Browse Category by Online learning

Designing eLearning? Here’s a little help from your friends!

Image by Annie Spratt from Pixabay

It’s been clear for some time now that organisations are moving increasingly towards implementing eLearning to improve efficiency in delivering training. Whether the eLearning they’re considering is the most appropriate or only solution is a whole different story.

However, let’s imagine that you’ve carried out an in-depth analysis looking closely at the needs and experiences of your audience, established the the performance need, made sure there’s clear link to organisational goals and considered all possible options. You’ve come to the conclusion that the type of e-learning appropriate, whether wholly or as part of a blend, is the self-study interactive tutorial.

OK, so now you’re confident in your decision, now you have to decide how this should be done. If you’ve ruled out going externally and buying off the shelf, the alternative is to produce yourself in-house.

But what if you’re new to all this stuff? Well you could go on a course! But what if this isn’t an option – where do you start? There’s so much information and advice out there you can feel overwhelmed so I thought I’d get some useful resources together which might help in your quest for creating the holy grail of eLearning – that which engages and produces effective results.

Firstly, here are just a small selection of my own blog posts to start you thinking:

The great thing about the eLearning community is everyone loves to share. Here are some excellent resources from some of the greats in the e-learning field (and I mean only some – there are many more but these are good to get you started):

Take a look at Cathy Moore’s blog and particularly her ‘Action Mapping‘. One important way of making elearning more realistic, relevant and engaging is using stories and scenarios. Here’s another post by Cathy Moore on creating mini scenarios.

I’ve often said that PowerPoint is your secret weapon when creating eLearning so my advice is to learn all you can about how to use its graphics as in depth as you can. Oh… and trash the template. By that, I mean, avoid the default, bulleted list style template and create your own from a blank slide. For ideas on how you can be creative with PowerPoint, check out Articulate’s Rapid eLearning Blog. No matter what authoring tool you have, the Rapid eLearning Blog will give you handy tips and ideas.

I’d definitely recommend putting The eLearning Coach on your reading list. Here’s a great post on different ways to provide feedback in your elearning.

Kineo has also got a lot of great resources and free advice too.

You need to balance effective learning with effective visuals when designing eLearning and in the absence of a graphic design qualification here are some good resources. These aren’t eLearning based but some ideas can be applied to eLearning screens:

And if you want professional advice backed up by research, get ‘e-Learning and the Science of Instruction‘ by Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer. Here’s my review of this book.

Well, I think that’s enough to get you all starting to think about what makes good eLearning. As I said, there’s so much more out there but these are certainly my favourite and will be more than enough for you at the beginning.

So go on – give it a go. As the saying goes… it’s easier to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Give yourself small, achievable goals and practise. Join and participate in communities like Articulate’s ‘e-Learning Heroes‘ community where you can share some of your ideas and prototypes to get feedback from others in the community. I’d also recommend joining the eLearning Network, a UK organisation ‘run by the eLearning community for the eLearning community’ sharing best practice.

But just to leave you with a thought…. it’s all very well knowing where to go for help and advice but to put some great eLearning out there in your organisations you’ll need backing and support. Not only from your colleagues but from your managers. Clive Shepherd briefly covers this in his post ‘Tools, talent, training and, above all, time‘ and my follow-up post ‘Dream the impossible e-dream‘.

What are your favourite ‘go-to’ resources to help you design eLearning or digital content?

Dream the impossible eLearning dream

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Another nail struck firmly on the head by Clive Shepherd in his post on the four Ts. So often, when keen individuals walk through our training room doors, their expectations are high. Unfortunately, equally, their expectations are also very often unrealistic. It soon becomes clear that there might not only be a lot to learn (but attainable) but a lot of time will be required to reach the appropriate skill level.

Clive explains this needs practise, and practise needs time. Those already in the learning and development field may not need skills in how adults learn in general (you’d hope) but they will need to adapt their skills to design for a different delivery medium.  This means stepping into a whole new technological world – and, oh, how much of it there is! On the other hand those who might already be tech-savvy may not have the necessary skills in what make good learning.  Therefore each of these groups need up-skilling.

