Category Archives for Learner Success

The Line of Understanding

The Line of Understanding: integrating Bloom's Taxonomy with Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction

In past blog posts, we've explored how to set up the steps of an effective and engaging lesson, using Gagné's Nine Events of Instruction.

And we've looked at how to use Bloom's Taxonomy to make anything easier to learn.

                                             I've put these two frameworks together

to create an integrated schematic I call

THE LINE OF UNDERSTANDING

Graphic showing the Line of Understanding: where Bloom's Taxonomy meets Gagne's 9 Events of Instruction The Line of Understanding © Learn and Get Smarter, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The Line of Understanding © Learn and Get Smarter, Inc. All Rights Reserved


The line of understanding represents the points at which

 the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (on the vertical axis)

 meet the steps of Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction (on the horizontal axis).

Bloom's (Revised) Taxonomy

Bloom's Taxonomy describes what the learner IS ABLE TO DO at each level of a hierarchy of thinking skills.  

These skills build on each other from the most foundational ("REMEMBER") to the most complex ("CREATE").

In order to ensure your learners' success, it's important to confirm they are capable of performing the skill you are teaching, at each level of the hierarchy, before you ask them to perform at a higher level.

Skipping levels of the taxonomy leaves gaps that learners can easily fall through, if they don't have a solid foundation (built on the skill levels below) to support them.

Here is an all-too-common scenario: the instructor demonstrates their OWN expert way of doing something (mastered over a lifetime!) and then turns to the class and says, "Now YOU do it!". That is a method that is doomed to fail.

 Learners cannot create something new (the highest level of Bloom's Taxonomy) based on having seen it presented once!

They may REMEMBER the information,  and they may UNDERSTAND it, but that does not mean they are ready to APPLY it, let alone analyze it, evaluate it, or use it to CREATE something new.

Person falling through a hole

Gagné's Nine Events of Instruction

What's the solution?

For any skill you are teaching, you can use Gagné's Nine Events of Instruction to clarify how to structure your teaching to ensure learners can perform the skill at every level of Bloom's (Revised) Taxonomy.

At first, it might not seem clear how the two frameworks can be synthesized, because Bloom's (Revised) Taxonomy has six levels, which don't correlate perfectly with the nine events of instruction.

The secret to fitting the frameworks together smoothly, like cogs in a flywheel, is to realize that the first level of Bloom's Taxonomy, REMEMBER, is so important and foundational to everything above it, that it requires not one but THREE of Gagne's Events of Instruction, to ensure it is happening!  

Similarly, learning to APPLY the instruction in practical ways is so important that it requires TWO of Gagné's 9 events of instruction (Guided Practice, and Independent Performance) to make it work.

If you realize that EVERYTHING that takes place before you present the new instruction in your lesson is designed to help your learners REMEMBER what they need to know in order to learn the new material, and that being able to APPLY what was just learned requires extra support,  the two frameworks snap into place neatly like the missing pieces of a complex jigsaw puzzle... closing any gaps that your learners might otherwise fall through.

Jigsaw puzzle pieces snapping together


In order for learners to be able to do the things

 indicated along the left (vertical) axis of the diagram, 

the instructor must do the things

 indicated in the corresponding color along the horizontal axis of the diagram.

The Line of Understanding mapping what learners can do to how teachers can teach them to do it © Learn and Get Smarter, Inc. All Rights Reserved

© Learn and Get Smarter, Inc. All Rights Reserved


So if you want your learners to REMEMBER, you must:

  • Gain their attention
  • Tell them what they are about to learn
  • Help them bring related things they already know, to the forefront of their minds

If you want them to UNDERSTAND, you must:

  • Present the instruction
  • (in the optimal way based on the DOMAIN OF LEARNING for that specific lesson)

If you want them to be able to APPLY the instruction, you must:

  • Provide guided practice
  • Facilitate independent performance

If you want them to be able to ANALYZE what they are learning, you must:

  • Provide ways for them to get FEEDBACK

If you want learners to be able to EVALUATE what they have learned, you must:

  • Provide meaningful ASSESSMENTS
  •  that help learners determine whether they have achieved the learning goal 

If you want them to be able to CREATE something new, you must:

  • Complete all the earlier stages of Bloom's Taxonomy and all the previous events of instruction
  • Help them remember everything they've learned in this lesson, and
  • Prepare them to take what they've learned and transfer it to new and different contexts 


Here is a chart that summarizes and synthesizes these ideas.

