Friday, August 14, 2015

Letting Go of the Need to Know Everything: Use Context Setting Learning Objectives - Tip #60

How do we make sense of the huge barrage of information that we encounter on a daily basis? We need to let go of the need to know everything. We need to train both our learners and leaders to resist the tendency to dump content. We need to help learners focus on usefulness and context of the content and to design and deliver training and eLearning programs to reflect this principle.

According to Dr. Daniel Levitin, PhD, author of the bestselling book This is Your Brain On Music, we process 34 gigabytes of information during our leisure time alone and we would have created a world with 300 exabytes of human made information. Every hour, YouTube uploads 6,000 hours of video content. It's just impossible to keep up. Information overload is a growing concern and it has been discovered that the human mind can only take so much information at a given time. It needs time to digest.

A Huge Problem for Corporations, Classrooms and eLearning Lessons

Organizations are unaware that they are actually paying a high premium for information inundation. Employees are not as productive when they are pressured to learn new things in with so little time. Hence, information and its application seem to be divorced from each other. "Corporations are failing to help staff cope with the technological barrage, daily meetings and constant connection, leading to rising levels of stress and psychological illness and costing billions in lost productivity," says Sarah O'Carroll in her article "How email deluge makes frustrated workers go postal" published by Herald Sun Melbourne Edition.

Have you tried being in front of your computer trying to complete an elearning course? Can you still remember how instantly you became confused, frustrated and overwhelmed because of the information dumped on you? The overload problem manifests in elearning, classroom training and other forms of learning. The tendency to dump content is high. The challenge for eLearning designers and leaders is to engage users without overwhelming them.

Solutions for Learners and Companies

Paul Hemp in his article "Death by Information Overload" published by Harvard Business Review, suggested some solutions to the problem: changing corporate cultures, providing better tools, learning to use tools to filter and focus. Although these are great suggestions, the most important and may be the most critical is a change in our belief system or attitude. Jerry Michalski, an independent consultant on the use of social media nailed it, "You have to be Zen-like... You have to let go of the need to know everything completely."

Why do we need to let go of the need to know everything? In training we are focused on production and efficiency of delivering content, not on its usefulness. Its consequence is the slowing down of the usage of content particularly apparent in the overload problems.

Context is the True King, Not Content

With the avalanche of information caused by high speed telecommunications and information technology, the current challenge is not the lack of content, it's the lack of context. 
The need to refocus learning objectives on the needs of learners becomes apparent. For example, story-based learning objectives focus on acquiring knowledge in small steps. Instead of writing content from the context of the designer, write it as a set-up so learners can instantly see their usefulness in real life context. 

In designing content, always start by asking learners what is important to them and why. Why use story questions? Because you are are encouraging learners to bring forth their own stories. The key idea is that with the presence of so many content, the learners must be helped with your questions so they can focus on what they consider useful. When we skip this process, we don't help the learners. Here are some story-based questions aimed to help learners find out the usefulness in a content:
  • What problems will you solve if you find the answer?
  • What is important to you?
  • What are you trying to solve?
  • What do you know NOW about this topic?
  • What do you want to know about this topic?
  • How will you go about learning more about this topic?
  • How do others feel and what do they say about this topic?
  • How does the above change your understanding of what it is that you want?
Context Setting Learning Objectives

How do we operationalize using learning objectives to helpful learners discover the usefulness of content and finding context instantly? Let's call this Story-Based Learning Objectives.

Preview the two examples below.

Example 1 - Probing Questions

Example 2 - Confidential Documents 

What is the difference between the static learning objectives and Story-Based Learning Objectives? Static learning objectives are statements of facts or academic learning goals.  This is an example of what we dump on learning lessons. 

We expect the learners to appreciate and learn academic goals. Naturally, it is difficult to learn by the sheer nature that it is hard to find meaning from a static fact. 

Story-Based Learning Objectives on the other hand are context driven. They quickly bring the content into a contextual form. They help the learners visualize the value of the context in real-life context. 

In preparing the Story-Based Learning Objectives above by focusing usefulness and context, do we engage the learner? Do we shorten his/her stress? Do we hasten his/her understanding of the content? And do we make it easier for the learner to apply the ideas presented within the content? 

The "Set Up Steps" of Story-Based Learning Design helps you to convert your content into highly contextually focused learning objectives.

I'd love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments section. 


Ray Jimenez, PhD. Story Impacts Learning and Performance: Monogatari Press. March 5, 2013

John Gantz, Angele Boyd, and Seana Dowling: Cutting the Clutter: Tackling Information Overload at the Source

Annual Reviews: The Role of the Critical Review Article in Alleviating Information Overload

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

No comments:

Post a Comment

Welcome! Sharing your comments is very valuable learning experience for me and others. Thanks!