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Reviewing Lessons

Checking over your work is important. Whether you’re writing a really important email to a colleague, a presentation that all your managers will see, or a lesson going out to every employee, taking the time to go over what you’ve done helps make sure that you aren’t making mistakes that could be easily rectified, elevating your work to the best it can be.

There are a number of different approaches you can take towards reviewing your work. While simply running through the lesson once on your device will help catch basic mistakes, at Ed we have cultivated a method of reviewing that we think works particularly well with our platform, and helps move towards top quality microlessons that achieve the results you want in your employees.

This process can apply to both reviewing your own lessons, and can provide a template for others (e.g. subject matter experts) who are also helping perfect your content.

To help provide clarity, in this article we will show you how we applied this process to an example Ed lesson – one which doesn’t quite hit the mark. The lesson (accessible here), is part of a course on health and safety in the workplace. Its objective was to get employees to use recommended practices for lifting large objects. Feel free to skip these sections if you just want to read about the methodology.

Reviewing Ed Lessons

For the easiest review experience, we recommend logging into the Ed Desktop app, and using an account with the reviewer permission to access your content. This way, you can easily tab into whichever document you are using to collate your feedback. Once you have the content in front of you, you can begin the process.

Step 1: Experience the lesson in its entirety once, without interruption.

The first step to reviewing an Ed lesson is to run through it completely once, without pausing to provide feedback. This provides a great ‘pure’ experience of the lesson. Awareness of factors such as how well the lesson flows, what content you struggled with and what you didn’t, and where information was hard to understand is crucial to accurately assessing how successfully a lesson will build a good narrative that helps progress the learner towards understanding key concepts.

If you haven’t yet – take a run through the lesson we will be reviewing in this article. Remember – its learning objective is to get employees to use recommended practices for lifting large objects.

Step 2: List out your key takeaways from each slide

At this point, you want to get a good overview of what’s been included in the lesson. To do this, we create a numbered list of each slide, with our understanding of what it is trying to convey. This doesn’t need to be too in depth or ‘professional’, a nice draft summary will do nicely here.

This not only gives you a nice shorthand to refer to slides when giving feedback, but also helps identify any areas where your lesson’s content does not help move your learner towards the key learning objective. Remember – we have to be efficient and succinct in microlessons. Your learners’ time is a valuable resource, and if content isn’t directly beneficial, then it’s detrimental, and should be removed.

Restart the lesson, and begin creating your list. For content templates, try to keep to around 1 sentence per slide, with a short summary of what the learner is supposed to gain from this slide. If the slide has unique sections (e.g. Image Gallery, Image Collection or Expandable List), it may be appropriate to create a sub-list for each of these sections.

For interactive templates, pre-append list items with “Reinforce:” and then input your summary of what information is being reinforced on this template. It may be that extra information is included in the slide’s takeaway, in which case you should create a sub-point appended with “TA:”, and summarise what the learner is being told here.

For game templates, pre-append the slide with “Game:”, before identifying the topic that the game is reinforcing.

Returning to our example content review, we generated the following list:

  1. Intro: You can really hurt your back if you lift badly
    1b. Here are the 7 steps to executing a lift, with details on each step.
  2. Reinforce: Before lifting you need to know where equipment is laid out, where you’re setting the object down and how big and heavy the object is
  3. Reinforce: You need to know how heavy an object is before it is lifted
  4. Reinforce: Only one person should give orders in a team lift.
  5. Game: The steps for executing a safe lift.
  6. Exit

At this point, we move to the next step in reviewing content.

Step 3: Provide top-level feedback on the lesson

Before giving detailed per-slide lesson feedback, you should look at three top-level aspects: Success, Structure and Succinctness.

Looking at success, you need to think about why you are creating this lesson, and whether the content you’ve written will move you towards achieving this goal. What action do you want your learners to take after completing your content, and will the information you have provided get them to do that?

This requires you to really get in the mind of your learner. While a “True or False” question getting the learner to agree that they “Are required to follow compliance procedures” may reinforce that the position of the company is ‘you need to follow the rules’, but will experiencing this interactive reinforcement actually help move learners towards enthusiastically agreeing to display this behaviour?

