keep moving.
  3. They are open to feedback.
    Top-notch eLearning professionals value feedback and reflection, simply because it makes perfect sense. When you work in the learning business, you know that feedback is essential to the learning process. Thus, ignoring any feedback related to your personal development is like saying “there is nothing more I need to learn”. Communicating with other professionals, sharing experiences, and knowing how to accept constructive feedback is essential; it is actually a great way to test your ideas, methods, and future plans. On the other hand, being defensive or taking criticism personally will not only deprive you of the opportunity to learn something new or see a different, often refreshing perspective, but will also isolate you from the eLearning community, which, trust me, will be a fatal mistake.
  4. They never say no to networking.
    Being an active member of the eLearning community is critical, as relationships are the catalyst for success; a fact that high achievers know well. People work with those they know, like, and trust, and how else will you know other people and get them to like and trust you unless you get out there and connect with them? Networking not only is the ultimate way to build and cultivate relationships, but also can offer you new career opportunities, accelerate your professional development, and give you a hand when you have any kind of trouble. Also, it is a great way to be positively influenced by people you admire for their achievements, knowledge, and experience. Networking can offer you great advice that Google cannot give you, assistance that your friends are not able to provide you with, and get you back in the game when you haven’t worked for a while. So, go to eLearning conferences, be active on LinkedIn, and build effective networks with other eLearning professionals on Facebook and Twitter. Connect with, and even model successful people who share your goals and values and see the profound impact this will have on your business and personal life.
  5. They embrace collaboration.
    But there is another kind of relationship top-notch eLearning professionals are very interested in: the one they have with their eLearning team. If you really want to stand out from the crowd, you must realize that success is about people. When you are a part of a team, you need to know what to do best and how to use other people’s talents for what you don’t know that well. Effective collaboration cultivates creativity, promotes forward thinking, and boosts performance. Improve your communication skills if you have to, and learn how to relate to project managers, graphic designers, Instructional Designers, Subject Matter Experts, and programmers at all levels. Fostering your relationships with your team will not only increase its performance, but also boost the effectiveness of your eLearning projects.
  6. They always look for opportunities to learn.
    eLearning professionals know that learning is an ongoing process. Top-notch eLearning professionals are thirstier for knowledge than their own learners are. They grab every opportunity to learn; from their audience, their colleagues, books, blogs, social media, websites, you name it. To stand out from the crowd, to separate yourself from the rest of the pack you need to never stop learning. Always keep your eyes open and focus on everything that grabs your attention. Learn as much as you can about Instructional Design, graphic design, programming, writing, project management, communication skills, teaching skills, and so on; be a perpetual learner and never stop looking for new ideas, methods, and tools. No knowledge is ever wasted.
  7. They push themselves out of their comfort zones.
    High achievers are survivors; they face failures without ever losing sight of their goal. Most importantly, they take risks. Have you ever met a top-notch eLearning professional who was simply a follower, who only tried the same things others did before them, who didn’t push themselves out of their comfort zone? Neither have I. Whatever the result of your risk taking, whether it is a total failure or a total success, examining what happened and what can be learnt will develop your big picture thinking skills and help you gain confidence and maintain a positive outlook, which is more than essential. I’m not suggesting you should suddenly quit your job or take on a project which is way out of your potential. I’m only saying: Push yourself to the limits. Push yourself through doubt and fear. Get deadlines, competition, challenges, and your own goals to push you. Get out of your comfort zone. Only this way you will set yourself up for better projects and success.
  8. They really, really, love their job.
    Highly successful eLearning professionals have a true passion for eLearning; under no circumstances they would invest their time, energy, and resources on anything less than their passion. Think about what you do for a living and ask yourself a simple question: “Would you do it for free?”; if the answer is “Yes!”, you are not only a very lucky person, but also very likely to make a difference and separate yourself from the crowd. In fact, having a true passion for eLearning is the only habit of top-notch eLearning professionals that is incredibly difficult to “build”; you are either feeling it or not. If you find true pleasure in your job, that is if it offers you a great sense of achievement and happiness, you have made the biggest and most important step towards success. It means that no failure can discourage you and no mistake can demotivate you, because you have a passion; and passion is just a free and unlimited fuel.

Now that you know what separates top-notch eLearning professionals from the mediocre ones, you may be interested in learning about what makes an eLearning team a high performance eLearning team. Read the article The Top 7 Qualities Of A High Performance eLearning Team and learn everything you need to know about how to ensure that your team is not only a truly great eLearning professional group, but also 100% dedicated to attaining their shared goals.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

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Online Teaching

The 5 Pillars Of Online Teaching And 40 Apps And Tools To Strengthen Each Pillar  

Life as an online teacher can get complicated if we get lost in technology, marketing, social media, creating courses, running courses, dealing with email, and growing as an online professional on the cutting-edge of education. However, if we plan smartly from minimalist perspectives, we can employ tools that will work for us and save hours of time and stress.

Remember also that many “Teacherpreneurs” these days adopt Pareto’s principles into their working lives. They try to identify 20% of the most essential parts of the business and improve them to get 80% of their results.

I will identify 5 pillars of the online teaching business; within each pillar you will find a variety of tools to help you smarten up that side of your business.

The 5 Pillars Of Online Teaching

fivepillars

 Image created by Sylvia Guinan using Prezi technology.

  1. Website/Blog. 
  2. Content Creation Tools. 
  3. Course Management Tools. 
  4. Personalization Tools. 
  5. Marketing Solutions & Social Media.

Let us have a look at how you can strengthen each pillar with the following smart apps and tools:

1. Tools And Apps For Smart Home Pages.

Firstly I would recommend WordPress for your online home because it’s very user-friendly and allows for the integration of magical plugins that make your website work like a dream.

The most important thing to consider is the overall look of your website and blog. You can choose one of the free WordPress themes, which is good and easy, but, if you are of a creative mindset and have a particular vision in mind, you may wish to manipulate the interface yourself. Traditionally we needed professional web designers to do this for us. However, I myself have researched ways of designing one’s interface without coding.

  • Visual Composer.
    Visual Composer is an award-winning drag and drop page builder with front and backend editors. It allows you to intuitively manipulate the look and feel of whatever template you are using. It allows you to add text, images, and buttons to your page or choose pre-defined looks if you want to save even more time. The plugin is very inexpensive and saves a lot of time, money and stress.
  • Prophoto.
    Another more expensive and ambitious solution is ProPhoto, which imports all kinds of themes beyond the WordPress defaults and allows you to design and manipulate to your heart’s content.
  • Social media feather.
    Social sharing buttons are extremely important for online teachers who wish to share their work online. A website shares course descriptions, testimonials, resumes, lessons, and knowledge. The blog is an ongoing educational resource that attracts people to your website. Therefore, you’ve got to maximize sharing potential with the best social sharing buttons. I found that most social sharing buttons have hidden problems. Some pop out and hide your screen when you’re trying to read. Others are limited, ugly or faulty. Smart teachers need smart social sharing buttons. I chose Social Media Feather because they feature “likes” and “shares” simultaneously, integrate with a wide range of social sharing sites, and are very attractive, yet non-imposing. They are speedy, automatic, and light. They are not free, but they save time and headaches. It took me a long time to realize that some free tools are extremely expensive because they eat up your time, brain power, patience, and sanity. This, in a spiraling domino effect, eats up your money before you’ve had time to earn it.

