power of pre-training principle-08

There’s nothing quite like driving on a freshly paved road. The car seems to glide across the new asphalt like a speedboat across a glassy lake. But the moment you turn off the paved road, you know you’re in for a bumpy ride. As you rumble over large rocks, tree roots, and the bones of previous travelers, you begin to wonder how anyone ever got anywhere in the days before pavement.

In eLearning, it works much the same way. With no preparation and no foreknowledge of a subject, making any sort of headway comes at the cost of great amounts of time and energy. But simple things can be done to pave the road for later learning.

Richard E. Mayer’s pre-training principle dictates that knowing the names and attributes of the core concepts beforehand allows for a smoother eLearning experience. Before jumping into a completely new topic, it helps if you’ve got at least a basic understanding of the key terms and facts.

Imagine you went to work at a retail store, and on the first day you were hit with this phrase:

“Back-end associates should keep proper lockout-tagout protocol in mind when repairing a malfunctioning baler.”

What now? If you’ve never worked in retail before, that might have sounded like gibberish. But look how much sense it makes when you keep in mind the following definitions

Back-end: The parts of the store that a customer will rarely see.

Associate: An employee.

Lockout-tagout: A safety procedure to ensure that dangerous machinery is turned off and cannot be turned back on until the employee repairing the machinery is a safe distance from the machinery.

Baler: A machine used to compact and bundle cardboard waste to make transportation to recycling facilities easier.

With these definitions fresh on the mind, the once incomprehensible sentence has become a relatively simple concept. Had you approached the sentence with that knowledge, it might have felt like a peaceful Sunday drive instead of an off-road expedition through the wilderness.

That’s why pre-training is important. With a little preparation, even the most complex concepts can be made accessible to the lay-man.


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