Photo by Adrian Curiel on Unsplash

In this episode, we return to our Instructional Design 101 series, where we informally cover key concepts from the instructional design world and apply them to customer education.

In previous episodes, we’ve covered frameworks like the Kirkpatrick Model of Evaluation, which helps you measure the effectiveness of your course, and Bloom’s Taxonomy, which helps you define what types of knowledge or skills you’re actually teaching and how you’d expect the learner to put them into practice.

But neither of these models answer a key question we hear from Customer Education professionals every day: how should I think about structuring my course?

Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction, based on the research of Robert Gagné, provides a roadmap for how to sequence a course to make it meaningful, engaging, and instructionally sound. Some instructional designers use it as a template to sequence courses, even if they deviate from it as needed.

What are the nine events of instruction? In this episode we walk through each of them and how they’re used in Customer Education:

  1. Gain attention: You won’t have an engaged learner if you never get their attention. This step involves making sure the learning is relevant and thought-provoking to your learners, and defining the “what’s in it for me” of it all.
  2. Learning objectives: This is where you let your learners know what they’ll actually be learning, and what they should be able to do by the end of the course. These are often overlooked or shortcutted, but as a designer they provide opportunity for you to really define what you want your learners to be able to do, and thus, why they should be taking the course.
  3. Recall prior learning: No one comes into your learning as a completely blank slate, so you can tie your courses to previous knowledge, skills, and experiences that your learners have had – whether it’s about your product, or other relevant skills or situations.
  4. Present the content: You can do this through many modalities, like video, text, or rapid development e-learning platforms.
  5. Provide guidance: As you present the content, you want to supplement it with techniques and guides that help the learner actually learn – like mnemonic devices, pro tips, case studies, reflection questions, and so on. Typically you’ll do this alongside the content itself.
  6. Elicit performance: This is where you actually ask the learner to show what they know! This could be a practice activity, a knowledge check, a simulation, or any way to get the learner to reinforce what they’ve learned. You may hear this called a “formative assessment.”
  7. Provide feedback: As you test learners’ skills, it’s good to provide feedback that evaluates what they did – reinforce what they got right, correct what they got wrong, and provide them tools to reflect on how to go further.
  8. Assess performance: By the end of the course, you want to actually provide some assessment. This could be a post-test, a final knowledge check, a certification exam, or some other sort of capstone activity. Essentially this measures whether the learner achieved the learning outcomes.
  9. Retention and transfer: Your courses might be great, but they won’t really do their job unless people take the skills they taught and use them in their jobs. The more you can do to provide clear calls to action, reinforcement, and ways to extend the learning past the course itself, the more effective you will be.

In a way, you can think of this sequence as a “cheat code” for course development. It’s a structure that helps you think through the elements of a course. But what about short courses and microlearning? Customer Education is often produced in bite-sized snippets. In the episode, we even address how you can build microlearning that incorporates reduced versions of these elements. Give it a listen to find out more, and let us know what other instructional design concepts you’d like to hear about!

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