5 Dos for Creating eLearning

This is the second post in a three-part eLearning series based on a recent webinar, "Creating Effective & Engaging eLearning in Your LMS" by Stephanie Jutras of Limestone Learning and Sean Hougan of Lambda Solutions. Click here for Part 1.

You have content. You have learning objectives. You have authoring tools and you know how to use them. You’re all set to create an engaging and effective course.

Or are you?

Creating an eLearning course is one thing. Ensuring that it engages learners and achieves your objectives is another. Having the right tools is just one part of your game plan. The most important element—and the backbone of a good course—is effective instructional design.

But many course designers aren’t specialists. They may be developing training “off the side of their desk”; they may lack time or money. Yet they still want to do a good job and create courses that will benefit their company and their learners. Here are some of our top dos for creating effective and engaging eLearning.

1) Do take the time to learn about instructional design.

Even if you’re not a specialist in instructional design, you’ll find it worth your while to learn the basics. And there are plenty of resources for people who aren’t instructional designers per se, such as:

  • Blogs such as Tom Kuhlmann’s Rapid eLearning Blog at Articulate. No matter what tool you’re using to build courses, Tom’s blog provides useful hints and tips.
  • Free webinars offered by top training organizations. From how to incorporate multimedia to how to secure stakeholder buy-in, webinars offer top-notch information as well as perspectives from industry leaders. Check this space each month for a list of webinars that catch our eye.
  • Association for Talent Development. If you have a little time and money to invest, but aren’t ready to commit to a degree program, take a look at the courses offered by ATD (formerly ASTD). These short, focused courses are offered online and are great value for the money.

2) Do consider motivating factors for adult learners.

Another thing to consider as you approach eLearning is the WIIFM factor—i.e., “What’s In It For Me?” This is crucial for the adult learners at which most elearning is targeted. Unless you present a clear message about what your course can do for these learners, you risk turning them off. Motivation is essential—will the learning make their job easier? Will it make their work safer? Will they earn more money by applying what your course is teaching?

You may also want to harness the power of negative motivation. Interestingly, people are more motivated by fear of loss than potential for gain.

Whether you appeal to their desire for a promotion or their anxieties about having a poor performance review, you can capture their interest by tying your course to those aspects of their job that relate to these motivators.

Addressing the WIIFM factor up front is a great way of connecting personally with the learner. Effective ways to do this include:

  • Case studies or scenarios are powerful ways to make learning relevant to the job.
  • Storytelling is a compelling tool for engaging learners.
  • Realistic questions and interactive exercises that tether directly to the job are effective at helping learners make the connection to their work—far more so than having them memorize answers á la Jeopardy.

For more on this, check out Michael Allen’s books Designing Effective eLearning and Creating Effective eLearning. Allen (of Allen Interactions) promotes an approach known as CCAF (context-challenge-activity-feedback), which closely ties what’s going on in a learning environment to what you want learners to do on the job once they’ve completed your training.

3) Do align your learning program with business objectives.

If your training doesn’t align with business objectives, you might not be pulling on the same rope as the organization. Not only will this hamper your ability to obtain and maintain buy-in from senior leaders, but also even if you create a great course, it may not have the desired outcomes because it’s not leading people in the right direction.

4) Do use basic project management.

Without an overall plan, you have no milestones to indicate progress and it’s hard to keep your project on track. Determine an overall plan for development like the ADDIE model (analyze, design, develop, implement, evaluate) or SAM (successive approximation model) or another approach that works for you, and use this to establish milestones and a simple timeline. Then share it with your team so everyone knows what to expect and when to expect it, and can be held accountable. Commit to keeping your plan and timeline up to date throughout the project.

5) Do copy-edit and test.

Arranging a quality assurance review of your work is vital. No matter how much of a grammar geek you are or how many times you’ve gone through the course yourself, a fresh set of eyes is invaluable. Not only will an editor will pick up on things you’ve missed because you’re too close to the content; a reviewer will flag parts you think are clear but aren’t clear to someone unfamiliar with the content. A quality assurance reviewer tests a course specifically from the point of functionality, looking for places where things don’t operate as they should. Give your editor and tester parameters to guide them, such as style guides and browser requirements.

Taking advantage of the many eLearning resources out there on the web and in bookstores will help increase your chances of success. And by keeping WIIFM foremost in mind you’ll keep your learners engaged, interested, and ready to take what they’ve learned back to the job.

Tune in next week for the final article in this series: “Getting the Most From Your eLearning Course.