2. Content Creation Tools. 

PowerPoint and Prezi are the standards for presentations and eLearning content.

  • PowerPoint is necessary for virtual classrooms and the great thing about it is that you can share your work on Slideshare, which is another indispensable tool for extending your digital footprint.
  • Prezi is a laterally-designed tool that promotes creativity and alternative eLearning design. Although you can’t upload it to your virtual classroom, you can embed it onto blogs, Learning Management Systems, social media, and so on. It can also be used as a tool for showcasing course offerings.

Although PowerPoint and Prezi are must-haves, it’s also good to liven up courses with other forms of multi-media, both for content creation and, later, for viral social media shares.

I like to use:

  • Posters, flyers and lists.
    TackkStorifySmorePinterestListly, and Pearl Trees.
    You can create lessons with these tools and embed them into course and have your students create their own socially viral content.
  • Video.
    YouTubeAnimotoGo Animate, and TedEd.
    These tools are so powerful in helping you design content and courses that reflect your own online teaching interests and brand your courses with your own teaching approach. Video brings language to life, as does imagery. That’s why multi-media can accelerate learning when a teacher wields web tools with wisdom and foresight.
  • Comics and story boarding tools.
    Comic LifePixtonPowToonBitstripsMake Beliefs ComixToondoo, and Storybird.
    Again, language is brought to life through comic creation and language learners can be inspired to write stories and create their own characters, situations, and even series of stories in the target language.

Finally, if you want to become a professional eLearning designer you may also decide to invest in more powerful and al-inclusive solutions, such as Articulate Storyline. This level of creation is a specialization that can help you to build courses faster, run them more seamlessly, and set you up as an expert in the nice of materials and course design, so the investment can lead to contracts with major clients in the eLearning business.

3. Platform/Learning Management System/ Video-Conferencing Solution.

User-friendly, intuitive and wildly flexible (with regard to embed codes and social sharing) would define my ideal home for online courses.

You need to be able to put all content into one easily accessible area, have discussion forums, multi-media sharing options, and places where students can access content and class recordings. If you have to spend too much time managing your courses or fixing bugs, then this does not a smart online teacher make.

You can choose to build things on your own website or use a commercial platform for hosting your courses.

4. Personalization Tools.

Technology allows us to personalize our brands, teaching values, courses and social learning ethics more than ever before. It also allows to personalize the individual learner’s experience. How one does this is really up to the imagination, and many tools I’ve already mentioned can do so.

How is that possible?

Well, the tools I’ve already mentioned are what I call “blank canvas”, storytelling tools. You tell the story of your professionalism. Your students tell the stories of their learning journeys through multi-media.

To make personalization even more effective, however, we can put a razor sharp focus on thinking skills, cognitive development, lateral-thinking and planning via mind mapping tools, infographics and the wonderful world of visual intelligence. Translating text into imagery and vice versa.

You can use these tools to plan your work, curricula, brainstorm etc. , and your students can use these tools to become better thinkers, memorizers, more autonomous learners, and more creative people.

Here are some good mind mapping and infographic tools:

iBrainstorm appText 2 Mind MapSpider ScribePoppletMindMapleCoggle, and iMind.

Here is an article about mind mapping if you want deeper information for your eLearning school.

Infographic tools are PiktochartVisualize.me, and Ease.ly.

5. Marketing Solutions And Social Media.

I use many of the same multi-media tools for marketing as I do for content creation. First of all, multi-media marketing is creative, tells a story, and show cases the work you do for your students. Can you really advertise multi-media classes on a text status update that no one will ever read?

Some of the flyer tools I shared above were originally for marketing, but I also exploit them for educational purposes.

Here is a promotional video about making the most of webinars that I made using Go animate.

There is also a lot to learn from the Social Media Examineρ on Facebook and directly from the website.

Apart from following the Social Media Examiner, though, let me tell you some things I find effective:

  • I use Canva to create social media images for Facebook etc. This amazingly creative site was built for the purpose and its genius lies in the fact that it sizes images to fit Facebook banners etc. Anyone who has tried to resize banners for social media or create original images will appreciate this.
  • I also find that LinkedIn is a most valuable marketing site that’s underused by online teachers in general. Running a group on LinkedIn and writing regular blog posts on your LinkedIn profile gets you noticed by serious clients, colleagues and organizations.Your LinkedIn profile has its own inbuilt blog generator and dedicated URL, so if you haven’t tried it before, take a look.
  • Hootsuite is a great tool for managing all of your social media accounts in one place and saving time as you promote your work across multiple platforms.
  • Finally, I’ll leave you with Sniply, a very smart tool indeed. It’s a URL shortner that offers a customized call to action message when clicked on. It allows you to promote others and yourself at the same time. Very smart, very social.

Afterthought

Oh, lastly, I must give you some tools to manage all of these tools 😉

To keep track of online projects you can simple use Google Drive, or the massively effective and user-friendly Trello for vast collaborative business projects, or Evernote, another powerhouse of communication and organization.

 

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

English Language Teacher Training

Overview

Shaping the Way We Teach English is a video-based training product for English language educators. It has 14 modules (topics). The videos showcase classroom scenes from around the world and have an accompanying training manual plus additional readings.

The University of Oregon developed and produced the materials through funding from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of English Language Programs ©2007. All materials are free of charge and copyable for non-commercial educational use.

Modules, Introduction and 1-14

Shaping the Way We Teach English” is made up of the following modules and topics.

The Manual is available for download as a PDF file.

Videos are also now available through YouTube-UO (use the word “Shaping” to search for them all at once). You can also click on the links below to access them individually. Turn on closed caption if you would like to see what people in the video are saying. See technical support for online viewing guidelines. If the videos play too slowly online, you can download them by pasting the links in the KeepVid website and then saving them to your computer for offline viewing.

Video Transcripts

Available for modules: Intro * 01 * 02 * 03 * 04 * 05 * 06 * 07 * 08 * 09 * 10 * 11 * 12 * 13 * 14.

Video “See/Don’t See” Viewing Guides

To help identify main ideas for: Intro * 01 * 03 * 04 * 05 * 06 * 07 * 08 * 09 * 10 * 11 * 12 [PDFs].

Supplementary International Video Library Collection

New! Teachers have begun developing locally relevant and specialized training materials around the world. Some examples of this, in alphabetical order by country, include:

  • Russia: Website developed by David Fay, Elena Solovova, Elena Markova through the English Language Office of the U.S. Embassy Moscow (additional videos available in DVD format in Russia).
  • Saudi Arabia: Arabic subtitles added to the original videos, developed by Iqbal Al-Shuhail as part of the T2Reach Channel project (this is a YouTube playlist).

New! In training around the world, teachers have often asked if it would be possible to see full-length versions of some of the classes. Below are videos University of Oregon, American English Institute created in response to this.

  • Watch the Video: Full-length class of a university-level EFL course, Part 1 [Egypt].
  • Watch the Video: Full-length class of a university-level EFL course, Part 2 [Egypt].
  • Watch the Video: Full-length class of a secondary-level EFL course, Part 1 [Costa Rica].
  • Watch the Video: Full-length class of a secondary-level EFL course, Part 2 [Costa Rica].
  • Watch the Video: Full-length class of a secondary-level ESL course, Part 1 [African, in the DC area].
  • Watch the Video: Full-length class of a secondary-level ESL course, Part 2 [African, in the DC area].
  • Watch the Video: Full-length class of a primary-level bilingual course.

