Knowing me, knowing you … A-ha!

What makes an effective learning solution?

I’ve asked the same question many times over the years with the following responses:

    Relevant
    Realistic
    Interactive
    Goal based
    Flexible
    Challenging
    Structured but not controlling

Although all of these elements are important they pale into insignificance without one vital consideration because without it, learning doesn’t hit all the marks.

When discussing a hypothetical situation recently, it was suggested that if we were to produce a specific training programme within the given timescales, within the given budget, using the given resources, to the large number of learners, the only way to get this done in time was to forego the analysis of the audience’s needs, experience and characteristics! The reason given was that there would just not be the time.

My counter-argument was that without knowing your audience, how can you design the most appropriate solution. What you’d actually end up with is the usual blunderbuss approach i.e. blast it out and hope you hit the target!

Unfortunately, and sadly, this seems to be a common decision and subsequently, is the reason why a lot of training solutions, ‘e’, classroom or blended, can suffer.

Today I attended an eLearning Network event where the theme was ‘truly effective eLearning and the key ingredient for its success running throughout the discussions was the need to be more learner-centred. Without knowing your audience, how could eLearning (or indeed any learning) be learner-centred?

Then tonight, by chance, I also read something Clive Shepherd posted on an Onlignment blog post ‘making transformation happen: analysis and design‘ which reinforces how imperative the analysis is.

So as the song goes… “Knowing me, knowing you is the best I can do”!

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

Photo by Gomez f on Stock XchangeIt’s been clear for some time now that organisations are moving increasingly towards implementing e-learning to improve efficiency in delivering training. Whether the e-learning 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 e-learning – 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 tutorials so my advice is to learn all you can about how to use its graphics as in depth as you can. Oh… and toss the template. By that, I mean, always use a blank slide so you’re not constrained by any PowerPoint’s standard, heavy bulleted slides. 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 tutorials. 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‘.

So go on – take that first bite of the elephant.

Digital Teaching Platforms: a review

A little while back I was asked if I’d like to write another review for eLearn Magazine. Here’s an extract:

“When I read the title of this book I was intrigued. Admittedly, at first I only read the main title “Digital Teaching Platforms” and as I’m always looking at learning more about how technology can help, support and advance learning, I was keen to investigate further. When I then read the sub-heading “Customizing classroom learning for each student,” I have to admit, I was thinking more corporate classrooms.

Finding ways of avoiding the “sheep-dip” approach to teaching and thereby seeking to customize learning interventions for individuals is the Holy Grail amongst learning professionals. However, customizing content for learners often proves elusive. It was once deemed expensive to have to create enough variables to cater for everyone. However with the major advances in technology of recent years this is becoming achievable.”

More…