McFib: An eLearning Interaction Pattern

I'm very interested in eLearning designs that try to entwine content and exercise so thoroughly that the learner almost constructs their instruction – even if the path they follow was determined ahead of time, i.e. it was programmed.

Wait, programmed instruction?! That's a behaviourist approach!

Or is it? To the learner, it may not seem that way, especially if the exercise of that content allows error and/or discovery. This wouldn't be typical of most linear programmed instruction (e.g., B.F. Skinner style), but is exemplified by branching programmed instruction – sometimes known as intrinsic programming.

The crucial and identifying feature of intrinsically programmed materials is the fact that the material presented to each student is continuously and directly controlled by the student's performance in answering questions... (and therefore) automatically adapts to individual differences among students...

Norman A. Crowder

The genius of this is that the learner must generate a response, and that response is used to determine what happens next. This is a feedback loop – something that is underused in typical eLearning designs (or in live instruction, for that matter).

Intrinsic programming is one of the antecedents for something I call the Multiple Choice Fill-in-blank interaction pattern. Let's call it McFib. (Other sources of inspiration came from my childhood: Mad Libs and Choose Your Own Adventure books, and role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons... all of which require attention and generation to yield the desired outcomes.)

The following McFib samples don't necessarily meet the definition of intrinsic programming per se, but they're headed in that direction. However, I would say that they qualify as interactive exercise/content and would likely be more effective instructionally than the old "content content content exercise repeat" formula.

by Bill Wilson
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Last updated: July 26, 2020 at 8:20 am

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