New! Teachers and teacher-trainers have also asked to see an example of a trainer using the “Shaping” materials with a group of trainees. Below is a workshop training session from Spring 2007 with co-trainers Leslie Opp-Beckman and Kay Westerfield. The workshop was for University of Oregon teachers who planned to train primary-level EFL teachers from Korea.

Teaching and Classroom Observation Checklists

Available for modules: 01 * 03 * 04 * 05 * 06 * 07 * 08 * 09 * 10 * 11 * 12 [PDFs].

List of Supplementary Web-based Readings

For each module, there is also a list of supplementary web-based readings.

efl teachers

How to be an Effective EFL Teacher

by David Martin

Over the short history of the ESL/EFL field various methods have been proposed. Each method has in turn fallen out of favor and has been replaced with a new one. Audiolingualism, functionalism, communicative paradigms, and now the fad is “task-based syllabuses.” In his critique of the task-based syllabus Sheen (1994:127) points out, “frequent paradigm shifts in the field of second and foreign language teaching have not resulted in significant progress in language learning.” Since no method has been proven to be more effective than another, many teachers have jumped on the “eclectic” bandwagon. Common sense would have this as the best available choice since variety is the spice of language.

Other than considering method, what can the EFL teacher do to ensure success? What follows are some DOs and DONTs that I have found to be very useful in teaching EFL in Japan. None are revolutionary; these are principles I didn’t necessarily learn in ESL graduate school, but should have been taught.

1. Learn your students’ names.

This cannot be overemphasized. You will be able to control your class better and gain more respect if you learn the students’ names early on. If you are one who has a poor memory for names, have all the students hold up name cards and take a picture of them on the first day of class. On the second class, impress them by showing them you know all their names.

2. Establish authority from the beginning.

Expect your students to use English 100% of the time, and accept it if they only achieve 95% usage. Do not let them get away with speaking their mother tongue to communicate with their partner. Deal quickly with inappropriate conduct in a friendly yet firm manner.

3. Be overly prepared.

If you don’t have a clear lesson-plan down on paper, then make sure you have a mental one. You should know about how long each activity will take and have an additional activity prepared in case you have extra time.

4. Always consider the learners’ needs when preparing for each lesson.

Why are your students studying English? How will they use English in the future? What do they need to learn? If many of the students are going to study abroad at an American university, for example, then the teacher should be preparing them for listening to academic lectures and academic reading to some extent. If, on the other hand, most of the students have no perceived need for English in the future, perhaps you should be focusing on useful skills that they may use in the future, but may not be essential–skills such as understanding movie dialog, listening to music, writing an email to a pen pal, etc.

5. Be prepared to make changes to or scrap your lesson plan.

If the lesson you have prepared just isn’t working, don’t be afraid to scrap it or modify it. Be sensitive to the students–don’t forge ahead with something that is bound for disaster.

6. Find out what learners already know.

This is an ongoing process. Students may have already been taught a particular grammar point or vocabulary. In Japan, with Japanese having so many loan words from English, this is especially true. I have explained many words carefully before, such as kidsnuanceelegant, only to find out later that they are now part of the Japanese language.

7. Be knowledgeable about grammar.

This includes pronunciation, syntax, and sociolinguistic areas. You don’t have to be a linguist to teach EFL–most of what you need to know can be learned from reading the students’ textbooks. Often the rules and explanations about structure in the students’ texts are much more accessible and realistic than in texts used in TESL syntax courses.

8. Be knowledgeable about the learners’ culture.

In monolingual classrooms the learners’ culture can be a valuable tool for teaching.

9. Don’t assume that your class textbook has the language that your students need or want to learn.

Most textbooks follow the same tired, boring pattern and include the same major functions, grammar and vocabulary. The main reason for this is not scientific at all–it is the publisher’s unwillingness to take a risk by publishing something new. Also, by trying to please all teachers publishers force authors to water down their materials to the extent of being unnatural at times. It is the teacher’s responsibility to add any extra necessary vocabulary, functions, grammar, or topics that you feel the students may want or need.

10. Don’t assume (falsely) that the class textbook will work.

Some activities in EFL textbooks fall apart completely in real classroom usage. It is hard to believe that some of them have actually been piloted. Many activities must be modified to make them work, and some have to be scrapped completely.

11. Choose your class textbooks very carefully.

Most teachers and students are dissatisfied with textbooks currently available. Nevertheless, it is essential that you choose a textbook that is truly communicative and meets the needs of your students.

12. Don’t neglect useful vocabulary teaching.

The building blocks of language are not grammar and functions. The most essential thing students need to learn is vocabulary; without vocabulary you have no words to form syntax, no words to pronounce. Help your students to become vocabulary hungry.

13. Proceed from more controlled activities to less controlled ones.

Not always, but in general, present and practice more structured activities before freer, more open ones.

14. Don’t neglect the teaching of listening.

It is the opinion of many ESL experts that listening is the most important skill to teach your students. While listening to each other and to the teacher will improve their overall listening ability, this can be no substitute for listening to authentic English. As much as possible, try to expose your students to authentic English in a variety of situations. The best way to do this and the most realistic is through videos. Listening to audio cassettes in the classroom can improve listening ability, but videos are much more motivating and culturally loaded.

15. Turn regular activities into games or competition.

Many familiar teaching points can be turned into games, or activities with a competitive angle. A sure way to motivate students and liven up your classroom.

16. Motivate your students with variety.

By giving a variety of interesting topics and activities, students will be more motivated and interested, and they are likely to practice more. With more on-task time they will improve more rapidly.

17. Don’t teach linguistics.

Language and culture are inseparable. If culture isn’t a part of your lessons, then you aren’t really teaching language, you are teaching about language.

18. Don’t teach phonetics.

By all means teach the more important aspects of pronunciation, but don’t bombard the students with minimal pair drills that cannot be applied to real communication. They don’t really understand the meaning of any of those minimal pairs you teach anyway, do they? A more rational approach would be to teach pronunciation in context, as necessary. For example, if you are teaching a section on health, teach syllable stress with sickness words: fever, headache, backache, earache, constipation, etc.

19. Don’t leave the learners in the dark.

Explain exactly what they are expected to learn in a particular lesson. Make sure that students know what they are doing and why. The lessons should be transparent to the students, with a clear organization.

20. Be enthusiastic! Don’t do it just for the money.

You don’t have to be an actor or clown, but students appreciate it when the teacher shows genuine interest in teaching. Teachers who are jaded with EFL would do best to hide it, or consider moving on to another profession.

21. Show interest in the students as individuals.

Treat students as individuals, not subjects. Don’t patronize or talk down to them; talk to them as you would any other person. Only in this way will true communication take place.

22. Allow opportunities to communicate directly with students.

Students want, more than anything, to talk with the teacher. Don’t overdo pair and group work to the point that they haven’t had a chance to interact with you, too.

23. Allow time for free communication.

For speaking this would mean allowing time for free conversation, for writing doing freewriting, for reading allowing time for extensive pleasure reading, and for listening, listening for entertainment sake.

24. Use humor to liven up the class.

Make it a habit to get the students to laugh at least once per lesson.

