Creating Meaning in Content Development

Creating Meaning in Content Development
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    Feeling like our learning is worthwhile is a fundamental human desire. If learning or work feels meaningless, it can lead to fatigue, burnout, and even unprofessionalism in the workplace. 

    Despite its immense importance, the connection between deep meaning and learning is rarely incorporated into content development planning strategies and as a result, many learners are left feeling unengaged and uninspired.

    This article will help you explore what meaning looks like in content development, how it connects to personalized and emotion-driven learning, and why it is something that learners must ultimately create for themselves.

    Meaning and Personalized Learning Strategies

    Meaning is Personal: A recent study by MIT interviewed 135 people working in 10 diverse occupations and asked them to share their experiences about times when they found their work to be meaningful. 

    At first, scientists expected employees to find meaning in a strictly work-related sense, such as project engagement or commitment to a job. They also expected meaning to be a set state of mind that people had towards their work.

    What they found, however, was very different from what they had expected. At the end of the study, scientists discovered that meaningfulness was:

    • Intensely personal 
    • Linked to family, friends, and greater society
    • Often something that arises unexpectedly in a variety of situations

    So what does this mean for content developers looking to make their courses meaningful for learners? 

    Finding vs. Creating: Every content developer wants to make their courses relevant and meaningful for their learners. Meaning, however,  is not something learners can “find” within a course. 

    Meaning isn’t a single graphic, or a video, or a box of text. It can’t be pre-packaged and ready for a learner to locate in a specific element of a course. Meaning lies in the hands of the learner, and is something that they create for themselves over time. 

    Learning Services That Let You Create

    Emotionally-driven Learning: As demonstrated in the MIT study, human emotion and meaning go hand in hand. Award-winning psychologist and learning expert Mary Helen Immordino-Yang stated in her article Emotion, Sociality, and the Brain’s Default Mode Network: Insights for Educational Practice and Policy

    “It is literally neurobiologically impossible to build memories, engage complex thoughts, or make meaningful decisions without emotions” 

    Here are some critical subsets of emotion that help learners find intrinsic meaning and value from a course:

    • Self-awareness: The ability to recognize and understand one’s own emotions, strengths, and weaknesses is important when learning. Self-awareness encourages reflection and ultimately helps learners ask better questions. 
    • Self-motivation: In eLearning, a strong sense of self-motivation for the learner means that they can generate positive feelings such as enthusiasm, tenacity, and persistence while engaging with a course. 
    • Self Confidence: If learners aren’t confident in their abilities, they will be held back by self-doubt and will not be able to progress through the course. This is why it is important to keep learners encouraged from start to finish. 

    For meaning to have long-lasting relevance for a learner, they have to consciously pursue and create it for themselves. By focusing on the learner’s emotions and goals, they’ll become involved in their experience and in turn, create meaning for themselves. 

    Content Creation For The Real World

    While meaning won’t magically appear even in the most well-designed course, you can still make content that sparks emotion and encourages learners to create meaning. Here are three critical elements to incorporate into your user-centric design strategy:

    • Real-World Stories: We only think deeply about the things we truly care about.  Interesting and compelling stories have the power to make the learner feel emotionally invested. Real-world examples allow us to see how subject matter relates to their personal and professional experiences. 
    • Powerful Visuals: Fonts, composition, and even colors have a direct impact on the emotional engagement of learners. While creating a design strategy, think about the emotions the course images might trigger for the learner, and what kinds of colors and shades you are using to convey information. 
    • Optimism: Boost the learner’s optimism and confidence by allowing them to try again when taking assessments and learning from their mistakes. This will help learners identify their strengths and weaknesses more effectively and inspire them to keep giving their best effort even if they are struggling.  

    Learning Philosophies That Stick

    Modern learners want to be guided rather than commanded in the learning process. When a learner is guided with respect and attention to their personal needs, they become self-motivated, confident, and encouraged to create meaning out of the content before them.

    By allowing learners to access their emotions and create their meaning, you will be on your way to making them more invested in their educational journey, and as a result, more likely to retain information and stay engaged. Share your thoughts and experiences with us here at WeLearn, because together, we can create a world of meaning for learners and content developers alike.

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