The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for January, 2021


subject matter expert e-learning

Good news! It’s easier than ever to “build” e-learning. And because of this, subject matter experts build a lot of e-learning courses. This makes sense for a lot of reasons.

Subject matter experts have experience and depth of knowledge. They’re close to the subject and can keep things from becoming muddled by not involving a complicated production process or bringing on others who may confuse things. Training specialists (for all our good intentions) can complicate things and that’s not always good for the speed of business.

However, subject matter experts can often be too close to the content. It’s easy to forget that it took years to attain their expertise and that may not factor into what it takes for a new person to learn. Also, to a subject matter expert, everything is important. And not having an outside perspective means that the course may be too heavy on content that is irrelevant and not appropriate for the learning activities.

So where does a subject matter expert turn to build an effective course?

Content Doesn’t Equal Training

It’s common for subject matter experts (and organizations) to see everything as a content deficiency; and the solution is to build courses that require exposure to the content.

Putting content into a “course” doesn’t make it a course. Also, a lot of content in e-learning courses already exists in PDFs, websites, and other collateral.

How does copying and pasting it into a new medium make it better?

Not Everything Needs Training

“People are making this mistake.” Build a course.

“We have a new software program.” Build a course.

“Our customers aren’t happy.” Build a course.

“Here’s what they need to know about our organization.” Build a course.

Training works when focused on meaningful change that is measured through some sort of activity. Whatever deficiencies exist in not meeting the objectives may be caused by issues not related to training.

Some common issues that create gaps are poor management and communication in the organization. These things impact motivation. And they’re not easily solved by training. Other issues are environmental: perhaps the employees don’t have access to the right resources or technology.

Customers may be unhappy with things outside of the employee’s reach such as policies, sitting on hold forever, or the way ecommerce works. Those are also things not resolved with training.

Information vs Performance

Not all courses are the same. Some courses are informational where all that is required is exposure to the information (and perhaps a quick quiz).

Other courses are tied to performance expectations. These courses need better analysis and the right types of content and activities to ensure that skills are acquired and demonstrated by the learner. Looking at screens of bullet points will not help.

How to Build Successful E-Learning

Determine the learning objectives and how success is measured. The default for many organizations is to repackage content. But that’s not learning. Learning involves being able to use the content to make real-world decisions that meet the learning objectives.

Assuming the course is performance-based, focus on the required activities and not on the content. What do you want the person to do? Build the training around that. And the content supports getting there.

There’s a lot more to be said. But if you’re just getting started, focus on the action and what the person needs to DO. If there’s no action, that means it probably doesn’t need to be a course and perhaps a job aid is all that is required.

Bonus: here’s a good checklist when starting your course.

 

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 e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




good bad e-learning

I see a lot of e-learning courses and to be honest many of them are not as good as they could be. They tend to be what we anticipate from corporate e-learning: screen after screen of content with lots of next buttons and then a final quiz. You have to work with what you have. Sometimes the training content isn’t good (like the leads from Mitch and Murray) and you can’t do much with it. But often, when it comes to the content, what could be interactive is static; and what could look engaging, looks discordant.

Why? Here are a couple of reasons why that’s the case with some recommendations to make improvements.

E-Learning Designers Lack Technical Skills

Good news: e-learning software makes it easy to build courses. Virtually anyone can build a course. However, the software doesn’t “build” the course. That requires some skill.

There’s a lot that goes into crafting a good course and it requires multiple disciplines. Instructional design is different than programming which is different than visual design which is even more different than specific software expertise with e-learning tools such as Storyline 360. However, many organizations buy the easy-to-use software and then place the burden on a single person to have a broad range of skills that could, in their own right, be separate career paths. That’s a big burden.

We’re not all graphic designers and UX experts, which explains some of the discordant aspects of the course. But we can learn the basics of the skills we need and that helps clean things up and lets us know when we’re outside our skillset.

Solution:

  • Instructional design is not pushing content. It’s about teaching. Make the content relevant and frame it around real-world decision-making and you’ll create a better learning experience.
  • Develop a solid foundation of basic skills needed to craft a good course: things like instructional & visual design, etc. You won’t become a pro in all things, but you’ll learn enough to know the difference and what to look for in your course design; and know when to bring on experts to do the things you can’t.
  • Stay in your lane. For example, if you don’t have strong visual design skills, don’t try to be a visual designer. That’s when things start to look a bit clunky. In those cases, stick with a simple template or use form-based Rise 360 over Storyline 360 because you won’t have to make as many design decisions and the course will look good and work well.

