howtocbc Pulse: Forget Lectures! Think “Learning Units” 🎁 for your CBC!



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howtocbc Pulse: Forget Lectures! Think “Learning Units” 🎁 for your CBC!
By howtocbc • Issue #9 • View online
“I wish there were more lectures”
said no student ever.
Yet, most courses seem to be built around the central idea of lectures that explain a particular topic.
As course creators, it’s hard to resist the urge to explain, and thus we end up lecturing at length to our students. We become a sage on the stage when we should really aim to become a guide on the side.
The countermeasure has also been discussed at length - including more practical assignments. Needless to say, the implementation of the countermeasure hasn’t been ideal.
Seasoned Cohort Based Course makers across the world have been trying a new approach that takes the application of ‘Active Learning’ techniques to a whole new level.
Start with a task right away, from the very get go. 
How does this work?
At HowToCBC, we call it the ‘Learning Unit’.

The Learning Unit
Instead of starting with a boring lecture, start by giving students the simplest first task that’ll help them make progress toward a Learner Outcome. Supply just enough resources (videos, articles, PDFs etc) that’ll help them complete the task. Don’t front-load them with all the theory. Right after they’ve performed the task, give them immediate personalised feedback. This might also be a good time to supply them with some insights or frameworks, which will accelerate their learning. Give them an option to either re-attempt the task based on the feedback, or let them move on to the next task.
Let’s do a deep-dive on how you can design a Learning Unit in your own course.
Step 1: 🎯 Choose one Learner Outcome of your course
Example: In a course that teaches a student how to go about building a strong online presence, one of the Learner Outcomes could be; 
Students will have sent at least 50 cold emails with a reply rate of at least 10%.
Step 2: 📋 Define the Task
By applying Backward Design on the chosen ‘Learner Outcome’, one can imagine it as a list of connected tasks. Tasks that progressively build on top of the previous one and finally lead to the student being able to demonstrate the Learner Outcome.
Example: For a course that helps students build a strong online presence, the first task that’ll help a student slowly progress toward the final Learner Outcome could be;
Write a shitty first draft of an email that you’ll send to someone you always wanted to do a cold outreach.
Step 3: ℹ️ Provide Resources and Guidance
Provide ample guidance to the student in terms of resources (videos, articles, PDFs) and context to ensure that they understand the task at hand very well.
Example: Continuing with the course on online audience-building;
Write a shitty first draft of an email that you’ll send to someone you always wanted to do a cold outreach to. Apply any one of the 3 frameworks.
Step 4: 🏟 Set the Stage for the student to attempt the task
Let the student attempt the task, either at the comfort of their own time or allot dedicated time during one of the live sessions.
✒️ Pro Tip: We recommend starting right away in the live session. Because it’s an intentional space, there’s accountability and immediate feedback.
Step 5: 📝 Make a Review Checklist for Feedback
This critical step in the Learning Unit is where the highest density learning will happen. As an instructor, this is your best opportunity to provide contextualised, personalised and relevant feedback that’ll move the needle for your student. This is where you’ll have the opportunity to create a-ha moments for your student.
You’ll notice that most students will end up making the same kind of mistakes while attempting the task. You’ll also notice that most of them will require the same kind of feedback, barring few exceptions.
It helps if you come up with a checklist to help you give feedback more efficiently.
Example: For the task in Step 2, a sample checklist could be;
  1. Did the student use one of the 3 frameworks effectively?
  2. Is the email formatted well?
  3. Flag long sentences.
✒️ Pro Tip: Designing a ‘Learning Unit’ can end up taking forever since the scope can expand endlessly. We highly recommend that you time box the activity and focus on creating more and more ‘Learning Units’ for your course over making one perfect ‘Learning Unit’.
Advantages of a well designed Learning Unit
Psychologist Herman Ebbinghaus discovered that without reinforcement or connection to previous knowledge, “roughly 56% of information is forgotten in one hour, 66% after a day, and 75% after six days.” He called this the forgetting curve.
Courtesy: Stavros Sanidas
Courtesy: Stavros Sanidas
Ensuring that your curriculum has a task led approach leads to reinforced learning with high levels of engagement, an effective workaround for the forgetting curve.
😢 A topic led or a lecture led approach most often ends up with the student attempting tasks all by themselves. Without immediate and contextualised feedback, they end up losing interest or disheartened.
🤩 Students will fondly recollect the aha moments you created as an instructor, wherein you gave them high quality feedback just at the right moment.
🤝🏼 Well Designed Learning Units also create ample opportunities to facilitate peer interactions and networking among students.
🪜 Learning Units with tasks that progressively build on top of the previous one will also ensure that students end up with showcase worthy ‘Proof of Work’ by the end of a course. Be it from a personal fulfilment point of view or from a career opportunity point of view, modern day contexts reward a verifiable ‘Proof of Work’ that showcases a student’s actual demonstrable skills over any degree.
Next Steps 👣
What does a Learning Unit look like for your Course? 
If you want to jump on a call where we can help you ship the first draft of your Learning Unit, just hit Reply and say ‘I’m in’.
Until next time 👋,
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