No more voice of God!

teacherThere’s one simple change every e-learning designer could make when writing or updating a course, which would show you’re treating the learner as an adult. Simply banish the ‘voice of God’ from the feedback to questions.

You know what I mean. ‘Correct!’ ‘Incorrect.’ Or its polite counterpart ‘That isn’t exactly the answer we were looking for. Try again’ It doesn’t fill the eager learner with curiosity as to what the correct answer is, it just makes them stab at another option to get through the question and onto the next screen.

It makes so much more sense to the learner if they see the consequence of getting it wrong.

In scenario-type questions, where the learner is asked to make a decision in a role-play situation, you can show the results of their decision. So instead of ‘This is incorrect, the customer will be angry.’ show the customer saying ‘What the … do you think you’re playing at?’ Then give them the chance to save the day by taking them back and letting them revise their decision.

You can always add on some evaluation of their choices

‘That wasn’t a great choice you made the first time because, as you see, it upset the customer. This could be because …’

but present that after you show the consequence. That way they’re not taken out of the story to a place where you look down from above, they’re still in the story.

OK, not all questions are scenarios. Some are just knowledge checks. But if they get a knowledge check  wrong they’ll appreciate being told why they’re wrong and, more important, why it matters in the real world. And if they’re right, why that’s a good thing in the real world.

A rule of thumb should be the more demanding the question, the more feedback you should give. The worst case I saw last year  gave a single screen with many parts to a question involving multiple choices. I dutifully read all the popup information, clicked about six different choices and moved a slider. After what seemed like a lot of work I got ‘That’s not right, try again’. I didn’t.

Why bother? Because the learner is an adult in a responsible job with a considerable life experience and intelligence. Just like you. They deserve better than ‘Sorry that’s not correct.’

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