This weekend, I purchased something new at a local farmers market: delicata squash.
It came highly recommended as an easy winter squash to prepare, with a nice light taste.
As I was getting ready to cook it, I had a couple of quick questions. At what temperature should it bake, and for how long?
So, I went to the Google. There were plenty of search results with titles like “how to bake delicata squash.” I picked one that looked promising and clicked.
And then I remembered why I’ve started to hate looking up recipes online. I am presented with the history of the item, the reason I’ve never heard of it before, and how the author came upon this particular variety of vegetable for the first time. (Coincidentally, also in a farmer’s market.)
I was provided with pros and cons of using this squash as compared to say, an acorn squash. It was compared to spaghetti squash as far as ease of cooking.
After several minutes of reading, and lots of scrolling, I found out that you should slice it into circles, set the oven to 425°, and then bake until “almost burnt.”
Come on, people... I don’t need to read a dissertation to cook a side dish!
And, after all this information, I still didn’t know how long to cook the squash!!
This experience reminded me of what we always tell instructional designers in our virtual classroom design class: online learners have very little tolerance for what they perceived to be “nice to know” information. If they don’t understand the relevance of the information being presented, it’s very easy for them to tune out. Or, if you force them through the information (like in an eLearning), they can start to resent the information being presented.
The author of this recipe blog probably thought that she was adding value by providing all of this background information, showing her expertise and giving me a reason to use her as my cooking expert. All she did do, was make me frustrated that I invested several minutes in her blog and still didn’t get the information I was looking for.
So, when you’re designing your next virtual lesson or webinar, make sure you think about how to connect with your learners. Is this information they really need to know and want to know? If not, make it available as a non-compulsory piece of content that people can access if they want to. If they really do need to know this information, make sure it’s presented in such a way that they want to know it.
This way, learners won’t resent the time spent in your session, and might even look forward to coming back.
(By the way, ½ inch slices baked at 425° for 20 minutes seemed about right!)