Besides the realization that working a full-time job meant that 3-month long summer vacations were no longer a given, the great shock of my post-collegiate years was finding out that my wife was pregnant with our daughter. It was planned, but still, the life of a helpless human was about to be at least 50% my responsibility. I looked down at my mismatched socks and thought, You're in too deep this time, buddy. You don't know anything about parenting... But luckily, I recalled a bit of timeless wisdom: Everything is relative, Leonard. And you know a bit about e-learning, so...naturally, you know a bit about parenting. Was it a stretch? Absolutely, but I surfed that wave anyway, and the more I considered it, the more parallels emerged.
Distill them down, and parenting and e-learning have the same goals: to properly shape a person's behavior and help them understand how to thrive in a particular world. And hopefully, those ends can be met in a pleasant and engaging manner, so the person doesn't hate you afterwards. Of course, there are differences. But the similarities! Those are way more fun. So here are a few elements of e-learning that I realized had parallels to parenting and have since leveraged during my humbling attempt to raise a respectable mini-person.
Course Design, a.k.a Prepping Your Home
A course's design is one of the first things learners will notice, and this can set the tone for the entire experience. The design should engage and inspire learners from the start, and, when done properly, it can help them understand and navigate the new world with relative ease. Same thing goes with preparing your house for a baby.
My wife and I spent weeks deciding what color to paint our daughter's room, choosing where the new furniture would go, and all that other nesting goodness. And before the delivery, we made sure the house was completely clean and childproof. "My dear wife," I said, "we can't bring our lovely child into a home with a shoddy interface—I mean dirty carpet—so let's get this place in shape and start her off on the right foot." In the future, when my daughter is a world-famous astronaut flying through the cosmos, I will credit the solar system mobile my wife and I carefully selected as the inspiration for her outstanding achievements.
Feedback/Remediation, a.k.a. Teaching Your Child
Everyone wants their children to learn from their mistakes, and that usually takes some parental guidance, but it's critical that it's provided in a proper manner. In e-learning, we just call that feedback, or remediation. We long ago recognized that providing clear and valuable feedback—with tact, and often subtlety and a bit of humor—is an essential element of successful behavioral change, which is what we do best. Unsurprisingly, it's also what I now do best as a parent.
Just last week, my daughter tried to drink dirty bathwater and I said, "No! Gross! Who drinks bathwater? Do you get that from your mother? Good grief..." All right, I didn't really say that, but the point remains: I did give her some useful feedback, and she's really cut back on her bathwater consumption in recent months.
Gamification, a.k.a Making Things Fun
This is a safe space, so let's be honest: sometimes, things like the nuances of compliance training, or the finer points of health insurance, are not the most thrilling topics to immerse yourself in. Similarly, the importance of potty training, or the social benefits of not eating boogers, also do not overwhelm me with enthusiasm. Thankfully, there's a solution. In e-learning, we call it gamification, which is a catchy way of saying that we make learning fun by re-contextualizing the experience and adding engaging game elements that reinforce what we're trying to teach without boring the learner. A real mouthful.
Now hear this: My daughter loves cleaning up after herself—it's my greatest parental achievement. But she loves it because we don't just clean up; we see who's fastest at putting the most toys in the toy chest. We made it a game. And when she wins (inevitably), I lose with grace and give her a high-five. This is working much better than my long—though undeniably eloquent—elucidations on the virtues of cleanliness and self-reliance.
With all that said, I still haven't found the e-learning parallel for how to deal with the day my daughter brings home her first boyfriend. She's not even two years old yet, so I'm really not too worried about it... Seriously though, if you have any ideas, please contact me as soon as possible. Like, anytime. I'm usually up pretty late thinking about it, and I'm even available to chat on weekends. Not that I'm stressing, but, really, if you just want to brainstorm, anytime, don't hesitate to reach out.