Getting the most from your eLearning course

Note: Not to scale.  :-)

Note: Not to scale.  :-)

This is the final 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 SolutionsClick here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

We've spent some time discussing how to make your eLearning effective and engaging by building sure-fire motivators into your courses and integrating the WIIFM ("What's In It For Me?") factor. If you've incorporated best practices into your eLearning design, you have a great course all ready to go. So how do you get the most out of it?

The first step is getting your course out there to share with your audience. Quite often this means publishing your course as a SCORM package using your authoring tool, putting it into your learning management system and publicizing it to the learner group.

So that's it, I'm done.

You could consider yourself ‘done' at that point, but if you did, do participants have everything they need to really learn the subject?

The 70/20/10 model, based on over 40 years of research, states that:

  • 70 percent of learning comes from informal learning experiences.
  • 20 percent of learning comes from people.
  • 10 percent of learning comes from formal learning events—like your eLearning course.

That's right. Your course constitutes only 10 percent of a participant's learning experience.

That's not much!

10 percent isn't a big part—but it's an important part. Formalized learning enables you to provide standards and expectations, which makes it foundational for learners. If our course is about baking a cake, this is where you get the recipe, learn the method for baking and find out what the end product should look and taste like.

Once they have this foundation, they need to build on it. Think of it this way: If your eLearning course takes someone one hour to complete it, they'll also need two hours of feedback from other people and seven hours of informal learning experiences before they really "get it." That's 70/20/10. As instructional designers and course developers we may have the biggest influence over the learning material in the smallest part of where the learning occurs, but that doesn't mean we have no control over the other 90 percent.

What's the people part?

The 20 percent of learning that comes from people consists primarily of feedback from supervisors, managers, co-workers, or experts as learners start applying their new learning on the job. In our cake-baking course analogy, this is where the learner talks to someone who has baked this cake many times before, asks questions and maybe even bakes a practice cake with them.

You can support this learning by ensuring these people know about the training and the role they're expected to play. Depending on the learning material and the size of the learner group, this could be as simple as ensuring managers have an outline of what's in the course and some suggestions for how they can support new learners, or something more complex like train-the-trainer and a coaching program that supports the new learning.

So how about the other 70 percent?

The 70 percent that comes through informal learning develops as learners apply their learning on the job. For our cake-baking course, this is where the learner makes the cake themselves and through trial and error learns that a little more baking time is good, or looks at some reference material and learns pure vanilla extract is going to give a better taste than artificial. Perhaps they go online and interact with others to get tips on cake decorating.

To support your learners during their 70 percent, you can equip your course with ways to share experiences, such as blogs, discussion forums, and wikis. Coordinating times for learners to have online synchronous chat can be especially helpful for learners in different locations. Many LMSs support these features. It's also good to facilitate access to knowledge bases or other vetted sources of just in time support.

It's important to consider your eLearning course not as an isolated learning event but rather as part of a path to get learners from where they are to where they need to be. This path includes your eLearning as well as a number of other components you choose as well as what the learner discovers on their own. The great news is that LMSs like Totara and Moodle enable you to incorporate multiple items into one course, so you can provide participants with a more complete learning experience all in one place.

Delivering your course to its target audience is a big accomplishment. Integrating your course into the fabric of the learner's work environment—including harnessing the participation of managers, supervisors, experts, and co-workers—will ensure your course has impact, and that your learners master the skills you've set out to teach them.

What are your tips and tricks for applying the 70/20/10 rule?