The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for January, 2022


Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - knowing your online training and online learners

Many online training courses go by a one-size fits all model: build one course and everyone has to take it exactly the same way. I like to think of this as the e-learning gulag where there’s not a lot of freedom for online learners and little concern for their experience.

Who Are Your Online Learners?

Regardless of how you design your online courses, it is important to understand your online learners, their needs, and what motivates them. In this post we’ll look at a few different types of online learners and some ways to create online training that meets their needs.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - what motivates your online learners

  • Get to the point: these learners have a pretty good idea of what the course covers. They’re not interested in a bunch anecdotal stories or case studies. They’re happy with a list of information, how it impacts them, and what they need to do.
  • Curious: these learner are motivated by new things; they’re really interested in the material and what’s in the course. They want opportunities to test ideas and see what happens.
  • Mandatory: these learners start out bored and not motivated because the course is mostly irrelevant to the job; however it’s mandatory. They’re going through the motions, looking for the next button, and waiting for the final quiz.
  • Tenured: these learners are experienced and already know the content. They’re interested in what’s new and how it changes what they do. They don’t want to waste time covering what they already know.
  • Skeptical: these learners are challenged by change because what they know is different and where they may be going isn’t always certain. They’ll embrace the learning but need a safe way to learn at their own pace.
  • Multitasker: these learners are a by-product of the Internet’s easy access to information. They like a lot of information, tend to jump around, and don’t have the patience to do more than bite-sized activities.

The key point is that while we build a single course, the reality is that it’s delivered to an audience that’s not homogenous. The online learners come from different backgrounds, levels of motivation, skill, and experience. This makes crafting a great learning experience a bit of a challenge.

How a Single Course Can Accommodate Multiple Online Learners

However, one thing online training does do well is that it offers a lot of flexibility. The key is to take advantage of what it offers to build an online training course that meets the needs of many online learners. Here are a few thoughts:

  • Let online learners test out. If the objective is that the person can demonstrate their understanding of the content, then give them an opportunity to do that at the forefront. Passing demonstrates their understanding so they’re done and can get back to work. If they don’t pass then they’re now aware of their deficiencies and prepared to learn.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - knowing your online learners and adaptive paths

  • Create adaptive learning paths to accommodate the different needs of your online learners. This could be giving them the opportunity test out (as mentioned above) or taking them on a custom journey based on their learning needs. Essentially, the person with more experience doesn’t need the same course as a new person.
  • Package the online learning in relevant scenarios and let the learner make a lot of decisions. There’s all sorts of ways to present content and feedback that is engaging and fun. Here’s a post to help you get started.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - knowing your online learners and custom online training experience

  •  Create bite-sized training modules. Instead of big, long courses, break the content into smaller and more palatable coursels. It’s a great way to make the training appear faster and it’s easier to package the smaller modules into custom training solutions to accommodate different audience needs. It also satisfies the needs of those who want quick access to just-in-time content.

There’s a lot you can do to create custom online learning experiences all inside the same course. But you’ll need to step away from the bullet points, free up the navigation, and give the learners more freedom.

The next time you build a course consider the different people taking it and how you can help meet their needs.

 

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.

 




Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - Build Better Online Training

There’s often a big disconnect between the training that is delivered and the training that has impact. It’s because training is commissioned by someone who doesn’t take the training like a manager or subject matter expert. What happens is that while the training has all the right information it doesn’t frame it in a perspective that is true or relevant to the learner; and that’s because the end-user usually doesn’t have a seat at the table when the training is being developed.

Here are a few ways to change that.

Build Better Online Training by Interviewing Your Learners

Someone asks you to build the training but it’s usually not the end-user. The client has all sorts of content and it’s your job to figure out what content is appropriate to meet the learning objectives. However, you also must craft a learning experience that is effective.

One way to do that is by spending some time with your learners. Share the content and objectives and then get their feedback. Ask them what content is most meaningful and useful to them. Ask how they’d structure the training.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - Build Better Online Training by making content relevant

From the conversations with them you’ll get a better sense of what they do and how the course content is relevant to their performance needs. They’ll often give you some really good use cases that can be used for simulations and interactive scenarios.

Keep in mind that what the end-user thinks is important isn’t always the priority. Often the organization has regulatory requirements that may not be relevant from a performance perspective but still a requirement for delivered training. They key point is that you’re getting another perspective.

