In a previous article, I noted that experts have different internal knowledge structures than novices. Expert knowledge seems to be efficiently organized and easy to search through, like an orderly file cabinet. Expert knowledge is deeply interconnected, creating many paths for recalling information.
When you’re designing for experts in a field, try to match the design and writing with their unique characteristics, which occur both in how they structure knowledge as well as the circumstances of their professional life. Here are some tips you can use when designing courses for experts.
Quickly Mention Prerequisite Content
Experts know a lot, but they can’t be expected to remember everything. So a slight nod to a prerequisite topic will ensure they recall the information. Quickly touch on prerequisites in a way they barely notice. Or have prerequisite content available as an extra resource.
Keep it Organized
Experts have a well-organized framework within which they fit their knowledge. This helps them retrieve information quickly. Your design and writing should also be well-organized and, if possible, structured according to the way an expert would think. Most fields have a more or less typical way of systematizing information and you should probably stick to this approach, unless you have a great reason not to do so. If your content is logically and conventionally organized, it will help experts quickly fit new information into their existing structures.
Get Them In and Out
If you’re writing for experts, assume they are busy. Everyone wants an expert, needs an expert and has questions for the expert. They are usually in great demand and may only be taking your online course because it is an employee requirement. Get them in and out of the training as quickly as possible. When writing for experts, don’t belabor your points.
Don’t Play Simple Games
In my experience, most experts do not feel like playing simplistic games and getting involved in cute interactive activities. Unless you’re creating a very involved simulation or a complex exercise, don’t make experts go through a lot of interactive activities to learn. If you want interaction, then let them solve problems. A problem based on a challenging real-world scenario or competitive activity might work. Consider making it optional.
Assume They’ll Get It
Experts don’t mind stretching a bit and don’t need hand holding. Well-connected networks of knowledge facilitate adding new information. You can go for complexity and assume they’ll understand it. If they don’t, they’ll use their own resourcefulness to figure it out. You can help this along by providing supplemental and curated information in the form of links to authority websites, downloads of background resources, such as research studies.
Experts are comfortable being the best. Avoid writing in a way that could be interpreted as condescending. Condescension is a de-motivator for everyone. Can you imagine how it makes the expert feel?