You've been tasked to create an eLearning course. Now what?
Let us help you get with it and nail each aspect of the content development process.
Probably you are wondering if there is one perfect roadmap for relevant and engaging eLearning content. However, given that the variables of each project make each project unique, it is difficult to box elements into one plan.
Varying factors include:
- The size of your team
- Amount of content
- The subject at hand and ideal delivery content
- The audience’s knowledge or understanding of the course
- Your business goals
These will all affect the direction of the course. That said, rest assured there is a silver lining. Although the intricacies of the roadmap are not standard, several guidelines can provide the foundation for compelling content and a well-structured course.
Tip #1: Setting the Bulls' Eye: Forming Your Learning Objectives
By definition, objectives are basic tools that underlie all planning and strategic activities. To accurately guide you through the stages of content development, your learning objectives need to be defined early on and must be crystal clear. Mainly, it’s going to come down to identifying the performance or skill that the learner needs to achieve to be competent in their role.
This statement will serve as the foundation for instructional material. This frame will provide your team the direction to select and organize content without hesitation. When the outcome is clear, it’s easier to determine the ingredients you’ll need.
Some tips for writing your learning objectives:
- Use simple language and measurable verbs.
- Remember to be clear about the knowledge or skill gap that you are hoping to fill. List specific and measurable elements that the learner will have to master upon completion.
- Make sure you are clear about what will they gain by taking this course.
- Important! Keep the learning outcomes in mind at all stages of designing a course. Whether you are chunking content, designing activities, planning assessments, or choosing images, you have to remember that every element in your course should align with the learning outcomes.
Tip #2: Get to Know Your Audience: Pinpointing Gaps
Questionnaires, polls, assessments, conversations, and even focus groups often reveal insightful information. You can survey your audience to learn more about their backgrounds and experience levels. Also, having your learners take a pre-assessment can reveal important information such as their main frustrations and challenges with the topic at hand.
Knowing this can allow you to add critical information or resources to address those specific areas. Why?
- Not all learners start from the same place. This will help you determine where those gaps are.
- Not all learners will acquire information the same way. You may acquire insights into how to deliver the knowledge that they lack.
Pre-assessments and surveys also help you identify what learners already know, need to know, and how they prefer information delivered. These insights coupled with your learning objectives will formulate the strategy for success.
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Tip #3: Planning is Key -Design Last, Storyboard First
If you are just back from a session with the SME, you are possibly armed with a lot of information that he or she thinks is crucial to learn about the subject.
But hey, think twice before dumping it all on the learner! Your SME is undoubtedly an authority on the subject, but you are the training expert. You know the learning outcomes of your course. Better yet, you know the expectations of your learners.
To avoid overloading your audience with irrelevant content, it’s imperative to organize your content. Use storyboarding to determine the direction of content, without trying to load too many concepts into one course. With a storyboard, you can maintain an outline while you create your course. This level of organization ensures you include all main points without venturing into less important topics.
Storyboarding brings all the elements that will make up the eLearning course together. Much like a story, each element contributes to the understanding of the next, creating a narration for a lesson or feeling of resolve in the end.
To begin, create a list of significant topics and sub-points. Still amiss about what to include, here are some points you must enlist too:
- A list of "Must Know" content (critical to achieving the learning outcomes).
- “Should Know” content which is concepts that the learner needs to understand as a core part of the training course (important background information that you can give away as handouts)
- A list of “Nice To Know” content which adds value to the understanding of the subject, but the learner can do without these points.
Listing out topics is an essential way to help your team visualize and scope each lesson. Be as detailed as possible about your main ideas when creating this list of topics so that it highlights all of the key aspects of your course. Be sure to include an estimate of slides, screens, and interactive elements you'd like to incorporate into the course. Integrating each of these points will help your team avoid redundancies and irrelevancies.
During this stage, gather your team and stakeholders to review and evaluate the suggested topics. This step will be instrumental in identifying which content is missing and what's irrelevant.
Here are some tips on how to draft your course outline:
- Think about the topic and all it conveys. Once you’ve created a list that is thorough you can start grouping into sections or modules.
- Break your course topic down into steps.
- Then, you’ll need to buff each individual step out further. Basically, turn the goals established in point one into subtopics/sections. Create at least 3, but no more than 8 titles that make up the “modules" or sections of the course.
- Decide how you’ll present your content. As you fill out the steps, decide whether you’d rather create a screen with bullet–points or a talking-head video that shows your audience what you’re trying to teach them.
- Plan your intro carefully too. The first minutes of your course are key to grab attention!
- Plan practice activities and assessments.
- With each proposed lesson, refer back to the learning objectives; say true to what your learner needs to know.
HOT TIP: When building your storyboard, always think about the application. How will learners apply what they have learned from your design?
Tip #4: Always Conduct a Content Inventory
It makes perfect sense to know exactly what you already have available before starting out on any new project. The opportunities for reusing and repurposing existing content, text, images, and video are endless, once you know exactly what you currently hold in your repository.
Go down your list and check off the items you have available in your company and highlight the ones that are missing. Having a clear idea of the material you already have ( it can be PDFs, Powerpoint presentations, or any other material available) can be a great starting point to transform these resources online instead of starting from scratch.
Once you have certain content available identified, here are some questions that you can run this material by:
- Is this material outdated, incomplete, inaccurate, or unengaging?
- Is there any feedback available on how it performed?
- What isn’t working with the current program?
- What was missing from this content?
Separately, some questions that you can run this material by can include:
- What don’t employees know that they should?
- Without letting the existing content dictate the new material, how can this new content be coupled with the existing information?
Tip #5: Get Your Audience to Care About the Content: Use Storytelling
People love stories. For a significant part of your childhood, you were told stories with the goal of learning something relevant to your safety or development. Whether it was learning to share with others, that strangers are dangerous, or learning to be kind, stories were, at times, the most impactful way to get us to recall a message.
Adding characters, setting up scenarios, case studies, and examples, are all tools that help you create an emotional connection with your audience in your eLearning course too.
For instance, if you are teaching your employees a process, show a friendly and straightforward story of someone much like them facing a challenge, taking action to solve the problem, and obtaining specific results. It'd be easier for them to remember the steps if they watched someone else do it, primarily if you address some real-life concerns in the process.
Donald Miller’s StoryBrand Framework is not only great for marketing, but also for eLearning course creation. Here is a simplified version of the steps:
1. A Character (your audience): You are not the hero of the story or the course, they are! Who is your learner and what do they want? What is their ultimate end goal?
2. Has a problem: A Hero needs help. They need a Guide to help them achieve their goals and solve their problems, right? What are the problems your learners are facing?
3. And meets a guide: You as the content creator/trainer and your course are the guides with a solution. Your content must be focused on the Hero and what the Hero wants.
A good Guide must demonstrate these two things:
- Empathy: you understand their problems
- Authority: you have what it takes to help the Hero overcome those frustrations and challenges
4. Who gives them a plan: Your course content has a clear roadmap with actionable steps.
5. And Calls them to action: Include a clear call to action in the plan. What should they do when they complete the course?
6. That Ends in Success
7. And Helps Them Avoid Failure: Discuss what would happen if they don't apply what they learn.
Follow the tips shared above to design a great learning experience that will leave a lasting impression on learners.
Though there are variants among subjects and audiences, these content creation guidelines will work wonders for keeping your team (and content) in check!