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Instructional Design Consultant New Year’s Resolutions

As one year ends and another begins I’ve been bombarded by the usual articles, commercials, and news reports about resolutions for the New Year. Hearing about people who are getting out of debt, quitting smoking, and that commercial promising rock hard abs in 2012 (just in time for swimsuit season) have made me thinking about some personal goals for the new year and also some resolutions as an Instructional Designer.

I’ve found the resolutions that are most effective for me personally, involve a rather small change to things I do on a regular basis. I’ve decided to apply that same principle to my “Instructional Design New Year’s Resolutions,” small changes to things I do regularly. Contemplating about what I regularly do as an instructional designer made me think of a number of things including, creating learning objectives, organizing content, designing knowledge checks, writing assessment questions, etc.

After thinking about it, one Instructional Design resolution I have for 2012 is creating more meaningful knowledge checks. Knowledge checks help learners confirm their understanding and actively participate in the course. The majority of web-based courses I have worked on contain knowledge checks, so it’s something I’m “regularly doing.” The question I began to ask myself was, “What small changes would help me create better knowledge checks?” Here are some of the thoughts I’ve had:

  • Look for ways to add real-life context to a question. Knowledge checks can easily become nothing more than a stand-alone multiple choice question. No matter what the content is, you can usually create a few sentences of back-story that make the knowledge check feel a little less like a web-based training and a little more like on-the-job training.
  • Provide meaningful feedback, and that doesn’t mean simply saying “Correct” or “Incorrect.” The correct or incorrect feedback is an opportunity to help learners understand why their action/choice was right or wrong. It can reinforce key principles, best practices, and common mistakes. The feedback can also help complete a story or scenario showing the positive or negative effects the learner’s choice has on their customers, coworkers, or a situation.

Applying these small changes to knowledge checks seems reasonable regardless of a courses size, scope, or timeline. My experience of applying these small changes thus far has made the course content more memorable and enjoyable for learners. Hopefully these improvements to knowledge checks are one resolution I’ll be able to keep throughout 2012 and beyond… And now I need to go and do some crunches and sit-ups, because my personal 2012 resolution involves rock hard abs.