When starting any new process, there are important questions to ask in order to be prepared to complete the task.
When it comes to eLearning, there are lots of choices that need to be made before firing up the eLearning authoring tool. This checklist serves as a framework for essential questions to ask before starting out. Consider them as an essential design decision-making tool.
1) Who Is The Target Audience of Your eLearning Course?
The very first question you need to ask is who the eLearning course is intended for. Is it for employees in a specific department? Is it for recent college graduate recruits who are looking to improve their soft skills? Discover group characteristics and the purpose of the audience taking your eLearning. This will inform the entire design.
2) What Is Your Audience's Prior Knowledge?
It is really important for you to have a general sense of where your audience is, in terms of their prior knowledge. Content that is too difficult will fail to adequately engage learners. Similarly, one that is too easy will fail to grasp your learners’ attention. This is known more formally as the zone of proximal development.
Tips to help with catering to prior knowledge include using branching logic to scaffold instruction and using an adaptive learning platform.
3) What Is The Technological Ability Of Your Audience, And What Are The Technological Requirements of The Course?
Your audience will have different levels of technological experience. As there may have never taken an eLearning course before, there may be others that take every eLearning courses they see out there. Consider your audience and their tech abilities. Make sure to match the course to their current level.
In relation to this, you should have in your Academy/ LMS / Knowledge platform an orientation module with technological requirements, first steps instructions, and introductory activities. It is also imperative that you communicate with the IT department in your company to see what those technical requirements are from the system in which the eLearning will occur.
4) What's The Value of This Training For Your Learners?
We are used to asking the questions, what is the purpose of eLearning and what are the objectives? An equally important question is what is the value of the training for your learners? Are they taking the course as a requirement? Have they sought out the learning experience? Do they need a certification? Are there expectations from the supervisors as to what is the necessary outcome of the course? Find out what the value is and tailor the training towards this value.
5) What Are Your Learning Objectives? And, Are They Realistic For Learners To Meet?
There are lots of bells and whistles when you start designing eLearning experiences. It can be tempting to focus on the flashy-bling-bling. However, doing so risks losing the substance that is so essential to quality learning experiences. To keep a focus on substance and content, you should always develop a few measurable objectives for learners to meet. As you progress in designing the course or module, keep the objectives pinned somewhere close to your computer. This will remind you of the overarching goal of the eLearning experience.
6) How Long Should The Training Be? And Where Is It Going to Be Viewed?
Are you designing a micro course that can be easily completed on a mobile device or do you need to create a longer course that has tangible outcomes and expectations? To answer these questions, you should understand the differences between the two types of courses.
Micro Learning courses break down complex concepts into small bites that help the learner to achieve their goals faster without distractions. The key here: The eLearning designer creates the micro module or learning session with one single objective in mind. These courses are also great if your audience will view the courses in mobile devices mostly.
For example, if your goal is to share some tips on a soft skill to communicate more effectively with coworkers, you can create a short demonstrative video.
However, if the training content covers a new process or very techy content, and you know the audience is mostly at their desk, then a longer training is the best option.
7) Have You Thought About Copyright?
Copyright is one of those things that is so important to an ethical eLearning design. However, it is also confusing and often underestimated! When you find an image online, how do you know if you can use it? And if you need to attribute it? An excellent strategy is to use Creative Commons Search which searches materials that have been licensed to be shared. There are specific licenses for commercial reuse.
8) How Will You Encourage Student Participation?
Student engagement is key in corporate eLearning programs. Involving your audience from the beginning with surveys and promoting a continuous learning culture in your organization are some ways you can start building trust in your eLearning program.
Also, make sure you add different mechanisms to keep engagement flowing. For instance, you can use badges to motivate them to progress and complete the course. Create competitions and a positive environment toward eLearning, and always have communication lines available for them to contact your leadership and/or support team. Learners want to feel they are not alone in this!
9) Have You Considered How Are You Marketing Your eLearning Course?
Sometimes you will have the experience to design a course that is a requirement for certain employees to take. Other times, you will need to attract people to take a voluntary course. No matter the case, it can be helpful to develop a marketing and promotional strategy because learners won’t just come in hordes to take your course. Some tips for marketing the course include publishing it to relevant company forums, connecting to social media networks, and leveraging leverage existing company resources like email marketing systems, collaborative platforms like Slack, or wikis and newsletter to inform people about your new course.
10) How Will You Measure The Effectiveness of Your Course?
If you can't measure it, you can't improve it! So, make sure you define those key metrics you will use to measure the effectiveness of your course.
Kirkpatrick's taxonomy is one seasoned model that continues to receive widespread use. Developed by Dr. Don Kirkpatrick in the 1950s, the model originally contained four levels of training evaluation. Now, the levels have been clarified by Don, Jim, and Wendy Kirkpatrick to form what is called "The New World Kirkpatrick Model". Since the concept has continued to evolve alongside training, it remains a relevant and robust evaluation framework. Get more insights here.
Recommended read: Want Your eLearning Courses to Deliver Results? Avoid These Mistakes
These are only a sampling of the questions that should be asked when beginning to design eLearning content. Use the above questions, and you will be well on your way to thoughtful, intentional, and effective eLearning courses for learners. Go, explore, create, analyze, reflect, and iterate. This is essential for eLearning design and should drive the work you do in this field.