Getting Started with eLearning

eLearning has become such a catch-phrase these days. From helping people change an O-ring in a dishwasher to “Plug and Play VHS” types like the way Khan Academy was originally built.

In all intelligence, youtube is a viable eLearning strategy, except for the testing. There are videos that can show you how to do everything. Bake a cake, play a bass line from a Sublime song or even build an eLearning course. As odd as it seems building an eLearning course isn’t as easy as the video assumed. Nor was the cosmic votex it through me in, watching aneLearning video on how to build aneLearning course,

At any rate, getting started with eLearning can, at times, feel like you’re climbing up a snowy hill barefoot. But it doesn’t have to be that way. eLearning is a celebration about your content, your training and most importantly, your business. Besides, who knows your business more than you?

 The definition of eLearning is often times a 20 year old definition. “eLearning is learning utilizing electronic technologies to access educational curriculum outside of a traditional classroom.”

For a business the classroom is sort of a misnomer. Wouldn’t you rather have a fully trained staff who is understanding of the content YOU offer?

We would as well.

The Value of eLearning

eLearning offers a lot of value compared to more traditional training options, like facilitated sessions or lectures. eLearning…

  • can be either an asynchronous or synchronous activity: Traditionally,eLearning has been asynchronous, which means there is no predetermined time for the learning to take place. Everyone can go at their own pace, and take their time to learn what they need to know, when they need to know it. However, more synchronous eLearning is now being offered through web conferencing and chat options. The great thing about eLearning is it gives you the option to do one, or both.
  • has a global reach: eLearning can simply be placed online and easily accessed by people around the world. There is no need for expensive travel or meetings across multiple time zones.
  • spans multiple devices/mobile: Online courses can work on computers as well as on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This means eLearning courses can literally be in the hands of the people who need them, at all times.
  • is just-in-time/needs-based: It’s possible to create, publish, and share a course within a few hours. The software is so easy to use that almost anyone can create engaging courses.
  • reduces costs: All of the above-mentioned factors result in a cost savings for organizations that use eLearning courses to replace some of their traditional instructor-led training.

As the world becomes more connected and globalized, more people have consistent access to the internet, computers, smartphones, and other technological devices. When we provide people with learning opportunities on these devices, they can use them to access timely resources and training while on the job.

The value of eLearning is that it can save time and money. It can often be more efficient to develop one course that can be distributed electronically and consistently to thousands, versus one that’s delivered in person to training groups, where the message, equipment, and other conditions can vary enough to affect the outcome of the course.

How Has eLearning Evolved

The past decade has radically transformed eLearning. In the early days,eLearning courses were typically custom creations, coded by programmers and developers who used highly specialized tools and code to create these courses. In those days, it could easily require an entire team to create a simple, linear eLearning course. Very few people had the skills or knowledge to do so on their own.

Now, with advances in technology, creating eLearning is much more accessible. The course development tools have advanced to a point where just about anyone can create an eLearning course, without any programming or coding knowledge.

Changes in technology have also impacted the types of hardware tools we use. We’ve gone from using desktop computers exclusively to a mix of desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Naturally, eLearning has followed suit to span the array of devices we use. In fact, eLearning developed specifically for mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, is sometimes referred to as as “mLearning,” or mobile learning.

The learner’s experience of accessing eLearning has also evolved. It wasn’t so long ago that learners had to first add custom applications and/or download players before they could view course content. This setup often took time and was fraught with challenges for the learner—even before the course started.

Then, in the late nineties, Adobe Flash became the standard for eLearning, which made it really simple to view and share eLearning content. For nearly a decade, a majority of browsers came with Flash, so learners could play courses through the Flash player in their browser. However, now that many mobile devices and tablets are not Flash compatible, many developers are shifting to HTML5 to publish and share eLearning courses.

Your eLearning

Another key ID task is to distinguish need-to-know information from nice-to-know information. You should omit superfluous information that doesn’t help learners do their jobs or tasks.

When you’re deciding what information to include in your course, ask yourself: Is this critical? Will the learners ever need to know this to do their job? And if they don’t know this, what would be the impact? If the information falls into the nice-to-know category, leave it out.

For example, if you’re designing an eLearning course on how to reply to a vendor e-mail, you don’t need to include a huge section on the background of your organization and its employees, or the history of e-mail. Just stick to teaching learners what they need to know to write effective vendor emails.

Follow a Basic Course Structure

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to designing your eLearning projects. To simplify the process for you, we’ve included a basic framework for eLearning courses:

  1. Welcome: Welcome your learners to the course.
  2. Instructions: Explain how they will navigate the course, which buttons they need to click, etc.
  3. Introduction: Tell learners why they are taking the course, and what benefits they’ll receive by completing it.
  4. Objectives: Outline the specific course objectives, so learners have a good sense of what’s ahead.
  5. Content: Build your main course content here. Depending on the length, you might chunk it into lessons, each with its own intro, content, assessment, and summary.
  6. Assessment: Give learners an assessment to see whether they’ve actually learned the material.
  7. Summary: Revisit the course objectives you stated up front.
  8. Resources: Offer additional content or resources that reinforce the course material.
  9. Exit: Give final instructions on how to exit the eLearning course.

Most eLearning courses follow this general flow. Keep in mind this flow doesn’t prevent you from building decision-making scenarios that branch learners to specific content based on what they know. You’ll just do that within the content section. If you follow this simple course structure, you’ll be on your way to designing stellar courses right from the start.

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