Creating an effective eLearning program is no easy task. It takes hard work, commitment, continuous trial and error, and making LOTS of mistakes along the way before you hit the mark.
In this post, we wanted to share some of the lessons we've learned the hard way and give you some valuable pieces of advice, so you don’t make the same mistakes we (or our clients) did. We can only hope that walking you through these lessons-learned can help begin your eLearning design endeavor the right way.
Here are the top five e-learning lessons we've learned along the way, and hopefully knowing these will save you a lot of time, frustration, and money:
1- “Because I said so” is not a reason for training.
Without addressing your learners’ needs and the objectives of the company your training courses turn into the worst version of every high school class where everyone sat around asking “why are we learning this?” and the only answer is “Because I said so.” Don’t be that class!
Before ever starting your course design you need first to assess what your learners’ skill gaps are before you can fill them in. This means using your time and money before you start designing. It may seem excessive to spend 5 hours in the analysis phase for developing a 1-hour training course, but you will lose far more time and money if you skip this part, launch a course and then find out it doesn’t suit anyone’s needs. Make the best use of your budget by putting in the time before you plan. The analysis phase is key to ensure you teach the right skills to the right audience.
Your learning objectives also need to align with what the company wants to accomplish. Take time to figure out exactly what the problem is and who they want to address it with: an individual, project team or the entire workforce. This process of figuring out objectives should involve L&D and be promoted by those in charge.
As one CLO of a European telecom said, “If L&D is not a strategic partner for the important initiatives of the company, you’re just working reactively with the other businesses. In our company, there is a strong alignment between learning and our overall business strategy. But that’s because of a strong push from the CEO.”
All too often an L&D program is launched without a full investigation into what the objectives are (i.e. quality improvement, increased productivity, cost efficiency, etc.). This results in lost time and money for the company and employees alike because the training simply isn’t useful enough.
2- Course completions aren’t everything.
A person can click “next” a few dozen times and retain just enough info to take a quiz and complete a course in record time. If you see completions of a course as the ultimate indicator of effectiveness you and your boss are going to be sadly disappointed if you don’t take other factors into consideration.
Instead, you have to consider that your learners are getting something out of your courses no matter if they complete them or not. Your focus, instead, needs to be other benchmarks like increased job performance, application of training, overall impact and recommendations by managers and learners. Otherwise, if you just look at completions, you will find yourself constantly trying to tweak something that may not even be broken.
3- Creating an eLearning course is not a one-time thing.
Sorry to disappoint you, but people don’t learn from a single training session, however, intense it might be. 1- hour long eLearning courses delivered once or twice a year are really only going to result in a lot of wasted time and very little retention of information. Learning isn’t a one-off event; it has to take place over time, it has to be continuously reinforced and repeated.
Spaced Repetition: Your greatest tool to get students to use what they learn and have it stick is to repeat content multiple times over a certain period. This doesn’t mean having them go over the same course over and over again. It means that after your employees take an eLearning course, give them regular intervals of info where they quickly review what they learned. Also, make sure your learners have access to training modules on-demand, whenever they need to refresh the content. Studies have indeed demonstrated that information is remembered two to three times better if training is spaced in time rather than massed together.
4- Creating an eLearning course is just one-half of the battle.
You’ve defined learning objectives, you’ve created effective eLearning courses, you’ve tweaked and perfected them. Everything is looking great, except no one is taking your courses. Ever stop to question why that is?
The primary reason is that creating an eLearning course is really only half the job. The other half is actually promoting the course so people are aware it exists.
After all, employees are busy people who are often just trying to get through their workweek as efficiently as possible. They don’t stand around the LMS anxiously awaiting your next training course offering. You can’t leave the course hidden in a dark corner, or buried somewhere in the murky underworld of your LMS. You, employers, HR and recruiting all need to get on board with promoting these new courses and giving employees easy access and frequent reminders.
Along with reminders and access, you have to show employees what the value of your course is. This is why a regurgitated form letter every few weeks telling employees “New Training Courses Available, Now!” isn’t enough. Knowing the course available and how to get to them is only part of it. You have to COMMUNICATE it to your staff with a bit of an ‘elevator pitch’ as to why it’s worth doing.
5- Your learners are human, never forget that!
It’s easy to forget the human element when designing an eLearning course because you’re working on a computer usually in order to create something that will also be viewed on a computer, mobile device or tablet.
To combat this, you can gather some ideas from traditional classrooms and incorporate Q&A’s, discussion forums and social media to encourage learners to interact with instructors and each other. By using these social tools, you are inspiring empathy and creativity as opposed to passive listening. This allows learners to engage more, retain more and overall get more from you courses.
But above all: Address the Human, Personal Need.
An important part of any eLearning course is the content, but learners don’t just need to know what they are supposed to learn, they want to understand the practical application of that content. Behind the professional, logical need there is a human need. Perhaps it is important to understand that A+B = C, but what the learner wants to know is how arriving at C will help them do their job better. You must answer their questions, pique their curiosity, address their pain points, because you are talking to a human being even in an online context.
More tips on how to keep eLearning more human in this post from some time ago.
These are our best e-learning lessons so far. We’ve learned the value of pre-planning and taking our audience’s needs into consideration as we help to inspire you to do the same with your learners. We look forward to bringing you, even more, lessons from our next 2,000 courses!