25. Show an interest in the students’ native language.

This is especially important in the monolingual classroom. Ignoring their L1 causes some students to think (erroneously) that you don’t respect them. If possible, use the L1 periodically as part of the lesson. If nothing else, it will show the students respect, and may loosen them up.

26. Don’t have pets.

This is extremely hard to avoid, especially when a student is more outgoing or interesting than others. Nevertheless, try to call on and attend to students as equally as you can.

27. Circulate.

Move about the classroom. At times sit with groups and monitor, as well as joining in on the communication. At times walk about, listen and observe.

28. Make your instructions short and clear.

Demonstrate rather than explaining whenever possible.

29. Speak up, but don’t break anyone’s eardrum.

If the students can’t hear you, you are wasting your breath. Not as bad, but still annoying is the teacher who thinks s/he must speak louder to be comprehended. Research has already proven this to be false.

30. Don’t talk too much.

Depending on the subject, you should be talking from about 5% to 30% of the lesson. For speaking or writing, more than 10-15% would probably be too much. Most lessons should be student-centered, not teacher-centered.

31. Don’t talk too slow.

How do you expect your students to understand real English if you don’t speak at a fairly natural speed? Oversimplified and affected speech will hurt your students in the long run. Shoot for moderate complexity and more repetition if needed.

32. Be sensitive to your students.

Watch their faces and reactions. Do they understand you? Are they interested or bored? Try to be aware of what is going on in your classroom at all times. If you are starting class and one student is still talking, try to gently get him/her to stop. If you are sitting with a pair of students on one side of the room, try to be attentive to what is happening in other groups as well. There may be a group across the room that is confused and doesn’t know what to do.

33. Don’t be a psychiatrist.

Shy, introverted students are not going to change their personalities overnight in order to learn English. Give these students opportunities to talk in small groups, but don’t expect them to shout out answers in front of the whole class.

34. Respect both “slow” and “fast” learners.

Language learning is not about intelligence; the important thing to stress is that the students are improving.

35. Don’t lose your cool.

If you do, you will lose hard-won respect. Even if you have to go so far as to leave the classroom, do it in a controlled manner, explaining to the class or student why you are unhappy with them.

36. Be frank.

Praise your students when they are getting better, and encourage them when they are not doing as well as they can.

37. Be a coach.

At times you must be more of a coach than a teacher. Push the students to write those few extra lines, to get into their groups faster, to extend their conversations.

38. Be fair and realistic in testing.

Teach first and then test; don’t test things that haven’t been taught. Also, remember that the main purpose of language is communication. This means that when marking a dictation portion of a listening test, for example, a “What [ ] your name?” response should get nearly full points because the listener has demonstrated full comprehension.

39. Don’t overcorrect.

For example, when correcting a narrative composition at low-intermediate level, it doesn’t make much sense to correct mistakes with relative clauses. Likewise, if your class is practicing simple past tense, don’t correct article usage at the same time. If you think a student can correct their own mistake, don’t supply the correction for them, rather allow for some self-monitoring.

40. Be reflective.

Think about your own teaching. After each lesson is over take some time to reflect. Was the lesson effective? What were the good and bad points? How could it be improved?

41. Keep in shape.

EFL teachers don’t have to become jaded with teaching. Get into it. Look at new coursebooks and teacher training books to get new ideas. Share your ideas with colleagues. Go to conferences.

42. Laugh at yourself sometimes.

There are those times when nothing goes right despite our best intentions. We must be humble enough to admit to ourselves and to our students that we just messed up.

REFERENCES

Sheen, Ron. (1994). “A Critical Analysis of the Advocacy of the Task-Based Syllabus,” TESOL Quarterly 28 (1): 127.

project figure

Project-Based Learning

Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning gives learners the opportunity to expand their knowledge base and develop skills through problem solving and investigation. A real world problem or question is at the heart of every project-based eLearning experience, and learners must conduct research and acquire the necessary information to arrive at their own conclusion. Project-based learning also encourages learners to share feedback and insights with their peers in a collaborative group setting, and then use modern eLearning technologies to share their findings.

This approach focuses on the path leading to the solution, instead of just the solution itself. Online learners are able to gain invaluable experience by doing and actively participating in the learning process, rather than just reading the information presented and then taking a test at the end of the eLearning course.

The Characteristics Of Project-Based Learning Activities

When deciding to provide your learners with a project-based learning activity keep in mind to include the following elements:

  1. A problem, challenge, or question.
    At the root of all project-based learning activities there is question, challenge, or problem. This problem should provide a sufficient level of challenge for the learner.
  2. Skills for success, essential knowledge, and understanding.
    Every project you integrate into your eLearning course should be centered on the learning goals and skill sets that your learner needs to develop. They must also focus on self-management and critical thinking skills that help the learner to arrive at their own solution.
  3. Authenticity and relevance.
    The project must include a real world problem or question that is relevant for your learners, as well as tools and ideologies that you would encounter in the real world. It can also address a particular concern that the learner may have, or challenges they face on a regular basis.
  4. Freedom of choice.
    Students must have the ability to make decisions autonomously throughout the eLearning project, such as which strategy they will use, what they produce, and their work process.
  5. Self- Reflection.
    After the eLearning project has concluded learners should be able to reflect upon the experience and their inquiry process, as well as the activities involved in the eLearning project and the challenges they faced while trying to reach a solution.
  6. Feedback.
    Learners must be able to give and receive feedback, including peer-based feedback, to expand their knowledge of the subject matter and to continually improve their work process and how they presented their findings.
  7. Public presentation.
    At the end of the eLearning project, learners should publicly present their findings to their peers or in a public forum. They should be able not only to discuss their findings, but also how they arrived at the solution.

How To Use A Project-Based Learning Approach In eLearning

  1. Do a test-run beforehand.
    You don’t want to spend hours developing an eLearning project only to discover that it cannot be easily deployed or may be too challenging, or too tedious, for your learners. This is why it’s best to complete the online project on your own before you ask your learners to do the same. Make sure that all of the necessary elements are in place, and that it serves the primary learning objectives of your eLearning course.
  2. Encourage peer-based feedback.
    After the student has produced their findings, encourage their peers to share their insights and opinions via online forums and free online project management platforms. This gives them the opportunity to benefit from the constructive criticism of their peers and to improve their work processes moving forward. They also get the opportunity to discover alternative solutions or other problem-solving approaches they can use in future eLearning projects.
  3. Put students in charge of their learning process.
    Give your learners the tools they need and clearly outline the parameters, then let them take control of the process. Micro-managing your learners throughout the eLearning project will not give them the chance to learn from their mistakes, which is doing them a great disservice. If they need assistance, give them access to support. Otherwise, let them navigate the choppy waters of problem-solving on their own or by working collaboratively with their peers.
  4. Integrate interactive scenarios and simulations that require a broad range of skills.
    Scenarios and simulations are custom tailored for project-based learning, thanks to the fact that they immerse the learner in a problem or situation and ask them to figure out the solution. Each branch in a scenario leads to a different outcome or unique set of choices, which allows them to explore the problem without any risk. Every choice they make in a simulation leads to a consequence, good or bad. Create interactive eLearning exercises that envelope them in project-based learning and require a broad range of skill sets, so that they can apply previously acquired knowledge and more effectively retain the information they need to improve their personal and professional lives.

