Writing the Main Body
The content presentation is the central part of distance learning material. You have already decided the sequence of the content, and the structure has been prepared accordingly. At this stage, your job now is to write the topic heading and the sub-headings with relevant content to explain these to the reader and teach. This is a complex process, particularly for the first-time writer of self-learning materials. However, by following simple guidelines, every one of us can write effective content. A piece of effective content is one that enables the learner to demonstrate understanding and achievement of the intended objective s). In the revised Bloom’s taxonomy, the knowledge dimension has four categories (see Table 2): factual, conceptual, procedural, and meta-cognitive. While writing self-learning material, we emphasize the meta-cognitive aspects through various orientation devices or labels such as the introduction, objectives, summary, etc. An in-depth analysis of the other types of knowledge results in the following types of knowledge components that we normally consider also to be the contents:
While dealing with the three major categories of knowledge, you may follow the following practice of describing the content to explain these to the reader:
If the content is factual in nature:
- Define the terms from different resources, and identify key elements to help the learners develop his/her own definitions;
- Describe the content as a matter of fact using lists and tables;
- Use graphics to identify key parts; and
- Explain relevant details to establish the fact.
If the content is conceptual in nature:
- Define the concept / idea from different sources / perspectives, and identify the key elements to help the learner develop his/her own definition;
- Identify the related characteristics to classify and categorize;
- State the principles, and explain them;
- Provide / derive the guidelines based on the analysis of the principles;
- Use graphics, illustrations, analogies, examples and counter-examples to further explain the concept;
- Discuss models and structures with graphics; and
- Explain theories based on their contexts, histories, principles and applications, with illustrative cases.
If the content is procedural in nature:
- Describe the skills, techniques, and methods;
- Explain the scientific principles of the processes and the logic behind a particular procedure;
- Give details step-by-step using flow charts and diagrams;
- Use illustrations to demonstrate a procedure pictorially; and
- Describe related facts and concepts.
While the generic content presentation styles are useful to write effective distance learning materials, you should follow the following guidelines:
- Use a conversational style (I, we, you…)
- Use rhetorical questions within a paragraph to facilitate conversation
- Be precise, particular and penetrating, but not pedantic
- Use simple and familiar words
- Use active voice rather than passive voice
- Keep your sentences short
- Avoid double-negative sentences
- Use the appropriate punctuation for conveying the correct intended meaning.