Robert Gagné put forward a unique set of events to help Instructional Designers create effective learning materials. His nine-event based system uses a behaviorist approach to guide Instructional Designers on creating content that can accomplish specific learning objectives set for learners. As eLearning content designers, you can leverage Gagne’s Nine Events Of Instruction to produce highly engaging and motivational courses. Here are some thoughts and guidelines on how you can achieve that.
Creating Engaging eLearning Content: Leveraging Gagne’s Nine Events Of Instruction
At their very basic, Gagné’s Nine Events Of Instruction can help eLearning professionals achieve the following goals:
- Help your audience relate to the content you are delivering by associating it with prior knowledge or experiences.
- Offer supporting online content (prompts, hints, flashcards, cues) in the form of building blocks for the new information you are delivering.
- Pose probing questions that make reference to content that has already been learned by the learner.
- Support learners in relating the new content to situations and examples from the real world.
- Make elaborate use of interactive quizzes, assessments, questions, and online drills at every stage of the course – before (Pre-test), during (Touch-points) and after (End assessments).
- Help learners internalize the new concepts and knowledge, so they gain expertise of the content.
Gagné formalized the above thoughts into a set of 9 instructional principles or events, which revolve around internal and external cognitive dynamics that directly or indirectly impacts a learner’s ability to learn and retain new information.
Let’s explore those nine events of instruction in further detail, and talk about how eLearning content creators can leverage them to their advantage.
Gain Learners’ Attention
Distant learners have more opportunities to get easily distracted – more so than classroom learners. It is, therefore, important to make sure that the eLearner is all “fired up” to start learning the new activity. To do this, you must stimulate their attention with compelling lead-in introductions. For example, you can:
- Use trending catch-words or attention-grabbing by-lines.
- Create a compelling story to introduce your topic.
- Use thought-provoking phrases or sentences to force learners pay attention.
- Get learners to pose and answer questions about the new content.
Communicate Course Objectives To The Learner
Notify learners about the expected outcomes and objectives of the course prior to course commencement.
- Summarize course goals and content.
- Define minimum standards (grades, marks, timelines).
- Specify the evaluation methodology and criteria.
Relate New Information To Past Knowledge/Experiences
Link content that will be explored in your course to previously learned or experienced knowledge/situations:
- Elicit samples of related content learners may already have learned.
- Help learners relate those topics to what’s to come in your (new) course.
Offer Goal-Oriented Core Content
Make sure content is meaningfully segmented, with measurable/demonstrable goals following each section:
- Explore lexicon, vocabulary, and abbreviations before each segment.
- Provide a summary of each segment.
- Follow demonstrations/simulations with explanations.
- Mix/match multiple online content (videos, slides, podcasts) for each topic.
Offer Learning Guidance To Students
Support learners with online learning aids to help them understand, reinforce, and master the content presented in the course:
- Develop online repositories of case studies.
- Provide learning aids such as cheat sheets, flashcards, check-lists, mnemonics.
- Integrate online collaboration aids, such as chat groups, gaming platforms, and role-playing sessions into the course.
Provide Revision And Reinforcement Through Practice
Use various strategies to help learners recall, remember, and reinforce what they’ve already learned:
- Pop-up boxes could help students retain past knowledge.
- “Quick Review” tabs or access to online repositories can help with recap and recall.
- Offer conveniently located options for lessons to be repeated/reviewed.
- Flash quizzes could force learners to recall prior knowledge.
- Integrate real-world examples as part of the content.
Give Timely And Meaningful Feedback
Include automated means for learners to assess where they stand by providing:
- Confirmative feedback: Acknowledging that the learner has completed the required tasks (quizzes, assessments, assignments).
- Corrective feedback: Notifying students where they went wrong, and why.
- Remedial feedback: Offering advice/encouragement on how to remediate deficiencies.
- Informative feedback: Sharing useful information about performance improvement.
- Analytical feedback: Delivering rule-based/fact-figures based feedback on individual performance.
Include Early And Frequent Assessments
Add milestone tests and assessments at every level:
- Pretesting could help learners find out how much they already know and whether or not they can/should skip certain sections of the course or focus on specific topics.
- Post-testing should confirm whether learners have mastered a specific content set.
- Use online quizzes, word games, and multiple-choice questions as well as text-based answers to assess learner understanding of topics versus predetermined criterion (criterion-referenced performance).
- Use normative-referenced performance to evaluate how learners perform.
Facilitate Internalization Through Real-World Applications
Help learners translate the knowledge provided by the course into real-world situations:
- Get learners to map content learned to their everyday life activities.
- Make learners think of specific work-related situations where new knowledge can be applied.
- Provide simulated examples, “what-if scenarios” and “gaming situations” that require learners to respond with new skills/knowledge learned in the course.
Although these nine events of instruction have been presented as a sequential list, in reality, the events will likely overlap, or even inter-mingle. Rather than trying to implement each event independently, in linear form, online content creators should look at weaving various events throughout the course – more in iterative or circular fashion.
For instance, depending on how your course is structured, you may want to invoke the principles behind event #1: Gain Learners Attention, at several points throughout the course rather than just at the beginning of the course.
Your primary objective, as eLearning content designers and developers, is to produce courses that online learners can relate to, and which they will be able to engage with. Gagné’s Nine Events Of Instruction will help you craft carefully designed online content and truly motivate your audience.
By using various strategies proposed in this article, you’ll ensure that your students not only understand what you are teaching them; but that they actually take that knowledge back into their real-world and apply the new concepts to improve their overall performance and achieve organizational goals and objectives.