So, you’ve decided to start using technology-enabled learning in your corporate training program. Now what?
Well, just like there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to all of today’s training challenges, there also isn’t just a single way to “do” technology-enabled learning. Your particular implementation depends on a variety of factors, including:
- Whether you’re developing the training in-house or purchasing it from a third-party vendor
- Whether you are using a fully online model or a blended learning model
- The comfort of the instructors and learners with the technologies you will use
- The devices learners will use to access the training
- And much more
However, regardless of the exact details of your implementation, all technology-enabled learning courses have a common set of building blocks. Some of these, like learning objectives, are the same for any type of course, online or off. Others, like analytics and reporting, are really only available in digital environments. This post explores each of these building blocks, and in the next we’ll look at specific tools and technologies in each category.
Note that the building blocks here aren’t things like “bite-sized modules” and “discussion boards.” These are items I’ve covered in depth in other articles. Instead, these are the pieces that need to be in place for technology-enabled learning to be a success. Most of the discussion will focus on courses, but these components are equally important for more modular learning experiences.
Learning objectives are the foundation of any training course, and technology-enabled learning is no exception. Having well-defined learning objectives will help you select the specific technologies to use. For example, if learners simply need to be aware of information (e.g., for compliance), then the best technology may just be a pdf. If learners need to be able to do something, then the best technology would be a simulation or other hands-on activity. And if learners need to interact then you’ll need collaboration technologies.
Technology-enabled learning isn’t about using technology just because. It’s about using the right technology to meet a training need.
Clearly defined expectations
Traditional training courses usually follow a set schedule, and in traditional elearning, learners proceed through the course in a set linear fashion. This is not necessarily true of technology-enabled learning environments like massive open online courses (MOOCs).
Because learners will be accessing the course asynchronously and based on their own needs, it’s important to set clearly defined expectations. For example, are all parts of the course mandatory or are some of them optional? Does the course need to be completed according to a particular schedule? Will there be any instances when all learners are required to be in the same virtual place or perform the same activity at the same time?
You will not be there in person to answer questions about expectations or explain how the and activities course will function. This means that it must be crystal clear from the get-go. Therefore, you should plan to devote more time to defining expectations and schedules for fully online courses than you do for face-to-face ones.
As with traditional courses, the core of technology-enabled learning is the content. The content is the basis of the knowledge and the skills learners need to master. For technology-enabled learning, there are two main components to consider: creating the content and delivering the content.
Content authoring tools
When people hear the term content authoring tool, they tend to think of e-learning authoring tools like Articulate Storyline and Captivate. This idea, however, is little too narrow. Loosely defined, a content authoring tool is any tool you use to create the content resources for your course.
Digital course content comes in a staggering variety of formats, including (but not limited to):
- Presentations (PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.)
- Website content
- Word documents
- Digital magazines
- Elearning modules
Taken from this perspective, content authoring tools include both text editors and e-learning authoring tools, as well as everything else in between.
Content delivery tools
Once you’ve developed the content, you need to get it out to your learners. For the most part, this is still done using some kind of digital learning environment or learning management system (LMS). However, it doesn’t have to be. You could just as easily set up a course webpage with links to all of the content resources and activities. Your entire course could be on a YouTube channel or on iTunes. The main benefit of using an LMS is the ability to track learner progress and performance.
Whatever content delivery option you choose, keep this one thing in mind: mobile. And by that I don’t just mean mobile-friendly, but fully mobile-functional. Many LMS vendors say their product is mobile, when in reality it isn’t. Here are some common problems:
- The LMS isn’t responsive. So while you can access the content on a mobile device, you have to scroll around awkwardly to read it.
- The mobile functionality is limited. For example, you may be able to access the videos but not the discussion boards or the assessments.
- It works on tablets, but not smartphones.
With the popularity of mobile learning growing rapidly, it’s important that your mobile course really is mobile.
Activities and assessments
What will learners do in your course? These should be tied to the learning objectives, and the expectations surrounding them should be clear.
