Monday, December 7, 2009

More Than "The End" - Ideas on Ending an Elearning Course

Saying "The End" to a student completing an elearning course isn't always enough.

Especially when asychronous, the challenge is how to make the ending more interactive or blended by breaking out of the content-dump mode. Rushing through the ending of a course is one of the pitfalls of the content-dump mode. This means providing something more than a summary and restatement of the course objectives. Or a long exam. It's good to do those things, but it's not enough by themselves.

One way to break past that mindset is to use the "Integration" concept from David Merrill's First Principles (pdf), which also includes Activation, Demonstration, and Application.

As I discovered when completing a school assignment based on the First Principles of learning, integration grounds the learning in the worker's world and includes activities based on the ideas of "watch me," "reflection," and "creation."

Here are some of my brainstormed ideas on how to wrap up an elearning course. Some fall into the pure asychronous category, other's assume more blended methods that rely on mentor, subject matter expert, or manager involvment.
  • Questions - Ask the student to write down three questions for a SME. Make sure that formal time is set aside in a timely manner following the training course for discussing the questions. (As the instructional designer, make sure to get these questions as well, as a form of formative evaluation.)
  • Tips - One week following the class (so they have had some time to apply the training to their jobs), ask students to write down three tips. With the help of a SME, document the tips and provide them as a tipsheet to the students. Or, depending on the job or task, post the tips where they will be used. Also consider creating a job aid to be used in future classes from the tip sheet, possibly refining after each subsequent class.
  • Journaling - Ask students to "journal" their learning experience and takeaways in whatever manner they are comfortable with or technology allows. This could mean pen and paper, Word, Twitter, blogs, discussion boards, wikis, podcasts, or video casts.
  • Mind maps - Rather than a test (especially if it's only multiple choice), ask the student to concept map the course (or lesson). This also can be paper-based or online using one of the many free softwares for mindmapping. Allow the student to review the course while doing the map and provide a page in the course with a menu to all main sections of the course. Let the student know if it's for their own use or whether it will be reviewed by someone such as a subject matter expert or manager.
  • Next steps - Point the student to additional or related materials or ask the students to seek out next steps. This could also include creating a plan for what they want to learn next about the topic and how they will learn it.
  • Experiences - Conduct a classroom follow up, email discussion, or online chat (Skype, Second Life, discussion board, Tweetchat, WebEx) to talk about lessons learned. An example might be doing a session one-week after the class and asking each student to share how they've encountered the what they learned that week and how it went, good or bad, and why.

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