Are you a ‘guide on the side’ or a ‘sage on stage’ e-learning designer?

A ‘sage on stage’ is an instructor who lectures almost exclusively, who has the philosophy that s/he has knowledge to ‘give’ learners who would benefit from this.  Conversely, a ‘guide on the side’ is a facilitator who helps learners discover knowledge and steer them in ways that would help them.

When you train, do you tend to be a ‘sage on stage’ or a ‘guide on the side’?

This is an important question to ask yourself as it defines the way you will tend to design e-learning too.

A ‘guide on the side’ approach means we’re placing the learner at the centre of the learning process. This is essential when training for workplace skills that involve problem solving and critical thinking. In this type of training the learners’ work experience and context are recognised as important elements in the learning journey. As designers we need to support as well as add value to that process. This is a key element of social constructivist learning design and requires a deep practical knowledge of how to design e-learning that respects adult learning principles.

It is tricky to design smart tasks that are learner-centred i.e. give learners’ plenty opportunity to integrate their experience and therefore shape the way their learning progresses. This is why you need to be a ‘guide on the side’ designer to do this.

‘Sage on stage’ designers on the other hand are great for developing compliance training or any other training that requires direct instruction.

What do we do with the learning resources in the ‘guide on the side’ approach?

Placing the learner at the centre of the learning process does not mean we ignore the importance of the subject-matter. It means that the key building blocks of the design process are authentic activities and sound learner support. Content should never be at the centre of your design, content has a support role. Content needs to be fed ‘just-in-time’ into the learning process to support the learners when they solve the problems and reflect on these. It is all a matter of focus.

Do you want to become a ‘guide on the side’ e-facilitator and/or ‘guide on the side’ e-learning designer? Have a look at our training page for more information.

What do we mean by learner-centred e-learning?
Are you designing for cooperation or collaboration?


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