Project-based learning is all about a journey to the solution, and you can use these best practices and top tips to develop an eLearning journey that is powerful, personal, and relatable for every member of your audience.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

telling story

Questions In eLearning

Higher Order Questions In eLearning

The hallmark of a higher order question is that it prompts the learner to explore an idea or concept, instead of simply trying to find a singular solution. There are more complex by nature, as learners must reflect upon the subject matter, use previously learned knowledge, and create assumptions or hypothesis based on their findings. In essence, higher order questions go beyond all other forms of inquiry, by asking learners to think about the why and how of things, rather than the what.

By engaging in abstract higher order thinking, your learners have the opportunity to draw comparisons, formulate their own interpretations, and examine a variety of different solutions in order to arrive at the most accurate answer. They must also back their opinions and assumptions with facts, and make speculations that stretch their mental boundaries.

Low Order vs. High Order Questions

Before delving into the different types of higher order questions and how to use them effectively in eLearning experiences, it’s important to make a clear distinction between high and low order questioning.

  • Low order questions.
    A low order question has a limited number of acceptable answers. “How do you perform a transaction on the point of sale system?” is an example of a low order question. There are only a handful of correct answers, and the questioned is designed to test your learner’s ability to carry out a specific task.
  • High order questions.
    Higher order questions prompt your learners to explore the reasoning and logic behind the idea or concept. “Why do you have to follow company procedure when performing a transaction?” is an example of a higher order question. Your learner must not only think about how to conduct a transaction, but why it is important for them to follow corporate policy.

Types of Higher Order Questions

Higher order questions are most effective when they align with Bloom’s Taxonomy. Here are the 6 types of higher order questions, based on the hierarchy of levels:

  1. Knowledge.
    This form of higher order questioning requires the learner to apply previously learned knowledge and recall important facts and ideas in order to formulate their response.
  2. Comprehension.
    Learners must demonstrate their level of comprehension by comparing and organizing ideas or concepts. This type of question also involves interpretation and explanation.
  3. Application.
    Application questions require learners to find new applications for previously learned knowledge. For example, they might be asked to use facts and techniques that they acquired in an earlier lesson to tackle a problem that may seem unrelated.
  4. Analysis.
    Analysis questions require the learner to analyze and assess the information, then determine the cause or reason. Learners must make assumptions or hypothesis, and uncover evidence or facts that support those assumptions.
  5. Synthesis.
    Synthesis questions encourage the learner to gather all of the necessary information, then look at it from a different angle. They must combine various ideas and concepts to come up with a solution.
  6. Evaluation.
    Learners must share their opinion or defend their position by presenting ideas and assumptions that rely upon a specific set of criteria. Asking them how they would tackle a problem differently is an example of an evaluation question.

4 Tips To Use Higher Order Questions in eLearning

  1. Encourage free-thinking.
    One of the advantages of higher order questions is that they encourage learners to use their creativity, without running the risk of being judged. By creating open-ended higher order questions, online learners have the ability to come up with a variety of different solutions to the problem. They can think freely about all possible outcomes and use facts, opinions, and assumptions to explore all facts of the issue.
  2. Use divergent questions to tap into previously learned knowledge.
    Divergent questions are a form of higher order questioning. It does not have a single correct response and prompts the learner to look at the subject matter in broad terms. Divergent questions give your learners the chance to seek out knowledge on their own and create a hypothesis based on previously learned knowledge. “What do you think might have happened if the main character chose to walk away from the argument” is an example of a divergent question. Learners must use their personal experience and insight, as well as the information they have learned, to predict an alternative outcome.
  3. Use convergent questions to create a connection.
    Convergent questions are designed to test a learner’s comprehension and to create a connection between ideas and concepts. This helps them to develop their critical thinking and comparison skills. They must search their memory banks for information that can be applied to this new challenge or situation, which boosts their knowledge retention. “What other tools could the main character have used to resolve the conflict?” is an example of a convergent question. To answer the question, learners are required to examine other conflict resolution tools they have discovered in the past, then figure out which ones would be ideal for the online scenario.
  4. Ask students to explore their responses. When a learner responds to a higher order question, make the learning experience even more beneficial by asking them to clarify or elaborate upon their answer. This is known as “probing”. It allows learners to gain a better understanding of why the answer is correct, which makes the subject matter more memorable and greatly improves comprehension.

Encourage your learners to reflect and connect with the subject matter, and interact with it in a profound and powerful way by using higher order questions in your next eLearning course.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

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How To Keep Your eLearning Audience Engaged

10 Tips To Create Engaging Online Content

Online learners need rapid engagement and easy wins to grab and keep their attention. Online learning “games”, far from being lightweight, are the devices that attract attention, engage learners, and give them knowledge before they even realise they are learning.

Collected from all over the world, here are set of points to start the thought process for those wanting to deliver learning online. You don’t have to do it all yourself, but if you understand what is required, then the conversation I have with you to start building your content is much easier for all of us:

  1. Set clear outcomes.
    Define the end objective first and test every element against it as you create each unit. If it doesn’t feed the outcome, leave it out.
  2. Boring online content makes boring online learning.
    Look critically at what you want to deliver before you start developing online content. Get the content right before you start working out the delivery details. Online learners are not excited by your journals, links, and other sites. They want to do something, click a mouse, try a game.
  3. Avoid information overload.
    Find creative ways to place the course content in a context that is relevant to the learner. Knowledge needs to be provided before it can be learnt and it cannot be tested until it has been learnt; but it can be provided and learnt creatively. You don’t have to share everything you know in every unit.
  4. Make it visually appealing.
    People are attracted to things that look interesting. Consider a visual theme that is interesting, relevant to the content, and immerses the learner in the topic.
  5. What they want, when they want.
    Create an environment where the learner can do their own research. Instead of a series of click-and-read screens, give the learner a problem to solve. Then provide all of the information that you would normally have pushed by creating access to additional resources. As the learner attempts to solve the problem, they will find the information they need.
  6. Less can be more.
    Online learning units are most effective in a form that takes no more 15-20 minutes for the learner to complete. Online learners will work at their own pace and in their own order. Anything that takes longer than 15 seconds to download is likely to be dismissed.
  7. Vary the content.
    Too much of any one thing is just as boring as too much text. Breaking-up content into smaller combined chunks will allow for a better learning experience. Give your eLearning audience challenges and tasks, but make sure there are always clues and answers readily available.
  8. Engage early and hold on.
    Online learners must be engaged quickly with information that talks directly to them – not always the same as what we want to tell them first. There is a fine line between being too simple (one question wonders – no revisits) and too complex (making one activity do too much – lose the thread).  Online learners will revisit engaging material regularly to refresh and “play again”.
  9. Humor is good!
    By virtue of the medium, online learning tends to work best when it comes across more playfully and with humor; where the learner is in on the joke through being engaged and involved. Talk to the build team about the fun bits they can add.
  10. There is a place for novelty.
    What might seem novel the first time can quickly become annoying. Don’t overdo the use of transitions, text effects, and other visual or aural distractions. Your build team will help you with this.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

online-teaching

How To Bring Your Faculty Fully Online

How To Transform Faculty Into Fully Online Educators 

I am an Instructional Designer who teaches a fully online professional development seminar that focuses on Instructional Design principles for developing and delivering fully online and blended courses. As the 6 week seminar wraps up, one of the final assignments I require faculty to complete is a reflective learning journal. With permission from the faculty who participated in the seminar, I present a few excerpts from their journals that support and highlight best practices I have developed at my university for faculty development.

