So you have realised that creating eLearning within your organisation will improve the performance of your people. It is important to recognise that providing eLearning is a little more than adding existing content online. It is quite easy to convert a power point into a click-through presentation in html5 format and there are a number of tools that allow you to do this in about 5 minutes. The challenge is that presentations and eLearning courses are designed for different purposes and more often than not reading through an existing PowerPoint is equivalent to reading a web page, where information can be transferred but it is not optimal for building your knowledge, skills and attitudes in a particular area.
The content, therefore, does need to be repurposed somewhat, in order to make it an effective online learning experience. This refers both to the structure of the course and the information in it as well as converting the content into a multimedia format that can be taken online.
What this means in the real world is that your existing training content such as manuals, PowerPoints and documentation are likely a good basis for creating eLearning but will require some work to be effective.
1. Re-Design your learning content?
The first step is re-designing the content so that it works when taken online, where we don’t have the benefit of an Instructor. We need to be clear how information will be transferred through combinations of text, narration, video and interactive content. When we write a script each medium requires a different approach. Narration is most often less formal than the written word for example. The interactivity is critical when creating eLearning. This is how we encourage students to actively participate in their learning and engage with the content. By allowing them to explore through the content, raise questions and create the decision points the learner can become immersed in the course, learning as they progress.
A common task when creating eLearning using classroom training is the need to add additional information that joins the dots between what is covered in the Instructors presentation and classroom activities and what is actually written in the slides and Instructor guide. In some cases, detailed Instructor guides provide a lot of this information but from what I have seen this is less often the case. Taking a discussion with a subject matter expert or some online research often bridges this gap, where the eLearning script or storyboard can be created.
An eLearning course can take a few different formats such as text and graphics only, text/graphics/narration or text/graphics/video (and maybe narration) where the video can be a recorded speaker or scenario or in an animated format. Each of these types can then have varying levels of Interaction.
From a learning perspective, each type can have its benefits. Text can allow users to read at their own pace where graphics can supplement understanding, create associations and increase memory retention. Video can be great to quickly bring experts viewpoints to the learner, and build credibility allowing the learner to relate to the content. Narration, can allow the transfer of a lot of information and coupled with text and information, can enhance learning transfer. The blend of different types of content and interactivity also make the course more interesting, which keeps the learner focused on the course, as each new medium is used.
2. Choose your Mediums?
The time it takes or cost of each type of multimedia also needs to be considered within your project plan and it differs from project to project. You may have a lot of nice graphics in your existing training material that can be reused. Usually, however, in virtually all cases in my experience, additional graphics are required for creating eLearning, from creating eLearning navigation to providing additional graphics/images to represent the content. Time should be factored into your project for this.
Narration can vary widely in time and cost. Many eLearning developers record their own sound today, with the cost of high-end consumer microphones and more widely available information on in-house sound booths, can achieve pretty good results. For a more polished narration with a professional sounding narrator, scripts need to be sent out for recording.
Video initially sounds expensive when creating eLearning, but this may not always be the case. If you already have some video content, it can be added to a course more quickly than creating a comparative version using images and narration. Also, if you have SMEs you can record your own video with reasonably priced recording equipment to use within your course. I’ve worked on courses recorded with an iPhone and others using a professional video team, with both being effective learning experiences. As with Narration, for more professional footage, an external video team is used and potentially actors too.
With both video and audio, usually, some form of post-production is carried out, to remove noise and add effects to the sound and to edit the video into the right scenes.
The next step in the process is authoring the content. This is compiling all the elements together to create the course in order for it to be taken online. At this stage the interactivity is added to the content, to create the course. This included the ability to click, drag or hover over content to reveal more, explore through the content and quiz the learner to make it a more interactive experience.
3. Host your course online?
The final step is to host the course online. You need to ask yourself a few questions about your learners. Will they access on PCs or mobile devices? Is your content very secure and need to be hosted on your servers? Do your learners access your corporate network via a VPN or Citrix client where they may have restrictions on what they can access? Understanding the technical environment of your learners and running some tests will save a lot of red faces towards the end of your project. You will also need to ask yourself, what type of reporting do I need? Take the time early to decide what reporting information you need on the training. Do you need to understand the completion rates, quiz scores and who took the course and when or is it ok just to make the course available to your learners. The right Learning management platform (LMS) or online platform to host your course needs to be chosen. These considerations should be made before the design of the course takes place so that you know your course will work in its intended environment. A lot of video content for example requires more bandwidth and may result in a poor user experience if not available. Some other examples are that content for mobile devices needs to be created in HTML5 or mouse hover interactivity does not work for mobile.
The above information is a high level overview providing a broad view of how to take your content online. We can of course dig deeper into each area. The best advice I have is to just start, using the tools, expertise and budget you have and improve as you progress in Design and deployment of online learning.