Build Better Online Training Through Observation

Course content doesn’t always address the nuances of real work. That’s why spending time with your learners and seeing how they perform in a real environment is critical for successful training. And you’ll learn things that aren’t addressed by the content.

For example, I once built training for a production facility. The new hires had to learn how to operate some large and complex machines. I spend some time on the floor and learned that many were intimidated by the machines. This made it hard for them to learn.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - Build Better Online Training by observing your learners

Because of this, the first part of their training was to learn the parts of the machine and focus on a lot of preventive maintenance. We wanted them to get their hands on the machine and feel comfortable with it. It worked because their familiarity with the machines helped them feel comfortable and the result was that they outperformed those who didn’t go through that part of the training.

We would never have even considered this part of the training had we not spent time on the floor observing how they did their jobs. There are additional tips in this post on how to avoid needs analysis paralysis.

Build Better Online Training with Rapid Prototypes

As you interview your learners build a quick prototype of how the course would work. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I used to use PowerPoint and hyperlinks to do this. It’s a quick way to get an idea of how to structure the course content especially for interactive scenarios.

Today it’s even easier than in the past. You can shoot digital photos or videos and insert them in slides. The e-learning software is getting so easy to use that rapid prototyping only take a few minutes. I do this all the time at conferences when I’m at the booth. People come up and ask how to do specific things and in minutes we can build a quick interactive scenario.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - Build Better Online Training by building prototypes

Don’t worry about everything being perfect. I’m famous for using stick people and blue boxes. The point is that a quick prototype helps you understand the flow and expose potential issues.

Build Better Online Training with Pilot Sessions to Get Feedback

The reality is that sometimes you don’t get access to the learners. This happened to me a few years back when I worked for a bank. I was building training for loan officers and wanted to talk to some to get a sense of how things worked in their work environment. The organization thought it would be a waste of time, so I didn’t get permission to spend time with them.

If that’s your situation then build the course and prior to final approval have some of the end-users take it. If you can, try to observe how they go through the course. Often this will expose some user experience issues like navigation or improper instructions. Try to solicit as much feedback as you can so that you can make adjustments prior to the launch date.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - Build Better Online Training by piloting your courses

It’s not ideal, but it’s better than launching a course that has issues. Plus, once you have something more complete, your client may not have an issue with you spending time with the end-user. Even if you can’t get a lot of people to pilot the course, try to get at least one person. I outlined some things to do in this post on what do to before your course goes live.

The main point in all of this is that the goal is to create a successful course and one way to do so is to spend some time with your learners to understand their needs and how to design a course that both meets your learning objectives and the needs of the learner.

What tips do you have when it comes interacting with your learners as you build the 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.

 




Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - interactive scenarios

As many of you know, I tend to divide courses into two buckets. One bucket is information. The other is performance. When I meet with a client I quickly assess what type of course they want to build so that we can best meet the organization’s goals and control the cost of development.

Information-based courses are common, and many people complain that they’re just click-and-read. However, they are legitimate and do meet a need. Here are few common examples:

  • Awareness: sometimes, the only goal is an awareness campaign to share information. For example, the organization wants people to know about a new health program. The course is more like an interactive marketing campaign, but the organization is still going to call it an “e-learning course.”
  • Blended: often the information in the e-learning course is coupled with a blended learning solution where the interaction happens in real-life. In that case, the course is more like a multimedia textbook.
  • Compliance: let’s admit it, there are a bunch of courses that serve no other purpose other than to have an end-of-year check mark. Obviously, this has little to do with learning. I’m not going to stand on a soapbox and argue against this. It’s just the way it is and probably won’t change.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - interactive scenarios performance vs information courses

Performance-based courses focus on achieving specific objectives through performance and behavioral change.  Generally, there are two types of performance-based courses:

  • Procedure: teaches defined step-by-step procedures.
  • Principled: less about structured steps and more about guiding principles.

While many complain about them, information-based courses have their place. Ideally, we build courses to instigate changes in performance or behavior. With a focus on specific objectives, you also get valuable metrics to demonstrate success. However, when consulting with the client I do try to get to the performance issue so that we’re not just pushing information. If we can’t find the performance issue, then we either don’t build a course, or we build one that’s simple and doesn’t cost too much time and money.

Interactive Scenarios: Procedural

Procedural courses are more how-to type e-learning. They go through a defined flow or process. They’re less about making nuanced decisions and more about following the proper procedures to achieve a specific outcome. Often these are the source of many of our click-and-read courses.