1. Provide Opportunities For Collaborative Learning From Peers. 

Design your training so that faculty are engaging in learning experiences that they can implement into their own online courses. For example, one of the projects in the seminar requires faculty to develop a learning unit that they will actually use in their own fully online or blended courses. All participants are required to submit this assignment to their respective group’s discussion board and provide peer review for each other’s work, using a rubric that I developed. The quotes below explain what insights faculty can gain by this kind of exercise.

One instructor’s journal entry states:

“I appreciated the openness of the class members to gently criticize each other and make suggestions to improve the quality of our assignments and understanding of those assignments. This really reinforced the use of the discussion forum and the ability to provide peer-review to each other regarding what had been submitted.”

His classmate reveals an initial feeling of uneasiness but saw the benefit of the activity when she discloses the following:

“As for the peer review exercise: I admit that I was a little nervous about having others critique my work. However, my classmates —neither of whom I knew before this class— both offered constructive feedback that was right on target. I found the whole exercise so useful that I plan to use a similar approach in my own graduate classes.”

This assignment gave faculty a hands-on example of how they could integrate online groups within a course as a means for peer review. It also functioned as a nice way for faculty to experience how students could provide instructional scaffolds to each other in an online learning environment, so that online discussions can be more engaging.

2. Train Faculty Online: Place Faculty In The Seats Of Students. 

Insight into the student experience is gained when professional development is given fully online. This is summarized by a participant who notes the following:

“I think the best faculty development workshops require us to view our courses and practices from a student’s perspective. Many of the assignments in this course challenged me to rethink my approach to moving course content online and how this approach would impact students of diverse skill levels and experience.”

His peer reflects on the importance of instructor feedback. She states:

“I really valued the feedback I received on my assignments and again, being in the student’s seat, I really could see how crucial descriptive and appreciative comments from the teacher are!”

In my experience as an Instructional Designer, faculty are sometimes trained in group settings in a room with multiple computers and a teacher workstation. Although faculty are developing skills for using the various features of a Learning Management System, they are not truly experiencing online teaching and learning. The implications of the above quotes are tremendous; when faculty are placed in the seats of students for professional development purposes, it can influence the design, development, and delivery of their courses.

3. Develop Faculty’s Multimedia Skills.

Instructional Designers teach faculty about how to use multimedia resources, such as YouTube, for the enhancement of online courses, using video created by others. However, we should provide faculty with training on how to create their own media. This Instructor writes about his blended course and how he was able to immediately use what he was learning about podcasting from the training seminar I teach. He states:

“Practicum Assignments: These gave me a very good opportunity to develop rudimentary skills in each of the areas that were covered. (…) An additional bonus with the podcast was that with the snow days that we had, I was able to utilize that with students in one of my courses this semester.”

His colleague concurs, whose course was also not fully online:

“What I particularly found helpful were the practicums. (…) This course introduced several new options. In fact, following the most recent snowstorm, I used Camtasia to create a lecture [capture] for a course I was supposed to host. As this course had been repeatedly canceled [due to inclement weather], this program was a phenomenal option. Having immediate access to this program made it so easy for me to solve a true problem in my course.”

The professors’ comments make it very clear that assignments given in professional development sessions should not be busywork. In each example, these instructors were able to develop their own multimedia to meet the specific needs of their respective classes. Although it is convenient to use multimedia developed by others, an instructor may not find a video or podcasts that thoroughly covers the topic and of course. By having gained multimedia authoring skills, these participants are no longer reliant on what others have produced. They can now make contributions to various online multimedia repositories.

4. Modeling Examples Of Teaching Presence.

A common term in eLearning is teaching presence, which is “The design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes” (Anderson et al. 2001, p. 5). As the facilitator of a professional development seminar, model good online teaching presence through your engagement with faculty. I did this by providing video feedback to faculty using Jing and Camtasia Studio screen capture software. This faculty member reflects on the feedback I gave her as an example of instructor presence:

“I really valued the feedback I received on my assignments and again, being in the student’s seat, I really could see how crucial descriptive and appreciative comments from the teacher are! I liked, especially, Sabrina, getting feedback from you in Camtasia and being able to access it. I think this would work super well in my writing classes to go over student drafts and I am considering doing some of this semester!”

Students can experience isolation in an online environment by not seeing an active teacher presence. By modeling how one can give video feedback, I provided an example for the instructor of how she can make her presence felt by her online students.

5. Provide Faculty With Practical Skills For ADA Compliance.

Technology can meet the needs of busy adults, by providing eLearning opportunities in asynchronous formats. However, the development of these courses can sometimes form barriers for those with disabilities. A necessary ingredient to faculty development is not only helping faculty to understand disabilities and ADA compliance, but also giving them skills to make their courses more accessible. This need is exemplified in the two journal excerpts below. One instructor writes:

“Part of the challenge with accessible courses is creating them; easy access to the technology and support staff to teach us how to use it helps alleviate those challenges. This course gave me some new tools that I am enthusiastically using as a result of the instruction I received.”

This is elaborated by the instructor’s classmate who states:

“The course materials and activities really raised my consciousness about practices that faculty can undertake to improve accessibility for all. It was a bonus to learn through first-hand experience that it’s actually quite easy to create ADA-compliant Word documents, podcasts, and other course content that helps make classes truly accessible.”

As faculty across the globe are asked to integrate technology into their teaching practices, more and more there will be a need to pair this integration with compliance so that all students are given an equal chance to learn.

Professional development can stimulate instructors to reflect on their pedagogy and become more self-aware about their engagement with students. It is not an arduous hurdle that administration directs faculty to leap over but is actually a useful vehicle to the educator for developing a new set of instructional strategies.

Resources

Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5 (2).  Retrieved from http://cde.athabascau.ca/coi_site/documents/Anderson_Rourke_Garrison_Archer_Teaching_Presence.pdf

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

 

Mobile apps

Gamification

Gamification In eLearning

Gamification by definition is a concept of using artifacts and ideas known from games to stimulate desired behaviours. Check the short clip about one of the most popular gamification cases which is the Piano Stairs.

When we consider gamified eLearning we mostly think about limited number of such artifacts – usually various rewards (eg. badges) and credits (eg. points). Let’s take a look at more options which could help to build a gamified eLearning environment.

Gamification in eLearning

 

How To Build A Gamified Environment

Many of modern games (tabletop games, computer games, card games) let people play together. While playing they not only compete with each other, but they are also supporting and motivating themselves. Winning a badge for solving a quiz is no motivational at all in comparison with being better than the colleague from the next isle in the office. People like to interact with each other – like to cooperate or to compete. Winning with other people seems to be the highest reward.

  • Do you gamify your eLearning solutions by engaging people in interactions? Do you stimulate competition or cooperation? Do you reward winners of competition and leaders of cooperative actions?  How do you stimulate peer-to-peer learning in your eLearning solution?

Sometimes games are beautiful. Just take a look at games from Days of Wonder or check new productions of computer games. People like to use beautiful things – beauty brings positive emotions and motivates to interact with such a product.