Companies Don’t Invest in the Resources

Companies spend what they need to meet their business objectives. A lot of e-learning is compliance training where the only objective is to get the course in front of people and verified by the end of the year. In that world, it doesn’t make sense to spend more than you need in time and money to get courses developed and delivered. And that’s why so many e-learning courses aren’t interesting or engaging.

However, if you want to build good courses, you must commit to that and invest the right resources.

Solution:

  • Determine what type of course you’re building to better allocate resources. Generally, courses are one of two types: explainer courses or performance-based courses. Don’t overbuild a course that has no expectations but a certificate of completion. Save your resources for performance-based courses with clear, measurable objectives. They tend to require more production which takes more time and money.
  • Understand what resources you need. E-learning software is one thing. Building a good course with it is something different. Do you need a designer to help produce the core structure and some templates? Do you need a graphics person? Are you looking for some custom programming or a specific type of interactivity that requires advanced skills? Figure that out and plan on it.
  • Create a budget to pay for what you need. Many organizations just buy the software and leave it at that. But it takes more than software to build effective e-learning. And like any useful product, it requires the right investment. Propose a budget for your courses.

There are a lot of other ways to improve e-learning courses. But making an investment in skills and resources is a good place to start.

 

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 e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




dangerous e-learning

When people talk about effective e-learning it’s usually around meeting performance objectives. Many take the position that any e-learning course that isn’t performance-based is wrong; and inevitably, you run into a lot of lamenting about the dangers of click-and-read e-learning.

First off, is a click-and-read course really “dangerous?”

I think swimming in shark-infested waters is dangerous. Clicking a series of next buttons is not the same level of danger (unless that next button was connected to the 108-minute countdown timer in Lost).

Granted there are some bad e-learning courses, but that’s not because they’re click-and-read. It’s mostly because they’re not designed well. An e-learning course is a tool in the learning process.  Sometimes it’s the only tool and sometimes it’s one of many. And how it’s used is of most importance.

E-Learning Only

When the e-learning course is the only tool used in the learning process, then it makes sense to ensure that the course contains a more dynamic learning experience and avoids the typical linear, click-and-read structure that only presents content and no activities to support learning.

This is where most of the complaints about bad e-learning originate. The e-learning courses have actionable objectives and thus should contain activities designed to practice and prove competency. However, they don’t. And if the content-heavy e-learning course is the only tool used in the training to meet the performance objective it’s a waste of time and won’t do what it’s supposed to do.

E-Learning Plus

The other day I was talking to a group of students about some classes they were taking for an e-learning certificate.  I asked what they did in the class. Guess what? They had to read a bunch of instructional design books. I yawned and said, “That’s so boring you won’t learn anything.” Books are literal page-turners. They’re old-school click-and-read learning.

Joking aside, a book is almost all content with no performance-based activity. However, that doesn’t make the book useless because it’s usually not the only part of the training program. In addition to reading, the students did reflective writing assignments, had group discussions, and then practiced applying what they learned in various projects.

In that sense it is ridiculous to suggest that because the book offered no interactivity, it was useless or boring. And the same can be said about click-and-read e-learning courses. The course is a resource that aids in learning. If it’s only content yet tied to actionable objectives, it needs to be coupled with other activities outside the course.

In previous projects I’ve used the e-learning course as a pre-meeting activity prior to face-to-face instruction. It allowed us to deliver the content consistently and gave the person freedom to go through it at their own speed and leisure. And then they came to our sessions at a point where we could do a quick review and jump into practice activities.

On another project, a lot of the core information was previously delivered in a loud production environment by various people who may not have been as motivated to stay on script. We separated the onboarding content from the hands-on activities. The onboarding content was delivered via e-learning. They learned about the production environment, the organization’s safety focus, and the machines they would be using. And then we sent them to the floor to work in a hands-on environment.

In both instances, the courses were mostly linear content with a few simple quiz questions. By themselves they were deficient. However, when the content was coupled with real-world activities it was part of a successful and effective training program.

And that’s how e-learning courses should be judged. If a training program has performance expectations with actionable objectives and it uses e-learning, then the course by itself needs to be more than content with appropriate assessment activities or the course needs to be coupled with real-world practice activities.

 

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 e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.