Personal Development Through Innovative eLearning: A Program by You Can Do It! Education and Open LMS
Michael Bernard, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne in Australia. He’s also the founder of You Can Do It! Education, one of Australia’s leading social-emotional learning programs with over one million participants. In this article, we’ll explore his efforts to help empower youth struggling with mental health and depression through eLearning.
As a psychologist, Bernard has been increasingly concerned with the growing numbers of young people who are experiencing emotional difficulties such as anxiety, stress, and depression. The distress can be attributed to a number of factors, including bullying, social media, and the pandemic, to name a few.
In fact, a recent study by the University of Calgary in Canada involving 80,000 youth globally found alarming rates of mental health crisis among children and adolescents, symptoms tightly linked to the pandemic. The study suggests that 1 in 4 youth globally are experiencing clinically elevated depression symptoms, and one in 1 in 5 youth are experiencing clinically elevated anxiety symptoms.
Looking to do something powerful for young learners, Bernard partnered with eCreators (now a part of Open LMS) to develop an eLearning program that took learners on a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance to navigate the world around them. In his talk titled ‘Personal Development Facilitated by Innovative eLearning’, Bernard presents one of his latest eLearning projects aimed at teaching young people how to feel worthwhile, no matter what.
To engage learners to go through the journey, Bernard wanted a program that was interactive all the way. He wanted to provide tools and insights in a way that learners would want to complete the program and actually learn from it. Let’s see how he brought the program to life!
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The Challenge: Creating an Engaging and Interactive eLearning Program Addressing Self-Acceptance
Bernard set out to create an eLearning program that was engaging, fun, and interactive to empower young people who are struggling. Identifying a creative team in the eLearning space was the first step in bringing his vision to fruition. After reviewing concepts from four organizations, Bernard chose eCreators to begin the design work.
From an instructional design perspective, Bernard wanted students to have access to a variety of activities, worksheets, and surveys. However, he wanted students to complete these in an interactive and exciting way, not using traditional download and fill-out methods. A unique theme was chosen to keep this content approachable: learners would choose an avatar on a journey in outer space and would explore the topics from this perspective.
The idea was to take learners through a program that could address different pain points young people may be feeling. The program was designed for learners to complete on their own, providing a toolkit at the end for them to continue their path as happier individuals.
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A Framework for Planning and Designing an Elearning Program for Young Learners
To bring the concept to life, Bernard and the team put together a framework for the planning and designing of the program, involving eight steps.
Step 1: Identify the pain points of young people today, such as feelings of inadequacy, anxiousness, and vulnerability.
Step 2: Identify a bridge for young people to take to reduce their pain points and how by crossing that bridge they could feel more empowered and confident.
Step 3: Identify key insights or ‘a-ha moments’ for young people to discover new ways of thinking about themselves or new ways to perceive the world.
Step 4: Convert the insights into a story told through images. The story takes place in outer space, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Step 5: Provide students with a login for them to work on the program independently from teachers and parents.
Step 6: Create interactive instructional activities for learning. Have students engage with the program and provide their own ideas and their own areas in which they're aware of themselves.
Step 7: Identify ways that the story and the activities would be personally relevant for each student, as per step six. Have students complete self surveys with feedback, interactive exercises.
Step 8: Change and build new habits for young people through practice. Provide students with a toolkit of additional components. For example, providing coping skills during the week to practice and strengthen their self-acceptance.
Follow along in the full recording as Bernard takes you through the program, showcasing the journey students go on to complete the program. Though it’s a work in progress, Bernard explains that he hopes to show it to students soon and discover what they think and feel throughout the process.