Before embarking on an eLearning project, it’s essential to remember that any eLearning has to be part of a learning and development strategy. Its overall aims should be clear.
1. Curriculum design
- The audience: Do they have any particular characteristics, language needs and what skills do they need to develop?
- Are the learners in a single location or distributed across multiple sites and time zones?
- How many languages do you need to deliver in?
- What areas will the training cover and who are the subject experts that can help?
- Do you need to harness internal staff skills and experience or supplement with outside specialists?
- What are the ‘quick win’ areas – which training will result in immediate and significant benefits?
- Are there practical issues to consider (availability of classrooms and trainers, bandwidth, delivery devices, etc)?
- Is your existing ILT approach well regarded and popular?
- Do you want to retain some aspects of it and, if so, will your eLearning be blended with new or existing instructor-led training?
- How will you measure success?
2. Assessment and certification strategy
This is potentially a large area and you may need to include a range of other considerations such as recruitment and even marketing strategy. Be sure about what you are doing it for and what you want to achieve.
- Is this training stand-alone or part of a wider training track?
- Is there a particular ‘pathway’ that you want users to follow?
- Is it mandatory? If yes, you will need a trackable delivery mechanism and think about how to encourage or enforce it
- How will you monitor learner attendance, progress and speed?
- Would you like to generate and manage certification through the system?
- How much trust do you want to place in trainees? Is it necessary to have them attend an assessment centre or will you accept their word that they are sitting assessments honestly?
3. Course choices
You have a choice here of buying from a large range of off-the-shelf eLearning courses, which are generally cheap and provide a low-cost solution. However quality varies enormously and the biggest problem is usually that they are perceived as non-relevant to a trainee’s particular situation and therefore often carry a low level of credibility with learners. For this reason take up is often very low.
A better choice is to spend a little more and either create the courses yourself using a modern authoring toolset or use the services of a good quality eLearning course creation company. Modern authoring tools don’t require much training as they are generally easy to use. Your authors should be up and running in a couple of hours – any longer and the tool isn’t the right one.
The advantage here is that you have full control and, once you’ve bought the tool, you can produce your own courses at low cost. But they do require an ongoing time investment from your staff, so you may prefer to use the services of an outside company to author your courses, either using your own subject expertise or theirs. Hopefully they too will be using tools that are fast and effective, so you will see cost reduction benefits passed onto you.
4. Review and approval
No matter who creates the eLearning, you will need to review it. This area can be problematic and we’ve found it important to have easy to use review tools to support both regular and occasional reviewers. In the worst case you can always use spreadsheets referenced to the right page in the eLearning course – it’s cumbersome but workable.
You must decide who is best able to comment on the learning, make decisions on those comments and approve the final courses. Make sure that whoever you assign to the job has the time and commitment to do it or the whole process may grind to a halt while the team wait for a particular reviewer who is always ‘too busy’ doing something else.
5. Management and Administration
Managing the whole creation and delivery process can be difficult. It’s important to have a champion – someone in the organisation with some seniority – who believes in the approach and will drive it forward.
If you opt for self-authoring, then think through how many courses you would like to produce, not just now but in a year or two. Future proofing is important. If you are only ever going to be producing a couple of courses a year, then a standalone system will be enough. Otherwise go for a collaborative system that enables multiple authors, editors, reviewers and approvers to work on the same course at the same time, enabling you to manage the whole creation and review process smoothly.
Courses do get out of date. You can counter this by never putting anything in to a course that may vary or, more realistically, have a process that triggers periodic content reviews and accommodates comments from learners. If you use an outside supplier make sure that you nail down terms for maintenance as part of the initial purchase decision.
7. Programme Evaluation
This can be based on return on investment (ROI), an assessment of educational outcomes or both. Either way you need to be clear what you are measuring and how you are going to measure it. This is a big area that’s hard to quantify and can prompt much controversy. eLearning courses and/or online assessments mounted on a Learning Management System (LMS) can provide rich data on an individual learner basis. When combined with other data such as personality assessments, it can build a valuable profile of the learner and his training needs and progress. I’ll cover this in more detail in a later blog.
Remember, the real benefit of using the latest technologies within your training strategy is not just the cost reductions that they offer. It is the speed, relevance and effectiveness of training that it enables. You can use eLearning to improve the quality and effectiveness of your training programmes whilst reducing your training spend. It just takes a little thought and effort to make it happen.
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