You know you want to create an amazing eLearning course. So, how do you go about it? Before you start designing it, consider the following points.
1) Research Your Target Audience
Analyze your target audience, so you understand their needs, background, motivation, and interests. The more you know about them, the more you can customize your eLearning program to improve their outcomes. The better suited the course is to their needs, the better their retention and understanding of the material.
Here are some good starting points for starting your research:
- Level and breadth of experience. Are they seasoned employees or new hires? Do they have experience with any of the material you’ll be presenting? If they are seasoned employees with a good base of knowledge, you may be able to skip some of the most basic concepts. Instead, you could delve deeper into some of the most advanced topics, or condense the training.
- Tech skills. Are they high-tech employees or technophobes? Do they require special training in accessing or using the course?
- Skill or competency level. Are they middle management or upper-level executives?
- Devices and connectivity. Evaluate how your target audience will probably access the course. Will they use a computer, phone or tablet? Will they use a VPN (virtual private network)?
2) Identify Training Needs
Great eLearning courses are the result of a thorough needs assessment. That’s why you need to identify the “Why” of your course early in the process. This helps your learners avoid the “Why am I here?” moment when learning.
However, it’s important not to assume a perceived need automatically equals a real need for additional training. Use skills assessment, direct observations, surveys or focus groups to ensure you are meeting a real need. For instance, ask supervisors and line managers what training is needed to better improve the results. Because of their every-day exposure with your target audience, they can help you identify areas in which training is most needed.
The goal is to deliver eLearning when your employees need – not when you want them to take it. So, think about:
- Problem. Is the eLearning course going to solve a specific problem?
- Change. Are new processes and equipment on the horizon? Are there consistent changes in staffing needs that require re-training? Are new features, products or services driving the need for training?
- Opportunity. Could you become more competitive by taking advantage of new software or methods? Would customer service improve by offering an eLearning course?
- Initiative. Could a proactive approach raise the bar on performance? Could enhancing quality standards training improve productivity? Could offering training improve a specific skill?
- Compliance. Are there mandatory laws or entities dictating which training programs are required?
The point is to delve deeper into why you’re creating this course to ensure you meet the need you identified.
3) Think About the Type of eLearning Course You Need
Once you understand the purpose of the course and your target audience, think about the type of content you’ll present.
Is the training required for compliance with regulations? Is it going to raise awareness on a new company CSR program? Is this going to be an in-depth course exploring deeply into topics? Or will it be an overview of basics that can be presented less formally? Do you need to provide practical situations and examples to impart knowledge? Or do you need to change specific behaviors in the workplace?
Also, think about how MUCH content do you have available. Do you have a lot of content that will require a longer course? If you have a lot of information to cover, you’ll need to consider keeping each lesson shorter than 90 minutes. Experts recommend encouraging some type of interaction every 8 minutes and changing the pace of the training every 20 minutes to keep the learner engaged.
Evaluating these questions before developing your course will give you a solid framework to build your eLearning course upon. You’ll develop a product with confidence, knowing you are meeting your target audience needs in the best method possible.
For instance, if you’re looking to raise awareness for a new recycling program, you’ll need to convince people actually to care about recycling. One way to connect with your learner emotionally is through the use of storytelling. eLearning courses using video or interactive storytelling offer a better connection than traditional page-turner courses. Using the right type of course for your situation and goals will improve your training outcome.
4) Consider your Delivery Options.
It’s critical to know what kinds of devices your target audience will be using. Their devices will impact your content strategy and deployment, so know what you’re working with.
When developing your instructional strategy, you’ll determine if you need a responsive design. Responsive design means you need your content to be available on all devices seamlessly. If you require a responsive design, you’ll need to ensure your platform enables that. Some eLearning authoring tools offer responsive design features, which allow you to create one single eLearning course that can be viewed on all platforms.
5) Plan it out
The success of your eLearning course also depends on you taking the time now to plan your course. This design plan should consider all the activities and learning components that will be part of the course. For this, you can use a standard Instructional Design Model to ensure you cover all the bases.
Some common Instructional Design models include:
- ADDIE Model
- Merrill’s Principles of Instruction
- Gagne’s Nine Events of Instructions
- Bloom’s Taxonom
Once you’ve decided on a model, you’ll need to think about the instructional methods. The most common instructional methods include providing hands-on experience, storytelling, group discussions, and self-reflection. Some other methods include using case studies, quizzes, games, role-play and simulations.
When considering your methods, try not to take current trends into consideration. It’s irrelevant what the most talked about method is unless it happens to be the best solution for your eLearners. There are many different options, but the best one for you will depend on your target audience and your training needs.
6) How You’ll Evaluate Success.
The best way to ensure you’re getting the results you want is to measure your results.
You may have to consider the types of reporting you’ll need to provide when developing your eLearning course. If you are meeting compliance regulations or requirements, you may be locked into a particular type of evaluation, such as a final exam or quiz. This kind of evaluation would verify knowledge gained and ensure your learners have met their objectives.
Or, you may have the flexibility to consider using a more informal assessment method such as a practical project or evaluating the completion rate. You may also consider evaluating who is taking the course, and why. Surveys are an excellent method of gathering this kind of data.
Another method of measuring success is defining the impact of the course. Is it affecting or changing behaviors? For example, if you’re focusing on a safety course, one of the goals may be to reduce preventable injuries. Measuring, comparing and analyzing injury data will help determine if the training is meeting that objective.
Tailoring your evaluation method to your learning objectives will make it easier to determine if you’ve met your goals. Identifying how you’ll determine success will make it easier to ensure your eLearners are succeeding.
For additional information on using metrics to measure your eLearning course success, see this article.
Now you’re ready to develop your eLearning course!
Consider these six elements before designing your eLearning course. Remember, the more relevant that course is to your target audience, the more it will resonate with them, and the better the outcomes for everyone.