It’s encouraging to witness continued enthusiasm of people on the eLearning courses I run.  Of course there are dips – usually when they realise exactly how much is involved;  there are also highs when they realise they often have more experience and aptitude than they might have thought.  When they leave, their high expectations may have been capped, but mostly they still leave enthused and keen to put their new-found knowledge into practise.

However, that’s often when we hit the biggest downer of all ….

With these skills gaps already identified by organisations, employees are signed up for training courses to achieve what’s required.  It’s great news that organisations recognise this and are investing in their employees.  It’s certainly a step in the right direction.  However, along with the investment comes unrealistic expectations of speedy implementation.  In a previous post, I discussed the likelihood of compromising quality when unrealistic goals are set when implementing an in-house eLearning project.

This isn’t just limited to the domain of eLearning design though – again as I replied to a comment from Clarke Quinn to that same post above.  Throughout the years L&D teams have been faced with unrealistic time-scales and misconceptions about how much work is involved in developing learning programmes – whether they are eLearning, formal face to face training or even e-bites of instructional ‘how-to’ support material.  The result?  A compromise on quality or working ridiculously long hours or both!

Unless a clear digital learning strategy is agreed and supported by senior executives and across all levels of the organisation, we may likely to see a slow improvement in the quality of in-house produced eLearning content.

It’s not an impossible dream – it can happen with commitment, support and understanding.

An Olympic Online Opportunity

Photo by Simon Connellan on Unsplash

At 12:49 on Wednesday 6 July 2005, I was travelling in Staffordshire to a training venue listening for the imminent announcement of who was going to ‘win’ the Olympic Games for 2012.  Now, I’m not a big sports fanatic but I couldn’t help but join in very excitedly with a big ‘WHOOP WHOOP!’ as Jacque Rogge made the announcement ….. LONDON!

Seven years later and it’s nearly here and Olympic fever has begun.  But along with the kudos comes chaos.  Now we’re hearing about all the disruption the Games are going to create.  It’s already started with Olympic organisers creating an Olympic route network meaning roadworks.

With the disruption to day to day business with journeys to work affected, higher than usual annual leave requests, pressures on transport systems and road networks, the advice given in the ‘preparing your business for the games‘ LOC publication to businesses is:

Millions of additional trips are expected on public transport and the road network in London and the UK … This could potentially disrupt your employees’ journeys, business travel, deliveries/collections, and the operations of suppliers, other contractors and freight.  To keep your businesses running, you should aim to reduce the need to travel and make essential journeys at less busy times or by using different modes or routes.

Over the past few months several delegates on my courses have talked about their organisations being encouraged to allow staff to work from home where they’re not needed to be in the office/building.

Of course, this doesn’t just mean problems for day to day working but also day to day training/learning.  Fortunately, if key people in these organisations are on the ball, they will see there is a way around some of this disruption.  Where live conversations are needed to take place, whether it’s to discuss on ongoing project or as part of a planned training course, we have the technology.  We’ve been communicating via e-mail for years.  

The concept of collaborating remotely is not new but we’ve yet to embrace the live online environment.  Perhaps it’s the fear of the unknown.  Perhaps it’s bad experiences of them in the past.  But now – and I mean now and not in a few months time as an afterthought – is the time to make the most of the technology at our fingertips and start working (and learning) smarter.  If we start investigating as soon as possible how best to engage our live online participants (audience is too passive a word), we’ll be on the winning team by a long shot.

We certainly do have an Olympic opportunity.

Field of Dreams- if you build it, will they come?

Image by freestocks-photos from Pixabay

I’m sitting here in my hotel room catching up with some much neglected research via my Twitter network with half an ear on the TV (who said I couldn’t multi-task – oh yes, that was me!). The programme is Alex Polizzi’s ‘The Fixer’ where she advises waning businesses on how to improve. This week it’s the turn of The Chough Bakery in Padstow; a family business baking fresh and quality breads.

What actually pricked up my ears was a statement along the lines of “it doesn’t matter how good your product is, you have to be able to sell it”. The family had a great range of products. However, the person tasked with sales and marketing the range didn’t have the detailed product knowledge, nor the drive to proactively market them.

We can often forget how important marketing is to our eLearning programme. Or, indeed any learning programmes. But it’s especially important we know how to ‘sell’ any new product well.

