Common mistakes create less-than-desired results and can directly affect the success of the e-learning tool. Some common mistakes include:
- Lack of a strong sponsorship, which sets the tone, management expectations and provides excitement.
- Unclear definition of business, performance and work environment needs (requirements).
- Insufficient needs analysis in determining the goals and objectives for each content piece.
- Forgetting to include subject-matter experts (SMEs) in the creation and review of the content and materials.
- Neglecting the usability of the interface within your e-learning tool.
- Lack of coordination surrounding the rollout of your training program.
- Not monitoring the effectiveness of training and revision of program and materials.
- Lack of infrastructure to support use of the training.
When developing any e-learning program, it is important that the tools are interactive, memorable, flexible, helpful and accessible. The combination of these five key components will enable users to learn and retain more information that will increase their knowledge and results and produce an increased return on investment.
By introducing interactivity into the learning experience, people become engaged in and are more willing to make the most of their online learning environment. It also allows you to include more sophisticated materials without intimidating employees new to the information.
A good way to engage your trainees is to provide vehicles to apply the knowledge they are being taught while they are being taught. If you are training for a software package, create modules to mimic the software environment and give them tasks to accomplish based on the training topic they just covered. For topics that don’t lend well to practicing on the computer, you can build in business processes to have a supervisor walk them through a task to reinforce the learning. Providing hands-on interactivity, whether virtually or through real-life exercises, is essential to good learning.
Organizing high-level topics helps people keep in mind what knowledge they should be retaining from the training and makes it more likely that they will apply it on future real-world projects of their own. People need to feel that what they learned is valuable, and structuring topics to include a beginning, middle and end makes them more memorable.
Engage your users with unique approaches to learning topics. This will help you avoid the repetition that is common in e-learning courses and severely reduces their effectiveness. Simply approaching each topic with a little creativity in how you convey the information can go a long way toward increasing the effectiveness of your training.
Allow people flexibility in the use of an e-learning tool. Your e-learning tool should take into account various levels of learners and abilities. By making it easy for people to progress and track their progress, they can easily return to a place where they’ve left off.
Your training should also be flexible to accommodate changing content. Rarely do product information, installation procedures and specific processes you may be training on remain static. Companies and products evolve over time and your training needs to evolve with them to maintain its value. Plan up front for the information most likely to change, and make sure your development staff builds in the flexibility to accommodate those upcoming changes. Also create a plan to make sure the changes happen. Assign team members the responsibility for touching base with content owners once a quarter (or as often as budget allows) for any updates. If information in your e-learning project becomes incorrect or outdated, its lifespan becomes drastically reduced.
Since much of e-learning occurs outside of a group or moderated environment, it is important to make your tool helpful. People need instructions or tips for completing modules, as well as resources for accessing definitions and terms or who to contact in case of technical issues using the tool. Consider adding a “help” button that is clearly visible and accessible from every page to provide detailed information on how to navigate the training. This will help keep the trainee focused on the training—not getting frustrated with the mechanics.
Other good ideas are to create a “Frequently Asked Questions” area and a “Glossary” for specific terms users may stumble over. Tools like these can become valuable resources for trainees to refer back to even after the training is over.
Full schedules often make it challenging to accommodate time for e-learning tools. By making tools accessible from the Internet, you give people the option of taking advantage of them from outside of a work environment. Keeping in mind many companies’ policies toward the hours in which training can occur and building that into your e-learning tool is an important part of its success.
Consider also creating a CD-ROM-based version of your training for low-bandwidth offices, for users to take home or on the road and for field technicians to have on hand for reference. The incremental cost of including a CD-ROM version of the training can be minimal compared to the extended reach of the training.
Looking down the road, there are emerging trends surrounding e-learning tools that include expanding curriculum into remote locales and knowledge management and tracking. Corporations are becoming less willing to fly employees around the country to attend training seminars. Bandwidth is becoming more available, which allows larger courses to be displayed online with great accessibility. As the world moves toward a more knowledge-based society, it is clear that e-learning tools offer collaborative, time and cost advantages over more traditional centers.
Thomas Obrey co-founded PixelMEDIA in 1994. As chief operating officer, Thomas is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company, managing the development and professional services staff and providing senior-level strategy and consultation services to the company’s vast client base. PixelMEDIA provides strategy, design and implementation services for Web, multimedia and IT initiatives. PixelMEDIA offers a complete range of strategic, creative and technology services to leading companies including CIGNA Corp., C-Port Motorola, CVS/pharmacy, Liberty Mutual, LogicaCMG and Nokia.