Cool Effects in eLearning Development: Capturing Prior Content

In my last post, I talked about how we are bombarded with content of all types. It takes some effort to evaluate the content, and determine how to make the new content easy to assimilate. Innovatia considers multiple development strategies to capture learning.

An effective learning strategy is to tie new content to something we already know.

In the youngest grades of school, we are building upon previously learned skills. We learn numbers and what they mean, then we learn how to add numbers together. We learn the letters of the alphabet, and how they sound, then combine them to form words and learn how to read.

As adults, we have lived a life of learning experiences. Our work, our family, and our life has brought us knowledge, even if we don’t consider events as learning sessions. It’s the school of life.

Each adult has a different learning experience.

And yet, we need to develop content for all learners. We look at tapping previous experience. Although it is hard to predict, we can certainly attempt to provide familiarity. This reduces cognitive load and helps the learner acquire new skills. The prior learning personalizes the new learning and makes it more engaging.

Let’s look at an example.

In the healthcare field, we create using scenarios. When developing a learning curriculum or course, we tap into a learner’s prior experiences, even if their experience may not be obvious to them. It’s cool when you can take a learner’s previous experiences and organize them into a learning situation.

We take a scenario of a man, Mr. Williams, in a wheelchair.

A simple statement to identify risk factors means that you begin to look for hazards based on this image alone. A person, sitting in a wheelchair will have hazards. There is a pot too high for him to reach on the refrigerator. There are crumpled papers on the floor.

Are there other hazards to see if you look closer? Perhaps you would notice the broken spoke in the wheelchair. You might notice the tape on the glasses. Regardless, there are between one and four items that you have picked up on as hazards, before even taking the training!

Let’s build on it.

In the training, we learn about Mr. Williams’ scenario. He is 72, and has had a stroke. It caused memory issues and some paralysis on one side.

Now we draw on the various types of risk factors to answer questions:

  • Biological risk factors
  • Behavioural risk factors
  • Socioeconomic risk factors
  • Environmental risk factors
  • Equipment risk factors

Given the information that you know about Mr. Williams, what risk factors can you identify, even before you see our list?

What life experiences are you using to think about risk factors? Have you tripped over hazards on the floor? Do you have difficulty reaching objects up high? Have you seen someone in a wheelchair? Do you have an elderly relative? Do you know someone who had a stroke? The list of possible experiences you can use to relate to the situation is endless.

This approach to training helps you organize your existing knowledge and apply it to new situations.


Anita Crump, CTDP, is an Instructional Designer for Innovatia based in Markham, Ontario. She has more than 19 years of experience working in knowledge development for both academic facilities and corporations. She continues to focus on bringing creative ways to share knowledge with the students of life.
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