More Inductive or Deductive eLearning?

After reading the book_ eLearning and Science of Instructional Design_ for the second time, and listening to Ruth Calvin Clark’s interview on scenario-based learning, I reflected on the courses we create and realized they mostly take deductive/instructive approach.

The majority of courses follow the deductive approach by providing information, followed by examples where necessary, then quizzes, and some activities. The amount of information given to the learners varies depending on the complexity of subjects. I’ve been wondering if we have to follow this sequence across all courses simply because they are eLearning. You might think, we have the liberty of designing non-linear courses, so the learners can select the section they want. I’ve seen some examples of this model for trainings but not at university level. I have to admit, I myself prefer deductive learning when I’m doing an online course as a learner. I need the information first, then would practice/do activities to apply my knowledge. Even in Coursera courses, I follow this sequence; first the video lectures, then the readings, discussion forums, and lastly the assignments.

Learners are hardly directed towards a more inductive approach which allows them to synthesize their ideas on their own. How can we design courses which are more inductive then?

Can some of the learning designs take a different approach by starting with activities or questions then present the content where necessary? This can be coupled with the social interaction or note taking embedded in the course and allowing the students to share their thoughts with each other directly from the course rather than signing into the online forum on LMS.

Sometimes inductive instruction can move further toward discovery learning by not providing sufficient information which might cause more confusion in learners. It is essential that information (content) and proper guideline be provided in courses with inductive approach in their designs.

Inductive approach can be much easier in a conventional class, since a teacher can always change her/his teaching strategy depending on the students’ level and understanding. Now that I look back, during my teaching period, I used more inductive than deductive approach, but at times I opted for the latter if my class struggled.

The same approach can be used for eLearning courses by giving the option to the students to choose how they want to learn. You can include an agent who introduces them to these options (If you are new to this topic, you can go through the information first) & (If you are familiar with this topic, you can skip read the examples and do the activities). This will help make the course more personalized too. Giving the option of selecting how to process information is what leads to self-directed and independent learning.

Another essential component to be added during the activities and quizzes is the feedback loophole. I don’t think giving feedback such as Correct and Incorrect is sufficient. Adding explanatory feedback and allowing the learners to retry them multiple times can substantially improve their learning retention.

Inductive Interface.001

To recap, here are some steps I recommend to make the content more inductive:

  • Start with clear guideline on how to use the course and what those options mean. It’s important that the learners know they can refer to the content any time they feel they need to.
  • Include questions to trigger their attention
  • Include examples and real life instances that can also capture their attention
  • Include essential information/content for learners to refer to at any point of the course
  • Provide real time feedback which helps learners identify their progress or errors
  • Provide a Note feature so that they can take down the key points and reflect on their learning
  • Provide social interaction within the course by allowing the learners to communicate with each other wherever they feel they need

In the end, I believe we need to shift our focus on helping learners retain and use the acquired knowledge in the most effective way.

I’d like to share these two great reads by Connie Malamad, which I’d shared on my Twitter some time ago:


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