All courses aim to enable users to achieve one or more objectives. The course therefore needs to provide users with a means of achieving those objective and also a means of demonstrating, either to themselves or to those running the course (or both), that they can achieve those objectives.
All of the elements that make up this top level of a course we can refer to as ACTIVITIES.
We might go a step further and designate the very first activity in a course as a PRE-COURSE ASSESSMENT ACTIVITY – if we want users to demonstrate their abilities prior to starting the course. Additionally, we can specify the final activity in the course as a POST-COURSE ASSESSMENT. More on assessment further on. The remaining activities we can then refer to as LEARNING ACTIVITIES.
Typically, for each learning objective in the course there will be a learning activity. Hence, the learning activity provides learners with learning resources that will enable them to achieve the learning objective and some form of assessment which will enable learners to demonstrate to themselves and/or the course administrators, that they can achieve the objective.
The size and nature of an activity will depend on many things.
A lot of courses are based on content that was previously delivered in a classic one day instructor-led course. Such a course often is broken into sessions and each session seeks to achieve an objective. So, in converting to a learning managed course, an activity invariably relates to one of these sessions.
Given it is generally found that a one day (6 hour) instructor-led course of 4 or 5 sessions becomes a 3 to 4 hour learning managed course, each of these activities would take an average learner in the region of 40 to 50 minutes to complete. This fits in fairly well with slots that can be found in the learners normal work schedule.
It now comes down to what resources can be assembled for the learner to use in order to be able to achieve the objective set. Many parameters come into play, but the job is made much, much easier if a good instructional design is in place.
Many courses are required sooner than they can be reasonably developed. But this need not be a problem. Time (and money) can be saved by creating simple resources rather than more sophisticated ones. This might not have as big an adverse effect on the quality of the course as one might first think.
Courses can involve the use of many different types of resource incorporating various media, online or offline. Typically, it might take an average learner from 15 to 45 minutes to work through an average activity. There will, of course, be exceptions. For example, you might want learners to simply focus on and take on board one key piece of information such as, given their location in the building, where they are to assemble in the event of the fire alarm sounding. This might only take a few minutes to explain. On the other hand, you may have an activity which starts by providing learners with some knowledge to assimilate and then requires them to be involved in a meeting with others to discuss a topic and to then write up brief notes. This will obviously take a lot longer and if learning is part of their normal working day, occur over the space of days or weeks.
As has already been said, ideally, each activity in a course has a stated objective – “the learner will know where to assemble in the event of the fire alarm sounding” – “the learner will know the basics of running a meeting, have met Jim Smith and submitted brief notes on ….”. In order to achieve the objective, the learner needs to be given one or more resources to be used. These resources can be optional or mandatory. If a resource is mandatory, the activity is not recorded as complete unless the learner has accessed this resource, or, in the case of a SCORM resource or an assessment resource (more on these later), unless they have satisfied the completion criteria for the resource. In essence, the objective of the activity should be achievable by only accessing the mandatory resources. The optional resources give additional information and hence greater depth or more practice for those who decide to use them.
In order to provide some measure of whether the objective of an activity has been achieved – either for the benefit of the individual or the organisation – questions can be added. If you do not wish to have course assessment or you do not wish learners to be able to check their own understanding of the contents of the course, you do not have to add questions. These questions are used by the course assessment (pre- and post) and also by assessment resources within the activities. You can have a bank of questions for each activity and the system will randomly present the required number of questions from that question bank in the assessment. Within each activity, these questions can also form a local ‘no risk’ self check for the learner – a mini assessment on just that activity and its objective. Again, this is entirely optional and it is up to the course author to decide whether or not it is used in a particular course.
Courses consist of:
- Pre-course assessment (optional)
- Activities consisting of:
- An objective – what the learner should be able to achieve once the activity has been completed
- Resources – which will enable the learner to achieve the objective
- Questions – which can be used within the activity to provide a ‘self-check’ on the level of achievement and which are also used to assess mastery of the objective when used in pre-course and post-course assessment.
- Post-course assessment (optional)
LEARNER ACCESS TO COURSES
Once you have one or more courses, learners can be recommended to enrol on them. In order to make the management of learners more efficient, learners can exist both as individuals and also be included as members of one or more groups. So, a course can be recommended to an individual or to an entire group, in one step. It is up to the course designer how membership is organised. For example, you might have a group for each time management course that you run, or you might have just one group for all those who attend time management courses. You might have a group for sales so that you can recommend a sales course to all sales people in one go.