Saturday, September 17

Emotionally Evocative Design

For many an Instructional Designer, design follows analysis, with its main function being to identify all the important things that need to go into a course. Its end product is a curriculum, syllabus, or blue-print to build the learning module on.

Next comes development, which adds content so as to give depth to the end product of design. This mainly consists of the adding of "information."

Context is also used to add a third dimension to the design puzzle -- layers of activity so that the learners gain a variety of viewpoints, thus allowing them to gain experience with the information in a relative safe manner.

This mix of design, development, and context should theoretically help the learners build their knowledge and skill bases. Yet this combination often fails because it leaves one important piece of the puzzle -- Emotionally Evocative Design.

While Instructional Designers normally are quite good at ensuring that the important parts that build content, such as objectives and outcomes, are entered into the design equation; the total design process needs a second layer that captures the emotions of the learners so that they actually want to engage with or use the content.

Engagement does not have to be that complex as it is simply a means of inviting the learners' emotions into the environment. Emotions are the reason that we do anything -- without them we would simply be walking zombies. Emotions are what adds zest to include learning

For example, a good metaphor invites the user to reflect over the information by asking her to relate the new information with a past experience. A good picture invites two senses into the mix. A problem begs for closure. A critical piece of information delivered "just-in-time" is utter relief.

What have you done lately to ensure that your designs are emotionally evocative?


Stuart Kruse said...

This 'emotional' element is rather important in winning bespoke e-learning bids in the UK. It has not been unusual for me to win work thinking it was because of my superb learning design (hee hee) only to find out that some theme or 'gimmick' captured the customer's imagination (usually because they felt it would connect with their audience).

When bidding for work, I always look for this 'icing on the cake' angle. I start by creating a general training framework but then look for an overall creative theme, idea or angle that will bring cohesion and emotion to the whole. When this angle is accounted for, I find I frequently win work for my company (all other things being equal).

Hard to be specific without giving away trade secrets, but methods for engaging emotions that have worked for me include:

1) Immediately placing the learner in a problem situation - right in the thick of the action - give them something to solve and watch their motivation soar
2) Use 'virtual' employees to present content using devices such as conversations and stories
3) Allow learners to contribute to the base content in some way so that they can invest in the learning
4) Add realism - make sure everything is clearly relevant and meaningful
5) Use surprise - e.g. leading learners down the garden path

Anonymous said...

I always try to use some sort of metaphor to stretch the learner's imagination. I tend to be that type of intuitive learner and like lessons that include those sorts of emotionally evocative designs that stretch the imagination and bring the learning to another dimension. This multidimensionality strengthens the level of the learning as well.

I find that the logical reviewers are often resistant to this sort of "out of the box" thinking, preferring the "vanilla" straightforward thinking instead.

Brain-based and accelerated learning theorists would disagree, believing that the more arenas you can involve, the quicker and stronger the learning will be.

Interesting training is memorable training and learning that is captured.