Principles, Theories & Models

Understand many theories and models, choose from among them appropriately, and apply them effectively.



Class EDTEC 650, Distance Education and e-Learning
Instructor Dr. Bob Hoffman
Project Design and develop a prototype of a self-paced e-Learning module
Artifact Identifying Fallacies in Arguments e-Learning course


Snapshot of the title page of the Identifying Fallacies in Arguments course

I was expected to try a new model for developing an e-Learning course and build and test a prototype that demonstrates some aspects of the model I used. I chose to apply the successive approximation approach to motivate learners to learn the dry topic of identifying fallacies in arguments.

Connection to the Standard

Through this project, I learned to use the successive approximation approach to background my project and build a prototype e-Learning module using six of Michael Allen’s seven magic keys to enhance learning motivation (Allen, 2003):

  • Backgrounding: I identified the problem, audience, and outcomes. This module would be needed to help undergraduate students analyze arguments from experts regarding the controversies related to stem cell research. Based on my audience analysis, the 21st Century student body is predominantly comprised of Millennials who prefer active learning through online learning and games.
  • Magic Key 1 (Build on anticipated outcomes): Instead of listing objectives, I put the learner to work by having them see if they could evaluate some arguments on their own in a game quiz. The intent was to actively give them an immediate sense of what the course would enable them to do.
  • Magic Key 2 (Put the learner at risk): The course promotes active learning through the risk of success and failure by giving learners the opportunity to play a fake game called FALLACYMONGERS. In this game, learners are faced with stacked challenges in the form of increasingly difficult arguments to evaluate.
  • Magic Key 3 (Select the right content for each learner): I implemented a Test and Tell approach to immediately confront learners with the challenges the course would enable them to meet. I further structured the navigation, so they could choose which content they wanted to learn.
  • Magic Key 4 (Use an appealing context): Because my audience likes games and reality TV shows, I based my concept somewhat on the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire game show and used similar visuals.
  • Magic Key 6 (Provide intrinsic feedback): In the FALLACYMONGERS game, feedback is used to highlight specific types of fallacies. Learners continue to learn when they fail and succeed.
  • Magic Key 7 (Delay judgment): The practice game session at the beginning of the course does not provide feedback until it is completed. This motivates the learner to seek out reasons for any mistakes they made.

Challenges & Learning Lessons

As excited as I was to try out a new approach, I found it challenging to shift my mindset toward using a Test and Tell approach. To get some ideas for the Test and Tell approach, I reviewed my classmates’ prototypes and some of the sample courses on Michael Allen’s website. I then drafted several rough outlines to brainstorm how my course would flow. Another challenge I encountered was how to use Captivate's quiz tool to make the FALLACYMONGERS game work as intended. It required lots of trial and error to get its quiz tool to jump to the results if someone answered a question incorrectly.

What It Showcased About Me

Through this project I demonstrated I could implement the successive approximation approach, use Adobe Captivate to develop a prototype, and apply some of the seven Magic Keys to enhance learning motivation.

Future Application

This experience transformed how I approach e-Learning projects going forward. I am eager to convince training colleagues in my current company to consider adopting this approach. At the very least, I will use the seven magic keys wherever possible to enhance the learner experience. In fact, I believe these keys don't just apply to e-Learning. For example, I recently found myself applying Magic Key 1 for classroom instruction by replacing the list of objectives with questions. The class really loved this approach because it helped them realize they had misperceptions that the course would help them overcome.


Allen, M.W. (2003). Michael Allen’s Guide to e-Learning (1st ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.