We’re in the middle of beta testing a new product. It’s an interesting process because I get to see how people approach their projects and the steps they use to solve problems and find solutions.
I had a conversation with a beta tester who was struggling with doing something. One reason for his struggle was that he was applying production techniques he used for a different product to the beta software. So things weren’t working as he had planned.
His struggle was one common to many of us. He started with a solution and then tried to make it fit the problem he was trying to solve. He started with a production process (solution) and then tried to force his objective (completing his project) to the solution.
He should have stepped away from the solution, taken a closer look at what he wanted to do, and then look at the options he had for meeting his objective. At that point he could have determined the most effective solution for meeting his goals. It would have saved him some time and frustration.
Starting with a solution isn’t an issue isolated to those beta testing software. It’s really an issue with a lot of training and elearning programs. How often have you been in a meeting where the client says, “We need a new course,” before they even presented their objectives? It seems that almost every time I start a project, the client’s already determined that some sort of training is required even if that’s not always the case.
Recognize that elearning courses aren’t the objective.
E-learning courses (and training programs for that matter) exist to meet objectives. They really aren’t THE objective. They’re solutions. If you start with a pre-determined solution without evaluating your objectives, there’s a good chance that you won’t meet your objectives.
It’s easy to be seduced by solutions because these seem tangible and active, especially with the simple and quick authoring of rapid elearning tools. They allow you to easily create solutions. Need a quick course? No problem. I can get one to by the end of the week. And many times you’ll be the rock star at work because you’ll have this cool, interactive elearning course to show off. That’s a lot more tangible than a brainstorm list of possible solutions.
Step away from the solutions.
Before committing time and resources to a solution make sure you fully understand the objectives. What do you hope to accomplish? Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to look at all of the solutions available to you and then decide which is best to meet your objectives.
Another reason to step away from the solution is that we tend to get enamored with features and then work to get our objectives to meet the feature whether or not it adds real value.
Collect data to help make an informed decision.
We’re an information-driven culture so it’s easy to understand why we fall back on the need to create a course. The thought is that if only people knew more they’d be able to make better decisions and accomplish their goals. So a lot of our training is focused on pushing information to people so that they can know more.
Let’s take a step back and do the “knowing more” at the front end. What do you know about your objectives? Why do they exist? Usually there’s some sort of gap between where you are and where you want to be after the training is implemented.
What’s causing the gap? Is it really a lack of knowledge or understanding, which may require training? Perhaps there’s a lack of resources? Maybe there’s an issue with motivation.
As you can imagine, not all gaps are covered by a training program. Many times there are issues like performance support, management styles, personal motivation, or available resources. No matter how hard you try, the elearning course won’t fill those gaps.
Determine the best solution.
Once you’ve identified your objectives, you’re able to determine the best solution to meet them. Somewhere in the process you’ll know if an elearning course is part of the solution. If it’s not, then you’ve saved the organization time and money. On the other hand, if it is, you’ll have a better handle on the objectives and what you need to do to meet them. You’ll also have some metrics to compare the pre- and post- course results.
Elearning courses play a role in your training initiatives. But they’re not always the right solution. Before you invest a lot of time and money into building courses, make sure you know that the course will meet your objectives.
And then when you do start building the course, worry less about using the feature and more about what you want to do. Then figure out which features let you do that best.
E-learning books don’t usually deal with this type of stuff and the decisions you have to make prior to building the course. But your successful implementation of elearning requires that you’re building the right type of courses (if at all). While you don’t need an MBA in business, you should be familiar with performance consulting at some level.
Here are a few book recommendations.
- The Performance Consultant’s Fieldbook
- Performance Consulting
- First Things Fast
- Training Design Basics via Scott in comments
If you want to recommend a good resource or performance consulting blog, feel free to mention it in the comments section.
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Free E-Learning Resources
Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.
Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs
Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills
Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.