If you’re going to develop e-learning rapidly, you need to start with a model in mind. A model will help you to be consistent, to develop to good design principles, and to create a consistent experience for your learners. One tried and trusted model that should be in any designer’s toolkit is the Knowledge and Skills Builder model.
Knowledge and Skills Builder: Six steps to design
What is the Knowledge and Skills Builder model? It’s a way of providing a simple structured learning sequence that’s mainly suitable for the:
- application of policies and procedures
- application of technical skills
- application of soft skills (e.g. leadership and communication skills)
This approach works well for all audiences and is particularly suitable for learners new to the subject matter or to foundation learning. It can also be a very efficient approach for experts who just need a quick explanation of the facts.
Pros: It’s simple to structure and write for. A clear sequence is always apparent to the learner. Builds on and enhances the classic tell/test model.
Cons: It’s less strong on problem-solving learning or analysis-driven learning because it presents the core concepts before checking understanding. For more immersive learning, you might want to consider a scenario-driven approach.
The six steps in detail are:
1. Get attention
Purpose: To get learners emotionally and intellectually prepared to learn and to become engaged in the module.
- Ask a question on the subject.
- Get learners to reflect on their prior experiences.
- Share a key factor 'shock statement'.
- Put in testimonials or 'war stories' from peers or seniors.
Tip: the first 30 seconds of the learner’s experience sets the tone for the module, so designing the screen or screens for this step should be worked through carefully with any subject matter expert, and have a high impact.
2. Set direction
Purpose: To give the learner a clear indication of content and purpose. It also answers the crucial question of ‘What’s in it for me?’ It’s good practice to include a statement about how long the learning will take at this point.
Approach: State clearly what you are going to cover and how it will benefit the learner.
Tip: If you are presenting learning objectives, consider how these can be presented in a conversational and friendly way (e.g. not simply a bullet list that isn’t written from the learner’s perspective).
3. Present content
Purpose: To convey key concepts, theory, processes and practice in a memorable way.
- Communicate all the relevant content concisely using a variety of interactive approaches. (See ‘Designing great e-learning’ for examples).
- Layer information so that key concepts can be processed initially at a high level and then read for detail.
- Ask questions frequently to test understanding of concepts/facts/process/theory.
Where possible, reinforce concepts through visual and audio content in addition to text.
Aim to have interactivity every three to four screens.
Think of how you can bring to life some presentation content by giving it a ‘voice’ – e.g. through dialogue, coach figures, expert voices.
4. Exemplify and practise
Purpose: The heart of the learning, this section is all about ‘putting it into practice’. The practice is what will help transfer the learning into the job role.
- Demonstrate best practice through an example or case study of how the knowledge or process is to be used.
- Ask questions to check comprehension and application of learning, based on example situations or case studies.
- Make the link between key concepts, theory, processes and how they should be applied in the work context.
Where possible, make examples and case studies directly related to the job role / performance required from the learning.
Support learning with war stories so learners can make the link with the day job.
Make the link between the example and the presentation in the previous section explicit. Sign-post back to it.
Consider repeating the present; exemplify and practice sequence – it’s common to several cycles of step 3 to step 4 in a module.
Purpose: This section ensures that the key learning messages are reinforced. It can also provide linkage into the next section.
Approach: Give a clear recap of the key learning.
- This shouldn’t be a simple repetition of the learning objectives. It should summarise the key learning that has been covered, e.g.:
- The three methods for providing effective feedback are...
- You apply them by...
- Consider structuring the summary as a checklist that learners can take away and reuse in the workplace.
6. Call for action, provide support
Purpose: This step is all about helping to ensure the learning moves to application in the workplace. It also ensures learners know what to do if they need more help, which is particularly important in self-study learning.
- Show what to do next in terms of the job role and where to get more support.
- Make explicit what the expectation is for transfer into the workplace.
This is a good place to cross-reference other learning opportunities (related e-learning, facilitated sessions, coaching, intranet resources, etc), especially if it’s part of a blended learning solution.
Consider adding success stories here as a final incentive for the learners to see how the learning is applied.
Follow these six simple steps when you’re designing tutorials, and of course bring your own style and creativity to the table so that you’ll deliver a consistent, solid learning experience.