Looking at a lesson from the point of view of a learner, particularly in lessons where we aren’t just imparting information, but also encouraging behaviour change, is important for generating successful results from your elearning (and if we aren’t all about that, what are we even doing here). The most successful lessons will reinforce the benefits conferred to the learner when they understand and agree with what you are telling them.

Analysing the structure of a microlesson (i.e. how it flows) can be difficult, but it’s important to ensure that concepts are presented in an order that makes sense. Will the learner arrive on the final slide of the lesson being able to fully understand the concepts you were trying to impart?

Perhaps it’s the case that information is delivered too early on slide (2) of the lesson, and instead would work better once the learner understands the concepts reinforced on slides (3) and (4). Or perhaps the lesson skips information crucial to understanding content has been skipped, and should be introduced after (2), before moving on to (3).

Finally a lesson’s succinctness is similar in spirit to structure. Is everything helping to the learning objective? Is there content which is related to another topic, and should be delivered in its own microlesson? Look at the lesson from the point of view of saving your learners’ time – if it’s superfluous, it should be removed, or replaced with something more useful.

To sum up, a lesson should be reviewed at a top level in each of the following aspects:
Success: How likely it is you will achieve the behavioural change you want from your lesson.
Structure: How understandable and memorable the content is based on the makeup of your lesson.
Succinct: Whether all content included in your lesson directly moves the learner towards achieving the learning objective.

If you are unsure of which ‘category’ your top-level feedback would go into, don’t worry – just include it anyway. It’s much more important to actually get your feedback than to get it nicely compartmentalised.

Returning to our example content review, we can see that there are failures in all three areas. The following feedback was generated, building upon the outline generated in Step 2.

Success
We introduce the idea that ‘bad lifting causes back pain’ in slide 1, but do not touch upon this motivator again throughout the lesson. We then use interactive templates to order the learner to follow the rules (“Do not attempt a lift unless …”), but offer no other reasons as to why they need to use this strategy to lift objects.

While it would be nice to believe that a quick health warning would be enough to get our learners to enthusiastically agree that they need to follow our instructions here, experience tells us this is not the case. We could help motivate our learners by properly explaining them on why these steps help prevent back injury – if they are better educated on what actually goes on in the back when lifting, they might be more likely to agree that our way is better.

Structure
In (1), we spend 7 sections of the Image Gallery detailing each step of how to lift an item, each with their own description to memorise. Presenting all this information at once makes it hard to remember, and this is exacerbated by the fact that interactive reinforcement in this lesson is spent on reinforcing other information related to lifting. While the game in (5) relates to the ‘7 Steps of a Lift’, this only reinforces the actual steps, and not the ‘theory’ behind them (and we can be confident that our workers already know that they lift the box up before they set it down – which is what this game boils down to).

We would do better to break up the information about lifting over different content templates, and replace the game with some interactive templates which reinforce the detailed information which is presented.

Succinctness
Slide (3) reinforces information already covered in slide (2). Slide (3) should be replaced with another interactive template which reinforces other information about lifting.

Step 4: Provide per-slide feedback

The final step of a review is providing feedback per-slide – identifying changes which can improve the quality of the lesson. These could range from simple typo fixes, to larger alterations to the configuration of the slide. Best practice in this case is to slimply provide the slide numbers in a list, and provide your suggested changes.

You don’t need to address slides that you know will be changing based on your feedback in Step 3, but it still may be helpful to say “You made this mistake, it’s a good idea not to do that in future lessons”.

Looking at our example content review, we would provide feedback as follows:
(1), (3) and (5) were covered in Step 3, so won’t be touched upon here.

(2) All of the Above style questions are not too effective at reinforcing content, particularly when presented in conjunction with a timer. 90% of All of the Above questions are correctly answered with “All of the above”, and therefore aren’t challenging enough to make the learner really think about, engage with, and remember, the content. Furthermore, learners who are against the clock will naturally lean towards selecting “All of the above” without reading the options available, because they don’t want to ‘lose’ to the timer. Suggest removing the timer, and/or re-configuring the template so it is a Select X correct answers style question (with added incorrect answers).

