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How I designed the Learning Science Bootcamp
A sneak peak into some of my course content + activity, plus four hacks to try in your next course design
As you may know, I design & deliver a cohort based, fully online bootcamp which teaches people how to apply the science of learning to the art of learning design.
A bunch of people have asked how I design and deliver the bootcamp, so in this post I’m going to give you a look behind the scenes at some of the content & activity I’ve created, along with an explanation of how I used the DOMS™️ Framework to make some big design decisions.
The Learning Science Bootcamp Welcome Video
First, check out my bootcamp welcome video (4 mins). As you watch, look out for the two DOMS™️ principles (described below) in action:
DOMS™️ Principle in Action 1: Drive Intrinsic Motivation
There is a proven correlation between teacher presence, group interactions & collaboration and increased student satisfaction & GPA scores (Dziuban & Moskal, 2001).
It’s also proven that learners learn better when they have opportunities to be exposed to different perspectives by working with others (Springer, Stanner & Donovan, 1972).
As a designer, I very deliberately use tools like Loom & MmHmm to (literally) show my face. This increases my presence & support, even if I’m not hosting a sync class.
For sync classes, I use Butter which is all about collaboration rather than a stage for virtual lecturing. I also use community tools like Slack & Discord to provide a space for teacher presence, learner support, peer connection & collaboration. This helps drive motivation, achievement & accountability, even if those interactions are async.
Finally, I use Notion to provide editable workbooks for each learner. This helps to:
🚀 Eliminate friction - I know exactly what I need to do when and how, thanks to my syllabus and automated in-app reminders
🚀 Emphasise action - I have a workspace and a workbook, which communicates that I have jobs to do, not just content to consume
🚀 Drive motivation - I see Phil regularly via Loom videos embedded in my workspace, which builds connection & accountability
DOMS™️ Principle in Action 2: Optimise Outcomes
Course outcomes are most effective when they are learner-centric and action orientated.
Outcomes should be constructed as statements of what the learner will be know and be able to do as a result of some learning experience. They should also include some comment on the why, which relates directly to learner pain and/or aspiration (Mager, 1997; Merriam, 2018).
As a designer, I take time during the discovery phase to understand my learners’ pain & aspirations in detail. This enables me to write & frame outcomes in a way that exposes the relevance and value of the learning experience for learners, which in turn increases their internalised motivation.
In this example, my discovery work revealed that my learners’ primary pain is frustration over low levels of learner motivation, retention & achievement. Their aspiration is to make design decisions which 10X average levels of learner attraction, motivation, retention & achievement. My outcomes & messaging are framed accordingly.
Next, check out my project intro video (3 mins). As you watch, look out for the two DOMS™️ principles (described below) in action:
DOMS™️ Principle in Action 1: Learn, Practice & Assess in Context
Spending less time delivering content & more time setting problems for learners to solve through application is proven to lead to increased motivation, expertise & confidence (Duckworth et al 2011).
Practicing skills in context helps learners remember what they learned when they need to apply it for real - i.e. it supports learning transfer (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000; Collins, Brown & Holum, 1991).
According to Macnamara, Hambrick & Oswald (2014), focused practice followed by meaningful feedback accelerates learning & teaches learners to notice and correct errors on their own, putting them on a path to highly motivated, self-led learning.
As a designer, I dedicate ~80% of the experience to learners getting hands-on and having a go, enabling them to learn through actively doing & reflecting, rather than absorbing & recalling.
In this example, instead of teaching my cohort about DOMS™️ through a series of video or audio lectures, I provide a supported space for them to try DOMS™️ for real. Over the course of three weeks, learners complete three projects (Discovery, Outcomes & Mapping and Storyboarding projects) and leave with a fully-designed course.
In practice, this means learners leave not just with knowledge (I know what DOMS™️ is) but also skills (I have tried & conquered DOMS™️) and the confidence and motivation to apply those skills for real (I know I can do this, because I’ve done it before).
DOMS™️ Principle in Action 2: Manage Cognitive Load
Our working memories have a limited capacity. Most people can keep only five to nine pieces of information in working memory before hitting overload and disengaging (Miller, 1956). As such, it is important to manage the sheer amount of information that we convey to learners in any given learning experience.
As a designer, I use the Minimal Viable Content Framework to manage leaners’ cognitive load and create optimal conditions for motivation & mastery.
This means that only ~10% of the bootcamp is content. Importantly, this content functions as a problem or prompt, rather than an information dump; it gives learners foundational information on core concepts & skills (the what) and relates these to the outcomes (the learners’ why) before setting them up to apply it in real or close-to-real conditions (the how).
In this example, I avoid the temptation to create a series of long lectures on what DOMS™️ is, the underlying evidence base etc, followed by knowledge checks (quizzes).
Instead, I create a small amount of prompt content which sets learners up to tackle real problems, e.g. complete your discovery & write your landing page; write and sequence your outcomes.
This enables learners to learn “in the flow of work”, accessing the resources they need when they need them and learning through actively doing, not listening.
In practice, learners leave with the skills & confidence they need to apply DOMS™️ in real life, rather than a short term ability to recall key features of DOMS™️ in theory.
I’d love to hear what difference it might make to apply these principles to your course designs - let me know your thoughts, challenges & questions in the comments below!
Happy designing! 👋
Do you want to learn more about the science of great learning design? Apply to join the Learning Science Bootcamp and work through an end-to-end design process with me and a cohort of people like you.
The next cohort kicks off on September 19th & applications are open now - come and join us on a design adventure!
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