The point behind each learning objective is to be able to retain and apply the concept successfully. The post-training period is the critical time during which learning is measured and the course effectiveness is evaluated. If, for some reason, a course does not improve performance and achieve KPIs, it is shelved. There goes the entire hard work of the eLearning development team that promised to deliver but couldn’t. If there is one single factor that can be blamed in this otherwise blemish-free eLearning course, it is the reinforcement activities.
Unfortunately, such shortcomings are not detected during the summative evaluation of the course prior to its launch. Let’s look at a method of introducing reinforcement for each learning goal presented in your eLearning courses.
What are Reinforcement Activities?
Reinforcement activities are practice activities that give learners the chance to apply the information, knowledge, and skills they have learned from the course. In an eLearning course, you can use several types of reinforcement/practice activities. These range from hands-on, guided-analysis, teamwork activities and drill-and-practice.
Practice activities are like live training sessions. During these sessions, learners are encouraged to practice what they have learned. They boost the potential of your eLearning courses, and you can use them in conjunction with learning objectives and assessment items. Practice makes perfect!
So what situations will reinforcement activities help with?
· Preparing learners to apply knowledge, skills and attitudes in real situations
· Teaching learners to adapt general or abstract knowledge to specific and concrete situations.
· Automating skills, bring together separate components of learning into one whole for better performance.
· Building confidence in the ability to apply learning in real situations.
· Verifying the ability to apply simpler skills before the course moves into complex sessions.
Drill and Practice: A Deeper Look
Drill and practice activities offer the benefits of improved learning transfer to the performance context. There are three basic steps to achieve this activity: assigning a task, performing a task, and providing feedback.
Drill and practice activities repeatedly exercise a simple or small area of knowledge. The activity starts with an introduction that welcomes learners and describes how the activity works. For example, if the activity is about reinforcing a leadership style, the introduction will review a few facts from the topic.
It will then explain how to complete the activity. If it is a scenario, the context and the character will be introduced. The role of the eLearner as a problem-solver is clearly defined.
Once the activity is performed, the system needs to display the feedback. Depending on the success level of the activity, the learner is requested to keep practicing until satisfied. Towards the end, learners review what they have learned and try applying it in a more realistic situation. This could, and preferably should, be their job context.
Drill and Practice Activity Types
eLearning courses can support several drill and practice activities:
· Auto-generated problems: These are computer-generated problems. They are random in nature. The learner solves these to memorize the recently learned concepts.
· Increasing challenge: These problems start with a simple problem and work towards increasing difficulty with the learner. A baseline of acceptable performance is developed.
· Database of problems: A repository of problems is created. Problems can be presented randomly or sequenced with prerequisites.
Best eLearning Topics for Drill and Practice Activities
When designing drill and practice activities, the first factor to be taken into account is the performance context of your learners. Do your learners need to memorize hard-to-remember facts? Do they need to recall facts without hesitation?
Here are some eLearning topics that will support drill and practice activities well:
· Foreign language learning
· Sign language
· Symbols or signs with meanings
· Spelling, grammar, punctuation use
· Syntax of a programming language
· Automated procedures that learners need to perform fluidly
· Medical emergency procedures
· Safety procedures
Drill and practice will aid in efficient learning of higher-order-thinking activities further down in the eLearning course. Therefore, it makes sense to use them towards the beginning of your course. Also, increasing the difficulty level of these activities throughout the course helps build a sense of accomplishment in the learner.
Later on in the course, require a quicker response or present more complex problems. Let your learners decide when to quit. Try to design an activity with a lot of feedback, that then leads to more problem solving situations. Branched scenarios work well in this situation. More feedback that leads to more scenarios keeps the learning material fresh and intriguing.
Many eLearning programs, no matter how well-designed, fail to deliver. The top reason is that they do not offer practice opportunities to the learners.
Providing ample practice before assessing the learner formally is also a much appreciated strategy. Also, practicing in a relatively safer environment provides the much needed confidence to perform in a real setting. Reinforcement activities like drill and practice lead to greater learner satisfaction and enhanced job performance.
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