Just imagine….. you and your instructional design team have spent weeks designing and developing the perfect learning solution to meet the detailed analysis which also took blood, sweat and tears to complete. You’ve meticulously project managed the development and run a very successful pilot. The solution is good to go and has been opened up to the masses. So there it sits – in your course booking system like a forgotten toy waiting for someone to remember it and take it out off the box.

Without a robust marketing strategy all that hard work, time and resources will go to waste. Unlike Kevin Kostner’s Field of Dreams, just because you built it, your learners won’t necessarily come.

If selling to external customers, it goes without saying that your sales team should be fully conversant in what your eLearning or blended solution entails; identifying the unique selling point for different customers. A sheep dip approach has the same pitfalls in sales and marketing as it has for learning. One excellent way of helping your sales staff fully explain and sell the solution to different needs is for them to experience the learning first hand. Perhaps they could take part in the pilot?

But it’s not just down to our sales team. In L&D we are all ‘Ad-men’ selling the benefits to our learners, motivating and engaging. So remember, if all that hard work is going to pay off, your project plan has to include a good marketing strategy too.

The price of perfection

Image by Robert Fotograf from Pixabay

I recently read this excellent post by Clark Quinn (@Quinnovator) despairing about the continued dire examples of eLearning continually being created. Sometimes I wonder whether eLearning designers take their profession seriously enough to continually research, read and improve.

It isn’t particularly hard to keep up with best practice especially given the ease with which we can now collaborate, share and network with peers and experts in the field. With the likes of Cathy Moore, Connie Malamad, Ruth Clark, Tom Khulman to name only a fraction who feel so strongly about improving the quality of eLearning tutorials that they give advice freely, I certainly share Clark Quinn’s frustrations. I’d like to think I play my own little part in the revolution.

However, I then have to take a step back and climb down from my high horse (mixing my metaphors). When discussing what is good eLearning (referring to the self-paced interactive tutorials) it often becomes very clear that even when people have the knowledge, skills and drive to produce quality their hands are quite tightly tied by time and resource constraints. People gasp with disbelief when I give them an indication of how many hours of development time to hours of learning it can take. Then their gasps turn to nervous laughter when contemplating what their bosses/sponsors would say if they asked for enough time to develop this level of excellence let alone get to grips with their new skills.

So I can equally empathise with Rob Stephen’s comment to Clark Quinn’s post. The problem is, in today’s climate where time and resources are scarce, something’s got to give – all too often that something is quality. So instead, perhaps we should ask ourselves “what’s the alternative” and take a more agile approach to make sure quality is maintained. After all there is more to eLearning than the self-paced (so called) interactive tutorials we often think of when faced with the term.

There is little excuse, however, if such poor examples to which Clark Quinn refers are still being produced. As ‘expert’ instructional designers they should know what good learning involves. Although, there may be various reasons why this might be so. Giving the benefit of the doubt, it may be that the sponsor, knowing little about what great eLearning looks and feels like, insists on info-dumps testing knowledge not application to tick those compliance boxes.

The culprit may be the sponsor’s limited budget and of course more complex the eLearning the longer it will take and therefore will cost more but that doesn’t mean that simple interactions needn’t be performance based, relevant and contextual. In which case the experts in instructional design surely would act as consultants to those with less knowledge in learning design. But it shouldn’t just be laid at their door. We all have a duty to work together, to make sure learning is effective no matter how it’s delivered. Are we willing to pay the price of perfection or will pursuit of efficiency be the cost of quality?

E-Learning and the Science of Instruction by Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer: A review

Towards the end of last year I was asked if I’d like to contribute to the online e-learning magazine ‘eLearn Magazine‘ by writing a book review. I was honoured to be asked and eagerly agreed.

I was pleased to find out that the book chosen for me to review was Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer’s third edition of ‘E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning’ to give it its full title.

Here’s an extract, hot off the press.

Transferring classroom courses to online delivery isn’t as simple as it might initially seem. In our eagerness to meet the needs of the organization, the needs of the learners are often overlooked. Even so, the trend for producing more efficient ways of delivering learning is set to continue. It also means more and more organizations are looking to produce eLearning in house. If this is the case, in order to leverage the benefits of eLearning we’ll need some guidance. And for that we do not have to look further than Clark and Mayer’s E-Learning and the Science of Instruction, now in its third edition.

Read the full article at eLearn Magazine here