  • Do you take care of aesthetics of your eLearning solution? Is your eLearning product visually designed with proper engagement?

Games have goals. So do eLearning courses. Games also have some rules which bring restrictions to the games’ worlds. These rules must be accepted by players. Existence of rules brings some kind of security – I know what are the consequences of taking or not taking some actions.

  • Do you clearly communicate goals of your eLearning solution? Do you contract with the learner for some rules? Do you create a secure, predictable learning environment for your target group?

In games goals are being reached by challenges and tasks. They bring emotions which engage and stimulate players. According to Flow Theory they have to be calibrated to be appropriate to one’s skill level. Challenges and tasks have to be concluded with feedback, which let players understand the issue and go to the next level of competency.

  • Do you provide well-calibrated challenges and tasks in your eLearning solution? Are their complexity grow to let learners climb on the competency ladder? Do you provide good feedback to your challenges giving people a chance to understand the learning issues?

Good games are well calibrated – they require effort to pass the next level. According to the Flow Theory – when the game is too easy it is boring. When it is too hard it is scary.The complexity of good game grows while player builds new abilities (both personal and connected with his/her avatar in the game).

  • Does you eLearning solution require some effort to complete? Or does it require only a competence of hitting the next button? How do you support learners in these efforts when they can’t move for any reason to the next level?

Games give choices. The player can choose the path. He/she can play one, or another card, can kill or show mercy. In the game the player is to some extent free – he/she can take decisions and bear the consequences. The player also can learn from successes and failures. These choices create uncertainty which brings excitement.

  • Do you open your eLearning solution for exploration by learners? Do you let them choose the path of development or do you provide a very strict way of consuming your eLearning product? Do you provide exciting environment which surprises them in every single moment?

Games usually tell stories. If you don’t believe – just take the manual to the most primitive tabletop game and read it. Even the Chess and the Angry Birds have their own stories… Probably the most complex stories are being told during role playing games (check my favourite Dragon Age by EA). The story builds world of the game (context). The story lets us play the role. When we have the story we can feel like a part of it. It could bring motivation and engagement to the highest level.

  • Do you tell stories in your eLearning solution? Do you create an educational, compact and coherent environment (the learning world)? Do you bring learners to some roles which help them master new competencies?

Games are connected with kinesthetic experience. The player moves with the ball, manipulates pawns, moves pieces and artifacts of the game. He/she holds cards, plays with the pad or moves in front of the XBox. These actions let the player experience things. Such an experience helps to encode new information in the brain by additional sensory channel.

  • Do you provide in your eLearning solution kinesthetic experiences? Do you include in it only some clickable elements (quizzes, interactions, navigation) or do you offer also some tasks which could detach the learner from the computer (implementation tasks, tasks on the job) and interact with other people (learners, mentor or supervisor)?

And, at the very end, games are providing rewards. Yes – you can give medals, cups and other trophees to players. You can assign points and badges. You can show development of player’s avatar or show a progress bar. You can announce the winner. Rewards, however, should be connected with effort. And result of this effort (state of satisfaction in reaching the goal) itself should be the most substantial element of the reward system. And, last but not least, the power of the reward will be much bigger if it will be trully appreciative – granted among people.

  • What is the reward system in your eLearning solution? Is it based only on a shallow, mechanistic approach of earning credits for consumption of the material? Or maybe it utilizes more complex approaches based on real efforts reaching new competences? Is it possible to reward a learner in front of other people?

There are many mechanisms of games which could be used to gamify your eLearning solution. As badges and points are the simplest to think about they became the most popular one. To create trully enjoyable, engaging and fun solution which stimulates desired behaviours we have to remember, however, about the complexity of games and situationally use all of their artifacts.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

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How To Enhance Knowledge Retention

How To Enhance Knowledge Retention

http://elearningindustry.com/

This article features a number of tips and techniques that eLearning professionals can use to enhance knowledge retention for their eLearning audiences. After all, without knowledge retention, the overall eLearning experience won’t offer any real value to the learners.

Even most informative, engaging, and beautifully designed eLearning courses are going to fall short if they aren’t centered around knowledge retention. Learning experiences have to be memorable and powerful, and they have to be designed for easy learner absorption. Each and every eLearning deliverable shares one common objective, regardless of its subject matter or its audience: make it stick! When information is not only acquired, but committed to long term memory, this is when the real eLearning magic happens.

  1. Integrate interactive elements and activities.
    If you want the learners to remember the information, make them feel like they are active participants. Interactive activities can give them the opportunity to become fully engaged by the content, which means that they will be more likely to retain the knowledge or skills that are being taught. You can apply this eLearning retention tip in your own eLearning deliverable by creating interactive eLeaning presentations, that pose questions to the learners, or by integrating eLearning scenarios that allow them to make choices along the way. Also, integrating a variety of multimedia, such as videosmusic, and images, can appeal to different learning needs and boost knowledge retention across the board.
  2. Make eLearning bite-sized.
    Cognitive overload is the enemy of knowledge retention. As such, you’ll want to avoid it at all costs. You can do this by making your eLearning course more digestible. Offer bite-sized modules that allow the learners to first acquire the information and then move forward to the next one. Keep text blocks short and concise to give learners a chance to absorb key idea or principles more effectively. Only include what’s absolutely relevant and avoid cluttered screens; don’t fear white space! All of these things can help to prevent cognitive overload, giving your learners the opportunity to absorb information more effectively, rather than being overwhelmed by an abundance of knowledge, text, and clutter.
  3. Include quizzes and exams throughout the eLearning course.
    Periodically assessing learner knowledge is key, and one of the most effective ways to do this is by integrating quizzes and exams all throughout the eLearning course. Including a test at the end of the eLearning course is common practice for many eLearning professionals, but there are benefits to testing more often, such as at the end of every module or lesson. This will help to ensure that the learners have successfully absorbed the information before moving onto the next section, and will allow them to review key terms and ideas prior to acquiring new knowledge or skills.
  4. Use stories and characters to make it relatable.
    To create a connection with the learners will inevitably help them to more effectively retain knowledge. By using storytelling in eLearning and creating characters that they can relate to (such as those that feature a situation they might encounter on-the-job or a character that they can sympathize with) you offer learners the chance to remember key concepts or ideas successfully. When creating stories don’t go into too much detail about the characters or the situation, as this will narrow your audience reach. However, you’ll still want to foster that emotional connection with them. So, make it relevant, relatable, and motivational, while still keeping it short and sweet in order to focus on the content rather than have the story steal the spotlight.
  5. Encourage them to put their newly acquired information to use.
    Group role play exercises, simulations, and eLearning course recaps can all be used to boost retention. This is due to the fact that these practices encourage learners to mentally access previously acquired information, so that it can be rooted into their long term memory storage. It also allows them to carry out an all-important process- repetition. Completing the same tasks again and again, or learning about the same concept multiple times can help your learners to more easily absorb the information. For example, if you ask your learners to repeatedly participate in a simulation that requires specific skill sets, they will eventually master those skills.
  6. Create eLearning scenarios that tie into real world applications.
    eLearning Scenarios are effective in virtually every eLearning course, because they give learners the opportunity to see the real world applications and benefits of the subject matter. Rather than just learning a concept for no apparent reason, which won’t help them when it comes to knowledge retention, they can actually discover why they are learning the concepts or ideas. They can also test out the information they’ve learned by making decisions within the scenario that lead to consequences or rewards. This will help them to automatically see how to apply skills or newly found knowledge in their real life, so that they will be able to utilize it when the need arises.
  7. Use an avatar or narrator to draw attention to key points.
    This last eLearning retention boosting tip can make a world of difference in terms of information absorption. If you include an avatar or narrator into your eLearning deliverable, you can point out key pieces of information that your learners must take away from the eLearning course, and minimize cognitive overload. You can use stock photo images, cartoons, or even just a recorded voice to integrate a virtual guide into your eLearning course, which can serve a wide range of purposes all of which can increase knowledge retention. For example, the avatar can offer tips to the learners, or ask them thought provoking questions throughout the eLearning course.

