Creative people have more fun. They come up with new ideas and with new ways of doing things; they are often willing to take more risks. They are the artists, the writers, the researchers, the social changers, and the inventors. They are that “crazy” relative who always enjoys life so much. Students today are not given enough opportunities to be creative – there is just too much “stuff” to learn. And when they decide to take an e-Learning course, the opportunities are usually reduced more. It doesn’t have to be this way.
E-Learning can encourage and support creativity just as any classroom teacher can, even when the course content may be rather dry and mundane. If you are developing an e-Learning course, try some of these seven ways to tap into your learners’ creativity. If you do, the course will be far more engaging for them and for you too.
1. Build in a Lot of Discussion
Start thinking of creativity as a skill, not just “fluff” to add some fun to a course. Plan for a lot of discussion that revolves around open-ended questions. What if the South had won the Civil War? What 20th century invention do you think had the greatest impact on society? Where do you think technology will take us next? What if it is true that all of matter can be reduced to pure energy? What type of research might physicists engage in if this is true? It will be during these kinds of discussions that creative ideas will flow, and one creative idea will spark another. Develop some open-ended questions for your course content and give your learners the chance to think outside the box.
2. Find Ways to Introduce Story-Telling/Writing into Your Course
No matter what the course content, there are problems to be solved, even in math. Have students create stories that come up with a unique solution to a problem. Not only will you engage their right brains and give them good practice in problem-solving skills, they will continue to improve their development of effective written communication skills.
3. Place Students in the Role of Teacher
Divide up a unit of study into several smaller instructional units. Either as individuals or with partners or groups, have students design visual learning materials to deliver the instruction. These can be sides, infographics, timelines, videos, etc. Any time that students are creating visuals, they are engaging their creative thought processes. The added benefit of this activity is that in preparing their presentations, students will “cement” their learning.
4. Be More Project Oriented
Plan projects for every unit of instruction, and allow students to determine the specifics of what they will do. If, for example, the course is an introductory economics one, students can be asked to create a project that demonstrates the difference between capitalism and socialism. They might come up with a game; they might write two short stories of characters living under each of these systems.
5. Create Scenarios with Problems to Be Solved
A scenario is presented. It might be for a business course. A company is failing. Provide all of the details of the company’s operations and problems. Have students come up with as many different solutions as possible for what ails the organization. For every unique solution (one that no one else had), extra credit points may be given, or the student gets to skip a future assignment. Rewards for creative thought are appropriate and motivational.
6. Create Problem-Solving Projects that Provide Emotional Connections
Take a current event or circumstance that poses a major problem locally, nationally, or internationally. Once such event might be the current lead poisoning crisis with the water supply in Flint, Michigan. After reading about it, seeing videos about it, and listening to governmental leaders at all levels discuss it, this problem can be approached from many different angles in a variety of courses. A special education course might ask students to determine how to best meet the needs of the children who may suffer mental disabilities as a result of lead poisoning; a political science or law course might look at liability or options for mobilizing a team to solve the problem. A chemistry course might ask students to come up with options for cleaning out the corroded water pipes.
7. Choose Assessments that Foster Critical Thinking and Creativity
Rather than develop the typical multiple-choice question text, present several questions and/or issues related to the course content. Students must choose one or two and write blog posts, posing unique answers or solutions, based upon the content knowledge they possess.
E-Learning courses should not be dry and dull. Unfortunately, many that are developed today are. Developers/instructors of such courses are operating with the mistaken impression that an e-Learning student is a practical individual who simply wants to be told what to learn and how to learn it. This may have been true years ago when the first correspondence courses were developed, but today’s e-Learner is different. S/he needs to be engaged and motivated. The only way to achieve that is to provide learning activities that stretch the imagination, foster thinking outside the box, insist upon creative problem-solving, and allow lots of options for students.
Julie Ellis – educator and social media expert from Miami, FL. As Seth Godin states, “The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing,”