Although instructor-led or classroom training still remains as one of the most common ways to train employees, the opportunity to implement eLearning to is a more cost-effective and convenient option. Those new to creating eLearning courses will find this post useful in answering their questions and providing them with a checklist of things to consider during the process of converting existing content, which goes far beyond simply transferring content to an online format.
Step One: Analyzing Content
The first stage involves deciding what information would be most relevant to the course, which is best achieved through a content audit. By sorting content into a spreadsheet, developers can more easily determine what content to delete, what to update, and what to reorganize to make it more findable. Some content may even inspire useful ideas.
Course creators should then divide relevant content into essential and additional. They may wish to include the latter in the course at a later stage, when learners are comfortable with the basics, as long as this does not make the course too long. Such practice avoids cognitive overload and ensures all the most important information fits within the time restraints.
Once developers complete the analysis, they may like to ask an SME to review their choice of content.
Step Two: Determining Learning Objectives
Determining learning objectives helps designers determine what to include (or exclude) in their eLearning courses. Learning objectives also act as a guide before creators even begin designing the course by keeping the module in line with the current educational philosophy. Unfortunately, developers often neglect this important step, while focusing more on content, media use, and technology.
Designers should refer to Bloom’s taxonomy, a theory that relates to the classification of different levels of cognitive learning. It provides a well-designed structure to plan learning objectives. The levels are: knowledge, comprehension, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Before defining the actual objectives, course creators should decide which levels are relevant to the course, and write learning objectives accordingly.
Step Three: Choosing the Course Format
Some eLearning courses require just a basic format whereas others should be more advanced and interactive with a variety of media. Which type the developer chooses will depend on the type of content, the technological infrastructure available, the budget, the target audience, and learning context of the course. There are three main formats for eLearning modules:
- Read and click. These modules feature text, some images, probably audio and basic quiz questions. Creating eLearning courses of this type is a quick and easy process as modules usually have no interactive components and feature only limited graphics. The read and click format is particularly useful for compliance courses. Here are some ideas so you can create highly effective compliance courses without being boring.
- Interactive learning. The easiest way to make learning interactive is to add quiz questions within content of various formats. More complex interactions tend to take longer but are still possible with most authoring tools. Interactive learning courses usually use more media than the read and click format and often include videos.
- Simulation.This highly interactive type of eLearning involves variety of graphics, video, audio, scenarios and some gamification. This level gives the highest degree of interaction by the student. The course includes simulations, avatars, games, etc.
Step Four: Planning the Course
Just like face-to-face training, the success of an eLearning course comes down to planning — or instructional design. Developers need to think about what they are trying to achieve; for instance, if the eLearning course will supplement classroom training, how will it tie in to teaching sessions?
Course creators should begin by creating an outline of the content that they need to cover and decide how it will make sense to the target audience. One way to start is to draft a storyboard with all the text, interactions, and navigation they will use along with small versions of images (including their sources). The storyboard should, at minimum, outline the teaching objective, text, narrative audio, and type of media for each screen. No screen should be pure text. But, using all the "bells and whistles" available isn't the answer either. Developers should merely focus on facilitating designated learning outcomes and diligently remove or omit anything that doesn't directly support the outcomes.
Keep in mind that the total length of the module should be no more than 20- 30 minutes to ensure learners stay interested. So, focus on time limit, not slide limits.
Step Five: Developing the Course
In this final stage of creating eLearning courses, developers need to choose a design method to meet the needs of the learners, and ensure the content and all its related activities are meaningful and relevant. Professionals in the eLearning industry follow different models, some more systematic than others and some open-ended. Many of them may be grounded on certain principles and theories. Options include ADDIE/SAM, Gagne's 9 Principles and Action Mapping. Developers just need to make sure to have a robust system in place, one that covers a logical sequence of analysis, design, development, application or implementation, and assessment.
The course creators then organize the content and divide it into digestible chunks that aid the learning process along with sufficient exercises to practice learned skills and knowledge.
Developers might consider these questions to guide their instruction:
- How should content be organized?
- How should ideas be presented to learners?
- What types of activites and exercises will best help participants learn at a deeper level?
Recommended resources for this stage: