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Mar 06, 2017 Julie Dirksen

Partner With Your Learners

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Partner with Modern LearnersGood interactive learning environments with individualized feedback can often be cost-prohibitive. It might be too expensive to integrate real interactivity into a blended learning program, or to develop good case studies, or to provide individualized and specific feedback for each learner. 

It turns out, however, you often have a highly intelligent, adaptive resource at your disposal – your own modern learners. With some thoughtful planning, you can incorporate learners' experiences and knowledge into your modern blended learning program. 


Encourage learners evaluate their own performance. For example, you’d like your learner to practice responding to a customer objection. But the cost of developing branching scenarios is prohibitive, and that expensive approach doesn’t allow the learner to practice generating an answer to the customer objection. (Rather than just recognizing one when she or he sees it.) Instead, have the learner type out their own answer to the objection, then compare their answer against a checklist of criteria, or against a few expert responses.

Have learners evaluate each other. It’s often not possible for a single instructor to provide feedback to the tens or hundreds of people taking an e-learning course – there’s just not enough time. But many Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have used peer-to-peer feedback as a way to get around this problem.  Users are given another learner’s response to provide feedback on, usually with a checklist or rubric to guide them. Not only do more people get individualized feedback this way, but the act of giving others feedback is an excellent learning experience for the peer evaluators, and puts them on a leadership track.

Work Out Loud 

Have learners work out loud. In her book, Show Your Work, Jane Bozarth writes about the enormous value of having people make their work visible to others. It could be done through a simple blogging or internal discussion forum. 

Create a visible space for questions and answers. Create a place for learners to ask each other questions, and make the answers visible to others. Teaching others helps solidify information and skills learned. The forum where learners post questions and answers serves as a repository for that community knowledge moving forward. 

Collaborate to Create Content

Learners can, and should, help create the content for the program. Case studies can be costly to develop and vet, but if part of the learning experience is to document a case study from the learner’s own experience, the best examples can become part of the content for everybody else.

Use Q&A formats to ensure that the learners are getting the answers to their questions. Have the learners generate questions that subject matter experts answer, so you know that the learning material is targeted to the things learners really want to know.

These ideas just scratch the surface of how you can leverage your learners’ experience, knowledge and questions. Simply asking yourself, “What do our learners already know?” and, “How can our learners help?” can lead to some very cost-effective modern learning solutions.

Related Resources

Book: Usable Learning
This blog post includes content I contributed to Katrina Bakers' book, Usable Learning. It's a great resource for instructional designers and modern learning practitioners designing training programs supportive of how people really learn.

Published by Julie Dirksen March 6, 2017
Julie Dirksen