You can use it to ANALYZE and EVALUATE the steps you must take to present your instruction

 in ways that ensure your learners stay with you every step of the way,

and don't fall through any gaps in the learning hierarchy.


A synthesis and integration of Bloom's Taxonomy and Gagne's 9 Events of Instruction

© Learn and Get Smarter, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Does the Line of Understanding offer you a helpful framework for thinking about how to present the instruction in your online course, to ensure your course participants are learning, every step of the way?

I'd love to hear your thoughts, reflections, experiences, and reactions!

Drop me a note to Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com to share your thoughts.


Come to the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting... Saturdays at 9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern on Zoom

We're focusing on how to  use our online teaching practices and online businesses to help ourselves and others survive and thrive during these challenging times. 

Click here to register for the meeting

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Ensuring Learner Success

Happy people jumping for joy

How can you ensure learner success in your online course?

Just as in a physical classroom, there is no 100% guaranteed way to be SURE that EVERYONE who signs up for an online course, will complete everything in it and get optimal results.  

Some of that depends on the learner: their motivation, persistence, level of engagement, prior knowledge, and many other factors.

But let's look at the elements that we CAN control as we design and build our courses, and do our very best to optimize those.

  • Learning Design

  • Lesson Clarity

  • Engagement

Learning Design

Have a clear learning goal for the course as a whole.

Structure the course based on how people learn the EXACT type of material needed to reach that goal.

Make sure that everything in the course  contributes to achieving the course learning goal.

How can you make  your course work for EACH learner, when each learner is so unique?

The most important contributor to learner success, beyond your course design, is the learners themselves.
A question I've been pondering lately is: how can we, as online course designers, create a CUSTOMIZED learning experience for each learner, when people vary so much in their personalities, motivations, prior knowledge, and ways of approaching a task?


It's relatively easy to  create a customized experience and ensure that each of your learners is engaged, learning, happy, and getting what they need out of the course, when your course is small.

The key there is to build FEEDBACK MECHANISMS into the course at every step of the way, so that your course participants know they can always reach you and that you will hear and respond to their challenges, issues, and concerns.

But many people create online courses with the goal of having an evergreen, "set it and forget it" way to "teach while you sleep".  That goal is the gold standard of online course design... but is it effective in terms of getting learners real results?

The ONLINE LEARNING situation makes it relatively easy to use digital media to create an evergreen "set it and forget it" course that puts money in your bank account while you sleep.  

However, the requirements of HUMAN LEARNING often demand real-time (or at least, semi-synchronous)  interaction and monitoring from an actual human (ie, YOU).  Ensuring that  learning gets  into each of your learners' minds in the way that works best for them requires ongoing,  dynamic participation from an instructor who is awake.

How does one reconcile these two things?

If you put your course online and then "set it and forget it", how can you be sure that each of your course participants is getting real results? 


Triumphant business people standing in front of rays of light

The best way is to ASK them, of course.  You can build feedback and assessment mechanisms into your course using quizzes, surveys, polls, live group coaching sessions, office hours, forms, and many other methods.

Creating a culture of feedback, and being open to hearing it, is critical.

It is also important to respond to user feedback so that your course participants feel they are not just putting information out there, but also getting  meaningful responses back from you.

Silhouettes of people with colorful speech bubbles

It's important to talk to your future course participants before, during, and after the time you spend working with them in your online course.

