Continuous learning is becoming the norm in people’s personal and working lives. eLearning is proven to increase performance as a cost effective, flexible and scalable way to learn, but it is just one component of many activities that support a workplace learning initiative: it has maximum impact when it plays a supporting role in a broad, well thought out program.
If you need or are starting to create a learning program, this post is for you. It will be equally applicable whether you want to create a single course or develop a program that runs over many months. To ensure that your program is meaningful and consistent with your goals, take some time to complete each of the following steps in order.
Talk to your subject matter experts, managers and learners to understand the current challenges and competence gaps. You might be surprised how often this step is overlooked, it’s tempting to jump straight in and presume you know exactly what competence gaps exist. Consider conducting focus groups, surveys and interviews so you have a written record. Other options are to observe on-the-job behavior and performance and to review appraisal data and employee development plans. The important thing is to wear your investigator hat to ensure you have the right foundation for your program. Completing this step is also a great way to get early buy-in for your program as people have been consulted early in the process.
People have mixed reactions to the formality of learning objectives but you should understand what needs to be learned and the depth it needs to be learned in. Writing this out at the beginning provides you with an anchor point to guide you through the rest of the project.
Understand your audience too, for example, can you treat everyone the same or facilitate separate groups where different needs exist.
Start with a list of what topics or skills need to be developed, based on your research during the analysis stage. Decide what needs to be learned, what needs to be practiced and what attitudes might need to be changed and label each topic ‘knowledge’, ‘skills’ or ‘attitudes’. List them in order of priority.
Estimate how long each topic should take and use this as a starting point. There is no hard and fast rule, but consider your goals and the level of detail in your content. Consult with those experienced in each area to get a sense of how your estimates are perceived. Be sure to allow time for practice, reflection and summaries.
Gather the available documentation and resources that will be used to create the course content or program. Ensure to ask around, as often documentation is forgotten on shared or local storage. It can be frustrating to discover some great content halfway through a project that then needs to be squeezed in. Typically, documentation consists of process documents, existing training materials, marketing materials or standard operating procedures. Also, create a list of people or subject matter experts (SMEs) that can support you with relevant content if appropriate.
Mind-mapping is a simple way to put down your thoughts about how a program should be structured. For each topic, outline the learning intervention (method of teaching) that would best meet that need. You can break the intervention into parts and they don’t necessarily have to be in sequential order. If you have the option, use a mixture of activities that are in class/formal setting, on-the-job and online.
Knowledge could be transferred by creating bite sized videos, setting a reading assignment, hosting a webinar or creating a knowledge sharing session.
Skills can be transferred by creating workplace challenges, setting up practice environments, setting up buddy practice sessions or developing online scenarios.
Attitudes can be changed by providing the meaning behind the change. Create stories to provide context, show the consequences of changing or not changing. Use staff videos, emotion or the WIIFM (What is in it for me) model to influence change.
Collaborate at this stage where possible as brainstorming and debate usually throw up different perspectives and ideas.
Design the course with your budget and time in mind, for example, an online scenario can be created via interactive video, voice-over and images or simply by text: either could be equally effective from a learning perspective.
Get several appropriate people to review the outline. This could be managers, subject matter experts or a subset of the intended audience. This step considerably increases the quality of your program and helps you to avoid wasting time creating content that will not be used later.
Once you have the mind-map in place your storyboard(s) will allow you to fill in all the details required to build each piece of content. Storyboards define the structure, navigation, interaction narration and/or visuals that will be used within the training. Usually, each screen or section is described on a page or slide of a PowerPoint or word doc. Also included are the onscreen text and visuals to be used within the course and placeholders for video and animated content.
The storyboard should be reviewed and signed off before moving onto the next stage, as it’s far easier to change things at this stage than once the build begins.
Plan for any video that needs to be captured or animated. Gather any graphics that need to be sourced from an image bank stock site or from within your own organisation and store them in a single place, labeling the content to indicate where it will be used.
You may need voice over narration, this can be recorded or sent out to a voice over artist. Using a professional voice over artists is a relatively cost-effective way to add professionalism to your course.
Use an image editing tool to prepare your images in line with your storyboard. Prepare and edit all your images at the same time so you can find a rhythm and create them efficiently rather than jumping back and forth between tools. Do the same with all audio and video editing.
Authoring your content is essentially pulling it all together into the format that the learner will see. To enable tracking and reporting on learner progress, most eLearning content is hosted on a Learning Management System (LMS).
You can disseminate your content (video, text, animation etc.) directly from most Learning Management Systems. In eLearning courses, you would usually pull it together into course format first using an authoring tool such as Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, Elucidat or Adapt, which adds functionality such as assessments and interactive content (drag/drop, branching, click and reveal etc.). Once created in the authoring tool, you can upload the course as a .zip file to your Learning Management System.
You are fighting for your learner’s attention. They are inundated with more tasks, data and distractions than ever. To launch a successful learning program in your organisation, think about how you can promote and sell the value of the program. There are plenty of ideas you can use for promotion, so use what makes sense in your situation:
- Ask senior managers to speak about the program before launch
- Consider creating a launch video and distributing to participants
- Set up an awards/certification event after the program
- Assign challenges during the training, where learners deliver an assignment or present to management on the completion of the program
- Connect the training to something tangible within the organization, for example, promotion or assignment selection
So there you have it. It may seem like a lot of steps to go through, but they are all necessary. Schedule some time for each step and you will ensure an efficient design process and an effective learning transfer.