When I stumbled across the article The Advantages of User-Generated Content in Online Learning I was so excited to read encouragement for developing content WITH the end user. I 100% agree with the article and here is why.
Before I became an instructional designer and developer, I was a user of e-learning products. I found them boring, plain and mostly the colour blue (*sigh*). So when I started working on my very first e-learning project, my first instinct was to get the users involved straight away. I workshopped problems, ideas, solutions, even aesthetics which ultimately led to a product that they not only understood and learned something from, but they also had ownership over. Also having something nice to look at for 1-3 hours was helpful too.
I find collaborating with the intended learners or past learners (if I’m improving or re-developing a course) to be a critical step in the development process to ensure they are taught what they need to know in an aesthetically pleasing environment. Pretty simple eh?
Some of my favourite discussions to have with learners is around their experience in their workplace. What are some of the issues they deal with every day that a new person should know about? What are some challenges they face when dealing with certain types of clients? What are some of the strategies they use to solve problems? etc. The information gathered from these discussions are particularly useful for developing scenarios and activities. It gets the learner thinking about what they would have found useful to learn when they were starting out in their role.
A creative, but less formal way, of developing content with learners is to organize a social media group for them to be a member of and contribute to. As stated in the article, the most ‘liked’ comments will filter to the top of posts which gives the developer a great source of popular information. The developer can also ask questions or create polls within the group to generate discussion. It also gives the thinkers of the group to sit back, formulate their response or idea and then post when ready. This is a great alternative to workshop discussions where the thinkers or introverts can be overshadowed by the extroverts in the group.
The content development process can be one of the most arduous and difficult parts of the instructional design process. But by making it about the learner and demonstrating they are the key to the success of the product then you have a winning strategy for a kick-a** e-learning.