I recently completed the first mindset module in Skillagents, which identifies several problems with content-based courses. Content-based courses are traditional courses where an all-knowing educator spews knowledge of a topic that they know quite a bit about with the hope that learners will be able to regurgitate it back to them at a later date.
The first problem is that with advent of the internet the content is everywhere, free, and its legitimacy is improving. For example universities like MIT are providing lectures and full courses for free digitally. That is tough competition, and learners are going to question why they need to pay X amount of dollars to hear you lecture when they can find comparable or better content in minutes on their phone.
The second problem with content-based courses or just content itself, is that there is no context. Real world context allows learners to absorb, retain, and apply new knowledge. Just think back to any of your previous lessons in education. A great deal of content has been lost, I am sure, because the necessary connections between information and application were not strong enough in the first place or regularly repeated in meaningful ways.
The final problem with content-based courses is that they are not individualized. Generally, a one-size fits all mentality is used to ensure that learners with less experience in a certain topic are not left behind. The assumption that all learners are at a certain level, stifles motivation and opportunity for learners to engage with the content.
Content-based courses are everywhere, and they are hard to kill. I have experienced my share of content-based courses, and admittedly taught several content-based courses. The reason that these types of courses continue to persist is that the alternative takes time. To address the problems mentioned above, and create courses that are individualized, and which provide opportunities for real-world application takes time and skills. Time and skills that many educators or subject matter experts don’t have. Therefore it is the role of a quality instructional designer to guide those with valuable content in creating a course where the value of the course is understood to the learner throughout the course. This idea of value is one of the keys to a course’s success, and is achieved by creating a lifelong effect on the learner through the meaningful real-world application of lessons learned.