Tip 6: Feedback to basics

We’ve looked in previous insights at mistakes and the key role they play in e-learning design. But a mistake’s not worth making if you don’t learn from it. We’ve all been there: the e-learning leaves you hanging with the worst feedback you can get: ‘wrong – try again’. It can sound enigmatic coming from Yoda, but it doesn’t really cut it as feedback in e-learning. To make sure your mistakes are coupled with support and feedback that will actually help learners, follow these tips.

Start with the mistake itself

When you’re writing feedback, it’s good practice to start it with a restatement of the learner’s action. You might think about using a heading in your feedback to do this, for example “What happened? You led with an explanation of your product’s features and benefits, and the customer got frustrated.”

It sounds obvious, but this helps to emphasize that the learner’s made a mistake and the action of the scenario has stopped for a feedback moment. At this point in the learning experience, their interest in why things have gone wrong should be piqued – which leads to the next step.

Explain why

Continue your feedback by explaining the reasoning behind this mistake. If you’ve constructed plausible mistakes (which we talked about in insight 5), you should be able to easily explain why the mistake might have seemed like the right thing to do, but wasn’t in this case.

For example, “Why this is a mistake? Leading with information about your company’s products may seem like a good way to inform your customer of all the details they need. However, most customers want to hear first about the benefits to them, not the features of the products. Going into a ‘product dump’ can seem like you’re not listening to their needs.”

If you’ve not shown the consequences, talk them through

Ideally in your e-learning you will show what happens when a mistake is made, e.g. audio/video/text of a frustrated customer. It’s not always possible to show consequences as there may be too many, or may be delayed (i.e. sales meeting goes fine, you never hear from the customer again).

If you’re not showing the consequence, make sure you explain them in the feedback, for example, potential consequences:

“Focusing on features only, and not thinking about the customer’s needs could result in them bringing the meeting to a close, and looking elsewhere for a salesperson who’ll focus on their needs.”

Get them back on track

Once the learner is clear they’ve made a mistake, why it’s a mistake, and what the potential consequences are, it’s time to get them back on track. You can do this by

  • Suggesting a better approach, e.g. think about how you could ask an open question to seek more information from the customer
  • Link to relevant stories, e.g. Listen to this example from an experienced sales person, explaining how they get customers to state their needs upfront.
  • Link to supporting learning, e.g. have a look at this short tutorial on opening sales calls.

You won’t always need to address all four of these points for every mistake – some can be quickly corrected with a brief explanation of what went wrong and what to do next, but it’s best to consider all four dimensions of feedback to ensure the learner’s getting the support they need.

Finally, think about who’s giving this feedback When someone goes wrong, who should intervene? You’ve got a few choices here. A coach can be a useful way to personify feedback and guidance, and can provide a consistent tone. If you’re creating a coach, consider whether they could be a real expert rather than a created character. If you can get your SME to be the coach, it can lend gravitas to the feedback, especially if the SME is well known to your learners.

Follow these four steps for constructing feedback, and get the personality right, and you’ll add depth and purpose to the mistakes you’ve worked hard to create.

Next: Making the case for e-learning: presentations that work

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