Moving beyond point, click, repeat.
Students are presented with a clear connection between the activities they are doing and the concepts behind them.
When learning how to use computer programs, most of today’s learning solutions focus on a series of steps:
point here. click here. repeat.
So what’s wrong with that? The problem is that while step-by-step instructions are important, how to do something has become completely detached from the concepts behind the activities. The why is getting lost, so students don’t understand how the clicks they’re performing relate to what they’ll do in their jobs.
What if, when a learner is presented with a new concept, they’re immediately prompted to consider how this will be used in a real job?
For example, take a look at how we present the concept Delivering a PowerPoint Slideshow:
The student is prompted to think about themselves, at a real job, standing in front of an audience. Sweaty palms ensue.
Do you think this might get their attention?
The next thing we do is present the detailed instructions they need to complete the activity:
This learn, then do method greatly enhances student engagement, depth of understanding, and learning retention.
Building to mastery.
Repetition with increasing independence. Students work each activity several times, with less guidance each time it's performed.
If you were asked to bake a cake, following a detailed recipe, you would probably end up with something edible, if not delicious (hopefully). If you then had to bake the cake again, but had just a rough outline of the recipe, you’d have to think a bit harder about how to achieve that warm, fluffy goodness. If you finally had to bake that same cake with just the ingredients list, it could prove a challenge, but in striving to get there, you would learn and retain what you needed to become a cake-making pro.
What if we could apply this same method to teaching important computing skills?
For example, look at the different ways we ask students to insert a table in Microsoft Word.
1. The detailed recipe
2. The rough outline
3. Just the ingredients
As they perform the same functions, each time with more independence, students find they need to really think through what they’re doing and how to achieve the correct outcome. It’s through this guided struggle that students really absorb and retain critical skills.
Keeping it clear.
Students can easily absorb material and instruction that’s presented in a clear and concise manner without distracting elements.
So many learning materials go astray trying to combine learning and activities within the same diagrams. It just results in messy pages that make our heads spin.
What if you had a design that was so clear that students could comprehend it the first time they read it, without any additional guidance? Would it result in fewer hands raised? Fewer late-night emails with multipart questions about what the book is asking?
For example, consider this diagram that outlines the elements in a QuickBooks panel:
What’s special here? Perhaps it’s more about what we’ve chosen to omit than what we’ve included. We’ve used one image for one concept. We’ve cropped way in to show only the panel; there’s nothing extraneous. And we haven’t crammed the image with wordy callouts that cover important parts of the panel itself.
Of course, clear, logical copy is equally important. There are no unnecessary words in our solutions, and there are no trick questions in our assessments.
This profound clarity is the reason why so many instructors use our materials in online, open-entry, and self-guided courses; students can follow the material without excessive handholding.
Because let’s be real – nobody likes clammy hands.
Putting it all together.
Combining all of these elements together in a single solution results in a learning powerhouse that fuels independence, critical thinking, and retention of key skills.
See more of our special sauce in action by accessing sample chapters or full-book PDF files, or requesting an ebook/print review copy.