Teachers have always had to struggle with differentiation in their classrooms. Knowing that a student level of learning is higher or lower than what you are instructing is important. Understanding how to modify that instruction is crucial to the success of both the student and the teacher. When creating an elearning course, this task can be even more challenging because there is no time or even a mechanism for learning the students level in order to adjust your teaching. To create this capability, you'll need to have a difficulty level adjustment in your course. There are a few different ways this can be done during your elearning course development process. These methods include creating a secondary set of instructions, having the user choose a difficulty level, or by creating a self-adjusting difficulty tool. The easiest method is to create a secondary set of instructions. This would be applicable if the student is learning mainly through reading or writing in which they can adjust accordingly. This is similar to an exercise video that has a modification for those that are not up to doing the full range of an exercise yet. This method can be effective, but requires the student to be motivated enough to push themselves, otherwise there is a risk that they will take the easy route and use the modification whether it is needed or not. The second method is to create a user-selectable difficulty level. This is how many video games adjust the level of play. At the beginning of the course, you would have the student select their own level. To do this properly, you will have to give the student a method of determining what their level is because they may not know, especially if just beginning your course. Once again, there is also the problem of the student choosing a level that is below their actual abilities to make the course easier. The third method for accomplishing this differentiation with your elearning course is automated-adjusting. As with most educational processes, the most effective method is the most challenging to implement. This method requires the course to change based on how the student is progressing. This is similar to how an optometrist would change the settings of the testing equipment to adjust to your eyesight level, based on your reading of the chart. In an elearning course this presents a challenge because it involves thinking of ways to determine this difficulty level without direct involvement with the student. One method to approach this is the draw a mind map and pretend you are creating your own choose-your-adventure game. Start with where you will have your students start, and then create two or three possible outcomes from the student's answer. Then do the same with the next part, and continue throughout the entire course this way. Each outcome levels the coursework to balance it with the student's progression. This automated-adjusting method requires a good deal more work on the instructor's part, but it is far more effective of a strategy and a truer sense of what the student can accomplish than by using the other methods. Also be sure to allow the level to go up even if the level went down earlier, because students may be more familiar with one aspect of your course than another. Give them the chance to keep challenging themselves. Creating custom elearning solutions has challenges that have to be met in different ways than in-person course design, however, with a little diligence and creative thinking these challenges can be met and the outcomes can be extraordinary.
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