  • Talk to them before creating a course to be sure you are creating a course they want and need. 
  • Talk to them while creating your course in order to beta test and pilot and get feedback on whether your course design addresses their needs.
  •  Especially talk to them while TEACHING your course, and then 
  • Talk to them afterwards to find out how the course went for them and how they are using what they learned, now that the course is over.

As I mentioned above, it's relatively easy, or at least, possible,  to talk to your students, receive and respond to feedback,  and help each learner get the most out of your course, when your course is relatively small.

My Course Design Formula® Master Course, for example, is like a boutique bistro restaurant that serves custom-catered "meals"  (by which I mean, delectable learning experiences) to a small group of highly select students.

 I can provide a tailored, individualized experience for a small group of students at a time. I can't (at least, not yet) provide that level of customization for an unlimited number students at a time. That's one of the goals I'm working towards, but in the meantime, I just want to enroll a small group of highly dedicated students for the next cohort, which starts January 12th, 2021. 

Class size will be limited, so if one of your goals is to create a powerful, transformative online course that does justice to your unique  expertise, it's not too early to start thinking NOW about whether you'd like one of the few spots in that very select group.

There's a lot of pressure on online course creators to grow and scale their courses. Growing and scaling a course is relatively easy if the course mainly provides information in a digital format. But if your course teaches complex processes that learners must APPLY to their own  unique situations  in practical, performance-based ways, then a higher degree of direct interaction and guidance from you as the instructor will be needed in order to ensure your learners get results.

One of the challenges that I see happening in many "set it and forget it" style online courses is that learner success (and therefore, learner attention) drop off around module 3 or 4. That's where the need to actually APPLY what's been presented in the course so far, begins to come in. How many online courses have you bought where you see THIS pattern happen:

  • Welcome! Everyone is excited about the course!
  •  The basic information is presented. Everyone gets it. All is well.
  • Things start getting hard, it's time to actually DO things the instructor tells you to do
  • You stop paying attention to the course
  • You never look at the course again
  • You feel guilty for having spent money on something that didn't get you the results promised
  • You start to wonder if you're actually good at learning things
  • You start to wonder if online courses really work

I've been thinking a lot about the above scenario, which I've seen happen far too many times in too many online courses. If that's happened to you (it has to me, and to pretty much everyone I know), here are some things to consider:

  • It's not your fault. You sincerely wanted to learn the material.
  • It's not the instructor's fault. Their course may actually be well designed.
  • It's the fault of a mismatch between the AFFORDANCES of the online learning space, and the CONSTRAINTS of human learning.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that the online learning space makes it fast, easy, and tempting to create learning materials that can be sold to an unlimited number of people.

But the way human beings learn requires personal guidance, fine-tuning, and hand-holding, often at an individual level, especially if the learning is complex and needs to be applied in practical ways.

From a business-model point of view, the online learning space makes it possible to earn a lot of money, as many have done and are doing, by creating a product that can be sold to many people at one time and that requires little to no maintenance, supervision, or upkeep once it's been set up.

From a learning-model point of view, however, learning something new in a way that works for YOU as a learner, may require in-depth focus, attention, wisdom, guidance, understanding, and personal interaction.

 This is more true for some learners than others, and more true at some points along the learning journey than others.

I'm working my way towards developing a  new, integrated business + learning model focusing on the touch-points that require  in-depth and customized focus from the instructor.

My goal is to help all of us optimize both the impact and the reach of our online courses.

I'm working towards creating a high-level understanding of how each of us can structure the entire "universe" of our course offerings (our "whole cow") in ways that optimize the "set it and forget it" aspects for things that DON'T require in-depth guidance from the instructor, and also optimize the "high learning impact" aspects for parts of the learning curve that DO.


Come to the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting (we're BACK after taking last week off due to a conference) and let's talk about what's on YOUR mind with respect to creating online courses that YOUR course participants will learn from, and love!

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

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