Friday, June 19, 2015

Linear or Non-Linear? Which eLearning Design Approach works well?

There are many studies, blogs and articles available on the internet about linear and non-linear design of eLearning. There are multiple advantages and disadvantages of each approach over the other. In this post, I’m going to talk about the approach I like the most.

I am not a great fan of the next/previous page pedagogical style. Clicking next on a computer gives me a feel of reading an online version of the book. As an Instructional Designer, I feel there is a need to enhance any e-learning environment in which the educator’s pedagogical experience is preset into the design. Generally, I strive towards making the computer based learning content non-linear so that learners can traverse their own path during their independent study. I also tend to use a lot of interactions in the process of making a course interactive.

However, this does not imply that linear courses are not effective and interactive. Linear courses have their own advantages and can be equally engaging for the learners. Some learners have difficulty with lack of structure and perform poorly in a non-linear environment. But practically, not all e-learning courses need to follow a rigid approach. In fact, my favorite approach is the blended approach; I like my learners to experience a blend of both linear and non-linear environments. I like my learners to explore, pull in content, and make decisions.

According to the study conducted on Students’ Preferences, learners’ preferred learning path (linear or non-linear) depends on their personal characteristics such as their age, perceptions on problem solving, teacher or self study preferences, familiarity with the windows based computer applications, gender and preferred way of learning.

You can give your learners a blended learning experience through linear instructions, assessments, clear introduction, guided learning path and non-linear elements such as drill and practice, user friendly navigation and branching scenarios. The key here is to choose which parts of your course content to be presented as linear and which as non-linear, and also making the course interactive. With limited recourses, creating interactive courses can be a challenge. I tend to incorporate ready to use interaction templates that can be customized as per my course needs.

Making a course linear or non-linear depends on various factors such as course objectives, nature of the content/subject matter, project scope, technology infrastructure and target audience. What is your opinion about the blended approach? Which approach do you personally prefer?