Use these invaluable tips to make the most of your learners’ eLearning experience and increase knowledge retention rates. They can be applied to any subject matter or niche. In fact, you can utilize them in any eLearning strategy, regardless of the model or theory, to make it even more powerful and engaging for your online audience.

Knowing how the mind works is an important part of boosting knowledge retention, as well. In the article Scientifically Proven Brain Facts That eLearning Professionals Should Know you’ll find 6 interesting brain facts that can help you create engaging and memorable eLearning courses and online training events.

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Last but not least, you may find valuable the 11 Tips to Engage and Inspire Adult Learners and 17 Tips To Motivate Adult Learners.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user CollegeDegrees360

How To Engage Adult Learners

 

There are a number of tips and techniques that can help you to create meaningful educational experiences for adult learners, which can be applied to eLearning courses and online training events.

1- Make it relevant!
Adult learners need to be able to see the relevancy of what they are learning. How is this eLearning course going to offer them the skill sets they need to improve their work performance? How is the online training event you’re developing going to give them the information they need to master a particular task? When designing eLearning deliverables for adult learners, you have to keep in mind that the content has to be relevant, or else they will not be able see the real value in the educational experience you’re providing. While you are writing each block of text or choosing the perfect graphics and images, think about how these are going to serve the primary learning goals and objectives.

2- Include activities and assignments that encourage adult learners to explore.
Adult learners accumulate knowledge most effectively when they are active participants in their own learning process. Design activities or assignments that encourage them to explore a subject matter on their own and learn from personal experience. Pose a question or problem and then ask them to arrive at a solution on their own, or place them in groups and have them collaborate in order to discuss the issue at length and benefit from one another’s experience and skill sets. When they acquire knowledge on their own, they get inspired to pursue other avenues of self study and online education, and to become more fully engaged in the eLearning environment.

3- Consider the experience and educational background of the adult learners.
Adult learners have typically gathered more life experienced and accumulated a broader knowledge base than younger students. As such, when you’re designing your eLearning deliverables for adult audiences, you’ll want to take their experience and educational background into account. In other words, it is of high importance to assess your audience carefully. What is the highest level of education they’ve completed? Which particular tasks are they usually asked to perform while at work? Do they already know the technical jargon that is commonly used in their profession?

4- Offer immediate feedback to allow adult learners to learn from mistakes.
Make the educational experience more powerful and effective by offering immediate feedback when they make an error, or even when they need to know about an alternative problem solving approach. This will provide them with the opportunity to learn from mistakes by catching them at the moment they occur and seeing the direct consequences of that error, rather than waiting until the moment of need has passed to offer invaluable feedback.

5- Integrate emotionally-driven content.
Adult learning audiences often benefit from content that is emotionally-driven. If they feel emotionally connected to the subject matter, then they are more likely to be engaged, so that they will actually absorb and retain the information. Use images and graphics that are powerful and relevant, as well as written content that evokes a certain feeling. Even the font you use can convey a certain emotion. Positive emotional elements can also serve to inspire and motivate learners who may feel disconnected from the eLearning environment.

6- Emphasize the real-world benefits.
Can you concisely sum up the real world benefits that your eLearning course or online training event offers to its adult learners? The adult learners need to be informed of the real world benefits beforehand, and should be reminded of these benefits periodically. For example, you can add a side note to every module, explaining how the content will offer them real world benefits. This will allow them to realize the purpose behind the educational experience, so that they become motivated and excited.

7- Keep cognitive overload in mind when creating content.
Break your content up into smaller chunks to help avoid cognitive overload. Avoid using large blocks of text, and opt for bullet points or numbered lists instead. Also, you may want to consider designing smaller modules or eLearning courses that focus on specific subject matters, rather than lengthy eLearning courses that cover a wide range of topics.

8- Use avatars and storytelling to draw in adult learners.
Avatars can guide adult learners through modules to increase knowledge comprehension and retention, while storytelling makes the subject matter more interesting and relatable for them. Keep in mind, that when using characters or stories, you should add at least a touch of realism in order to make the content more immersive and effective.

9- Create deliverables that can be completed quickly and conveniently.
Adult learners often learn while they are on-the-go, meaning that they should be able to access the eLearning deliverables on their mobile devices. By creating eLearning deliverables that can be completed quickly and conveniently, you offer them the opportunity to absorb and retain the information anytime, anywhere and when they need it the most.

10- Remember that practice makes perfect.
Include plenty of practice exercises in your eLearning course to ensure that adult learners are able to fully absorb and remember the subject matter. Repetition is key, so develop tasks that require them to repeat certain steps over and over again and keep on reminding them of the important key points all throughout the eLearning course.

11- Use aesthetically pleasing design elements.
Aesthetically pleasing eLearning courses and modules can be more easily assimilated by adult learners, not to mention that can create a more interactive and visually stimulating experience. Include compelling and inspiring images, colorful fonts, and graphic elements that help to draw their attention to the core aspects of the modules.
Keep in mind this list of tips to engage adult learners, in order to create truly inspirational and powerful eLearning deliverables. However, if you are looking for additional tips on motivating adult learners, I suggest you to also read the article 17 Tips To Motivate Adult Learners.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

localisation

eLearning Localisation

eLearning Localisation is used to describe the process by which you translate your eLearning course’s content into the language of your new target audience. But is it really just that?

Well, you wish it was that simple! If you want to localise your eLearning courses and offer a true valuable eLearning experience to your audience, then you have to take into serious consideration the different cultural “norms” and to devote time and resources.

Benefits of eLearning Localisation:

  1. Reach a broader eLearning audience. 
  2. Position your brand as a global eLearning company. 
  3. Offers consistent and reliable results for your client.
  4. Boosts knowledge acquisition and retention rates. 

 eLearning Localisation Tips:

  • Research the cultural background of your target audience before creating content.
    There are probably going to be some cultural differences between learners in different regions. Creating a survey, asking the advice of a subject matter/cultural expert, or even visiting the location itself can help you to get a better idea of the cultural norms in order to create effective and appropriate eLearning courses.
  • Pay attention to cultural relevancy of images, graphics and colors.
    Culturally appropriate text is all important. However, you should also pay close attention to the colorsimages and graphics you are using. eLearning localisation requires that you take a step further, by selecting graphics that are realistic and relevant for the given locale.
  • Make sure that scenarios and real world examples are still relatable and relevant.
    Go over the real world scenarios, simulations, stories, and examples you’ve included in your current eLearning course content and ensure that they are still relatable and relevant.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry. for the full article visit the eLearning Localization Benefits and Tips