While it’s easy enough to make an information-based course where the learner learns the proper sequence and is tested on it (like the typical linear courses), a scenario-based interaction can add some real world context.

For example, in the real world even if the process is clearly defined, there are other considerations like timing of the steps and maintaining accuracy. This type of context makes the interactive scenario work even if the procedure is relatively simple.

Think of the classic I Love Lucy chocolate factory clip. It’s easy enough to build an information-based course on how to pick up and wrap chocolates. But what the information-based course lacks is the pressure that a real-world context applies. This pressure is easy to simulate in interactive scenarios. So you can teach and assess their understanding of the procedures and do it in a real-world context.

Interactive Scenarios: Principle

Principle-based courses are different. They tend to lean less on specific steps and more on working through the various nuances in the work environment. They require that the learners collect information, assess it, and make the appropriate decisions.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - interactive scenarios for principle based decisions

Let’s say you’re a new manager and have to deal with various employee issues. Each employee has unique needs. The organization teaches guiding principles that help you make good decisions. So instead of going through prescribed steps, you collect information, analyze it, and make decisions.

In this case a decision-making scenario works really well. It allows you to teach the learner to evaluate information and make good decisions that are aligned to the organization’s needs. Because the decisions are nuanced, sometimes they’ll make bad decisions which can produce negative consequences and sometimes they make good ones. Just like in real life.

Although in real life, a bad decision may seriously impact the organization. And that’s where an interactive scenario comes in handy. They get to practice the decision-making required in a realistic situation that produces great opportunities for feedback. When they make good decisions, they gain confidence and can demonstrate to the organization their level of understanding. And if they make poor decisions they can receive feedback that will help them make better decisions in the real world. And it’s all done in a safe and non-threatening environment.

E-learning is valuable for more than quick, click-and-read courses. Focus on the performance requirement and then craft a learning experience that mimics real world activities. Even if you build simple courses, adding interactive decisions and real-world pressure will create a more meaningful experience that impacts learning.

 

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.

 




Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - 7 free audio editors

Even though many e-learning applications have their own audio tools, I usually don’t use them. I may for quick projects, but generally, I like to keep my audio production separate from my e-learning course production. It provides more control over the audio files and dedicated audio editing software tends to have more features.

Here’s a list of some free audio editors that are more than sufficient for what you may need for most of your e-learning course production. And the price is right.

Of course, working with audio isn’t necessarily as easy as plugging in a microphone and recording narration. I include links to the free software’s learning community to help you if you have detailed questions.

Audacity

Audacity is the most popular of the free audio editors. It’s open source with lots of users so that means there’s a lot of help available online. You can do quick basic recording or use the more advanced features for better audio editing.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - free audio editor recording audacity

Ocenaudio

The interface for this is familiar and pretty easy to use to get started. As they say, it’s “easy to use, fast and functional audio editor. It is the ideal software for people who need to edit and analyze audio files without complications.”

 Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - free audio editor recording ocenaudio

Presonus Studio One (free).

There’s a free and pro version. This is a nice application and a bit more sophisticated than what most of us are used to using. However, once you learn to use it you’ll have a lot you can do.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - free audio editor recording presonus

TwistedWave (beta)

This is an online tool. The start page is a bit different than you might expect. To create a recording you click “new document.” This opens up an easy to use recording window. It is online and you can save to Google Drive.

I do like the ability to download and edit audio from Soundcloud.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - free audio editor recording twisted wave

Wavosaur

I just took a quick look at the free audio editor so I can’t speak to how easy it is to use. However, I know that there are a few blog readers who use it. Here’s how Wavosaur describes the tool: “a cool free sound editor, audio editor, wav editor software for editing, processing and recording sounds, wav and mp3 files. The program has no installer and doesn’t write in the registry. Use it as a free mp3 editor, for mastering, sound design.”

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - free audio editor recording wavosaur

WaveShop

This is another application I haven’t used yet, but was told about at a recent conference. It does bit perfect editing which apparently is important if you don’t want a corrupted dither; and who wants that?

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - free audio editor recording waveshop

There are a lot more free audio editors out there, but these are the ones I’ve personally used hear the most about from blog readers. And they’re not tied to non-commercial or freemium business models. That means you’re free to use them for the courses you produce at work.

*image via commons.wikimedia.org

 

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.