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Inspirational Nugget: Your Course Will Help Someone

Since I’ve joined the Learning & Professional Development Team at Northern Arizona University, my blog posts have focused on two major themes: Instructional Design “Inspirational Nuggets” and Adobe Captivate 9 features. The Inspirational nuggets came from a couple Post-It Notes that I’ve kept with me throughout my ten years as an Instructional Designer. These Post-It Notes serve as a reminder for what an Instructional Designer is and does. A couple nuggets I already covered were Think Visually and Create Learning Experiences. I also wrote about being the Learner’s Advocate, which I find myself thinking about all the time. I’m going to build on that idea a bit and combine it with another nugget: Your course will help someone. 

At their core, both of these nuggets are about helping the audience. The details about how to help your audience are what differentiate these two ideas.

You are the Learner’s Advocate

Being the learner’s advocate is more than providing content to help navigate a system or understand company policy. Being an advocate is being a champion for the learner. Stand up for their needs. To me, being an advocate for the learner involves asking some of these questions:

  • How easy is it to get to the content?
  • How easy is it to navigate through the content?
  • Will the content play on most computers and browsers?
  • Is the content accessible for all users?
  • Will the user be able to mute audio without missing crucial information?

Being a champion for learners means you have their best interests in mind at all times.

Your Course will Help Someone

Whether your content is a fun video on how to make a new feature cocktail or a series of interactive modules for your company’s new sales software, your content is helping someone. Even the driest of compliance training contains critical information that could help someone handle a tough situation.

I know it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds, especially with all of the software and fun features you can add to training. I can’t count the number of times I asked myself “Why am I doing this?” as I went slide by slide changing some setting or detail that I was convinced needed to be changed.

Did changing that detail improve the learner’s ability to grasp the content?

Who knows. But I certainly felt better about it.

Improve the learner’s ability to grasp the content.

Paying attention to detail isn’t a bad thing, but if you find yourself making changes just for the sake of making changes, you’ve probably lost sight of your main goal. If you’re sure that learners will be able to find and use the information that you’re fine-tuning, then fine-tune away. Just make sure you’re not delaying any deadlines.

Don’t lose sight of your main goal.

At the risk of starting a major debate, I’m going to go ahead and say that traditional learning objectives – specifically the “At the end of this training module, you will be able to” type of learning objectives – are a thing of the past. Few pay attention to those types of slides and even fewer go back to confirm if they did indeed learn those things. I once attended a seminar where the basic point was that you can’t include a learning objective if you don’t ask a quiz question about it, and vice versa. I just couldn’t get behind such a strict rule for building courses.

What I can get behind is understanding what the goal of my training is. Writing learning objectives that are clear and measurable is an important exercise, but don’t feel like you must spell them out in a bulleted list and then limit your quiz questions to those bullets. To ensure that your course is going to help someone, maybe jot down the major objectives and keep them close by. When you’re in the weeds and making minor adjustments with no end in sight, return to those objectives to make sure that all the changes you’re making will help your learners meet those objectives.

Maybe the learning objectives are for YOU.

Be an advocate for the learner and remember that your course is designed to help someone.

Do you have any tips for ensuring your content helps your learners? What does being an advocate for your learners look like to you? Let us know in the comments below.

After receiving a Master’s Degree from NAU in Literacy, Technology, and Professional Writing, Sarah returned to her home town of Omaha, Nebraska where she gathered almost 10 years of experience in Instructional Design. Sarah loves utilizing technology to create training, whether to teach people how to use a computer system, improve their sales numbers, or incorporate a new process into their daily routine. Her background in English and Technical Writing helps keep her focused on writing and editing to provide clear and concise content for training. When the opportunity opened up with the Learning & Professional Development team, Sarah and her family (which consists of a bicycle-obsessed husband, two energetic daughters, and an annoying German Shepherd) jumped at the chance to move back to Flagstaff where they can ride bikes, hike, camp, ride bikes some more, and generally enjoy the outdoors without humidity or mosquitoes.

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