June 12, 2013

Today there is a growing emphasis on individualized instruction. Tardily, but not too late, we are finally beginning to acknowledge that there are myriad learning styles out there. An awareness that “Reading—Testing—and, Traditional Classroom Lecture” are not the only ways is essential if we are going to reap the learning- rewards that media-based On-Line Education/Training offer us.

Dr. Bernard J. Luskin in his recent book, CASTING THE NET OVER GLOBAL LEARNING, has written, “Developing and applying new theories is currently helping us understand the complexities of why some people learn and others don’t, and how individuals may be stimulated or persuaded, influenced or taught. There is growing interest in using media effectively to help people correct deficiencies, achieve personal growth or simply feel better or more satisfied by their accomplishments. It is in the context of this rationale that the importance of understanding the nexus of media and behavior is emerging in the fields of psychology, medicine, learning, politics, and commerce.”

One section of his book is particularly relevant to the examination we are conducting. Luskin writes, “The use of interactive multimedia can emulate the individualization which we desire. Identification of specifics in relation to this way seems mechanical, but in reality is profound.”

Ray Fox, (now deceased and former president of the Society for Applied Learning Technology – SALT) in a “SOCIETY FOR APPLIED LEARNING TECHNOLOGY NEWSLETTER” summarized some of the techniques that Luskin espoused:

• Uncluttered backgrounds are better for image clarity and comprehension.
• Narration should be conversational with significant voice modulation. Sound sets the mood and affects what one sees. An audience sees with its ears as well as its eyes.

• A program should never take control away from the user. The user should be able to interrupt the programming, and skip to another activity or choice at any time.

• Too many buttons or icons are confusing. Keep the number to a minimum and make the symbols simple, internationally generic, and very clear.

• Avoid the tendency to over-design and under-explain control features.

• A good “how to” is critical to almost every program.

• Music heightens emotion and increases the enthusiasm and energy of participation. Appropriate music increases the viewer’s perception of pictures, sustains mood, and provides pace.

• Underscoring text with voice narration gives text much greater impact.

• Too much content in a program is as bad as too little.

• The look and feel, structure, content, art direction, and functionality are each programming elements that should be evaluated separately and together.

• Scripts should be written and spoken using proper language, avoiding both slang, overuse of contractions, and regional accents.

• Transparency is the key to the link between the mind and emotions of the user and the content of a program. Keep it simple. If the user needs to get from A to C, let him get there without having to go through B – if that is his or her preference.

• The “you attitude” is basic to content, script, and user-centered activity. Use of the word “you” places the focus upon the receiver of the information and is a basic of good communication. “You” attracts the interest of the person whom you are targeting and engenders a measurable emotional reaction.

• Every program should have a linear play mode of some sort, without which a clear grasp of the content may elude many users.

My own observations tell me that there are three generic, user-controlled, learning technologies that are ideal for today’s “culture for learning” — and, for most individual learning styles: e-Learning/CD-ROMs that are rooted in full motion video and optional word-for-word audio; plus, animation-based Gaming programs and, Simulations.

Conversely, programs requiring more advanced reading skills — in addition to adaptations of PowerPoint presentations — have become anathemas.

Most of us are finally beginning to pay attention to individual learning styles. If we can procure and produce the right programs — courseware that cuts across various learning styles and cultures — we will advance learning and retention everywhere.

And that is why all of us should concentrate on learning success — while avoiding, whenever possible, traditional reading/lecture-based programs. Your trainees will be well rewarded when you do — which, for your organization, will increase both productivity and profit.

More on Monday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning (Mondays & Wednesdays)