Slide (4) works well for introducing a new concept with an interactive template, asking learners to apply themselves to figure out the correct answer. It could be improved with richer information in the takeaway (Why is it important that only 1 person gives instructions during a lift?).

Step 5: Say something nice

Our poor instructional designer has had their work put through the wringer, and may be feeling a little sensitive or defensive. It’s nice to remember to always say something positive about their work, so that they don’t feel disheartened or sad about continuing to improve it. Check over your content (particularly in the per-slide feedback area), and make sure that you have also talked about what you like, alongside what needs changing.

In the context of our example content review, we could say:

But, yeah, good job though.

Summary

To sum, we recommend taking the following steps when reviewing your, or other people’s, work in the Ed authoring tool.

  1. Experience the lesson in its entirity once, without interruption.
  2. List out your key takeaways from each slide.
  3. Provide top-level feedback on the lesson.
    3.1. Look at how successful you think the lesson will be.
    3.2. Review the lesson’s structure.
    3.3. Make sure the lesson is as succinct as it can be.
  4. Provide per-slide feedback.
  5. Say something nice.

Below, we also have collated the feedback provided for the example lesson, so that you can see how it would look all together.


Lesson: Safe Lifting

  1. Intro: You can really hurt your back if you lift badly
    1b. Here are the 7 steps to executing a lift, with details on each step.
  2. Reinforce: Before lifting you need to know where equipment is laid out, where you’re setting the object down and how big and heavy the object is
  3. Reinforce: You need to know how heavy an object is before it is lifted
  4. Reinforce: Only one person should give orders in a team lift.
  5. Game: The steps for executing a safe lift.
  6. Exit

Success
We introduce the idea that ‘bad lifting causes back pain’ in slide 1, but do not touch upon this motivator again throughout the lesson. We then use interactive templates to order the learner to follow the rules (“Do not attempt a lift unless …”), but offer no other reasons as to why they need to use this strategy to lift objects.

While it would be nice to believe that a quick health warning would be enough to get our learners to enthusiastically agree that they need to follow our instructions here, experience tells us this is not the case. We could help motivate our learners by properly explaining them on why these steps help prevent back injury – if they are better educated on what actually goes on in the back when lifting, they might be more likely to agree that our way is better.

Structure
In (1), we spend 7 sections of the Image Gallery detailing each step of how to lift an item, each with their own description to memorise. Presenting all this information at once makes it hard to remember, and this is exacerbated by the fact that interactive reinforcement in this lesson is spent on reinforcing other information related to lifting. While the game in (5) relates to the ‘7 Steps of a Lift’, this only reinforces the actual steps, and not the ‘theory’ behind them (and we can be confident that our workers already know that they lift the box up before they set it down – which is what this game boils down to).

We would do better to break up the information about lifting over different content templates, and replace the game with some interactive templates which reinforce the detailed information which is presented.

Succinctness
Slide (3) reinforces information already covered in slide (2). Slide (3) should be replaced with another interactive template which reinforces other information about lifting.

Per-slide feedback
(2) All of the Above style questions are not too effective at reinforcing content, particularly when presented in conjunction with a timer. 90% of All of the Above questions are correctly answered with “All of the above”, and therefore aren’t challenging enough to make the learner really think about, engage with, and remember, the content. Furthermore, learners who are against the clock will naturally lean towards selecting “All of the above” without reading the options available, because they don’t want to ‘lose’ to the timer. Suggest removing the timer, and/or re-configuring the template so it is a Select X correct answers style question (with added incorrect answers).

Slide (4) works well for introducing a new concept with an interactive template, asking learners to apply themselves to figure out the correct answer. It could be improved with richer information in the takeaway (Why is it important that only 1 person gives instructions during a lift?).

But, yeah, good job though.


Have any feedback? Let us know on hello@edapp.com, and we’ll be sure to help you out.

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