Thursday, April 2, 2009

How to tackle a demotivated learner?

A demotivated learner is any IDs nightmare. Don't we love it when learners are highly motivated, thirsty for knowledge, and realize the 'what is in it for me' even before the course begins?

Symptoms of a demotivated learner:
  • During interviews, they frown over the concept that you are going to teach.
  • They do not appreciate the fact that HAVE to take the course. (I can't blame them.)
  • They try to convince you that they know everything they need to about the concept (you know otherwise through research).
  • They tell you that this course is not going to be useful for them as this concept will not help hone their core skill.
  • They are against the mode of delivery (elearning, ILT, or plain training) because of bad experience in the past.
The situation is very, very dangerous if you spot all the five symptoms in your learner profile. How do you tackle a demotivated learner? Find answers for the following:
  1. What can I do to ensure that the learner takes the concept seriously? How can I make it interesting for them?
  2. How can I show them that they do not know everything they need to know about the concept?
  3. How can I show them that this concept if mastered is going to help them work better?
  4. How can I change their bias against the mode of delivery?
To answer all these questions, I would first recommend that you have a nice long chat with your SME. This is important because my suggestions are going to require the SME's approval.

Suggestion 1: Challenge the learner
The learner thinks he/she knows all there is to know about the concept. Well, challenge him/her then. Design a very hands on course. The intention is to make the learner perform tasks designed keeping the theories of the concepts in mind. We want the learner to realize for themselves, 'Oh! I did not know that' or 'This is probably more effective than how I have been going about it'.

Suggestion 2: Do not bore them with theory
Please do not tell the learner blah blah blah. You will lose the learner even before the end of the screen. They do not want to hear the theory. Stick to pure application. It is definitely easier to describe a theory. Try teaching a theory with absolutely no words. Use tasks and examples. This is incredibly challenging for the ID and SME. But, trust me, the experience is absolutely worth it.

Suggestion 3: Ensure that your course is visual
This learner profile is not going to read anything more than two lines. Avoid content. Make it visual by displaying images/animations of examples. I avoid content heavy screens by using a bigger fonts. Try it sometime.

Suggestion 4: Encourage social learning
Introduce videos from YouTube, share blog links, create or encourage learners to join discussion forums. Do all that you have to and bring them in contact with other people. Encourage them to share their ideas with peers and experts. I do not have to stress the important of social learning.

Suggestion 5: Design challenging knowledge checks
Design the tasks keeping in mind the learner's reality. Make them curious about things. Ensure you grab their attention. Ensure that the answers are not obvious. Design assignment that have no correct answers. Encourage them to post reports or assignments on blogs/forums. Allow them to discuss their ideas and answers with others.

These are my list of suggestions. If you think there are other suggestions that help tackle a demotivated learner, please share them.


Rupa Rajagopalan said...

Hi Archana,

Good stuff!

I also think information overload is likely to demotivate learners.

So it is important to carefully select the information you want to give your learners.

Also I think that using examples, visuals, videos and interactivity just for the sake of it has a bad impact on the learner.

Learners get motivated when there is real value to taking up the course :)


Archana Narayan said...

Thanks Rupa :) Cognitive overload is something that should be avoided regardless of whether the learner is motivated or not. Even a highly motivated learner is likely to lose motivation if there is an information overload. Thanks for pointing this out!

I completely agree that using any strategy/examples/visuals because an ID thinks is cool is bound to effect the learning experience. Instead it should be used wisely to increase the motivational levels of the learner. The learning can see the real value when they can relate to the examples/scenarios. Keeping it real is the key.

Viswanath said...

if,can you give me an example of E-learning with Social networks implemented..

ros aini said...

Hi Archana,

Online learning environment can demotivate online learners.What do you think the aspects that contribute to this matter?

Thank you,
ros aini

Archana Narayan said...

Viswanath: If you had a course on graphic design, you can provide links to popular blogs and provide weblinks that take the learner to a posts that gives more information on a particular topic. You can also share good,relevant videos from YouTube on a topic.

You can have design exercises (with no right or wrong answers) and ask the learners to share it with their peers either through blogs, wikis, or discussion forums.

Archana Narayan said...

A really interesting question, Ros Aini. I this demands a separate blog post. I will blog this soon. Do come back! :)