Learning activities in face-to-face courses often involve breaking into small groups for discussions or working on projects. You can do these kinds of activities in technology-enabled learning courses as well, but you can also do a heck of a lot more. Here are nearly 50 ideas for online learning activities.
A few guidelines for creating activities and assessments:
- Keep them short! Like 10 minutes short. The same goes for your learning content chunks.
- Use real-world examples whenever possible.
- Make sure they are learner-centered. This means they need to be directly relevant to learners.
Another aspect of activities and assessments is feedback. In technology-enabled learning environments, there are a several ways learners can get valuable feedback from both instructors and their fellow learners.
Interaction and collaboration
A widely touted advantage of instructor-led training (ILT) over digital learning is the ability for learners to interact and collaborate with instructors and with one another. The failure of many online courses to include interaction and collaboration doesn’t mean these things aren’t possible. In fact, the ability to interact and collaborate is greatly enhanced by technology because learners can communicate with one another from wherever they are, and even long after the course is over. In the next post, we will highlight several great collaboration technologies you can use in your digital courses.
Learner motivation and engagement
You might think that motivation is a strange thing to include on this list of building blocks, as it is an internal state of learners rather than something you can control, right? Not entirely.
There are many things you can do to increase learner motivation and engagement in technology-enabled learning environments. For example, gamification is a powerful way to use technology to increase learner motivation. You don’t even have to go all out. Even just adding a progress bar to individuals’ dashboards has been shown to increase engagement.
Especially when you are transferring to a digital learning environment for the very first time, your learners will need support. This may take the form of technical support or learning support, instructor support or peer-to-peer support. Likely, it will require a little bit of all of these things.
Analytics and reporting
This is one area where digital learning leaves ILT in its dust. Digital learning environments, like LMSs, provide a huge amount of data about learner behaviors, from what resources they access to how long they spend with each one of them. By analyzing this data, you can pinpoint when learners are most engaged, and when they are falling asleep. Don’t take this information for granted — use it to support your learners and improve your course for the next time.
There you have it, eight building blocks, or essential elements, of technology-enabled learning. You’ve no doubt noticed that they aren’t so different from the essential elements of traditional learning. The next post will review the newest and best technologies available for successfully implementing all of these elements in a digital course.
Copyright 2015 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.
Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– Being a big believer in Technology Enabled Learning, Bryant seeks to create awareness, motivate adoption and engage organizations and people in the changing business of education. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.
Learn more about Bryant at LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On April 9, 2015 No Comments
Go to Google (or your favorite search engine) and type in “why employees love training.” Take a quick scroll through the results. Now type in “why employees hate training.” Notice the difference? Pages upon pages of articles about why people hate training, but on the love side, nada. Only advice on how to get employees to love your training. The assumption is very clearly that they don’t love it already.
The conundrum here is that employees want training. For a 2013 CareerBuilder survey, 35% of respondents said that increased training and learning opportunities would motivate them to stay with a company. Training helps employees do their jobs better, it helps them fit better into the company, and it provides the knowledge and skills they need for advancement. So why do they hate it? (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On March 5, 2015 No Comments
Spending on corporate training is rising rapidly. According to Bersin by Deloitte, corporate training spending increased 10% in 2011, 12% in 2012, and 15% in 2013. The numbers for 2014 aren’t out yet, but they were probably even higher. Wouldn’t you hate to find out that you are wasting your money or your time, or both?
It isn’t much talked about in anything more than a whisper, but corporate training fails quite a lot of the time. It fails to engage; it fails to enhance employees’ knowledge and skills; it fails to provide meaningful learning experiences. There are many, many reasons corporate training fails. Here are some of the most common:
- There are no defined learning objectives, or the learning objectives aren’t aligned with your business goals.
- Employees do not have the opportunity to apply what they learn to real-world problems and situations.
- Training effectiveness is not being measured in a valid way (happy sheets are not a valid measurement of training effectiveness).
- It’s boring!
Whatever the reason your training isn’t effective isn’t important (well, it is, but that is for another article). What is important is that you fix it. If you’ve been dragging your feet about revamping your training, now is the time to get going. With the pace of change in business today, companies that don’t move forward will quickly find themselves far behind. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On February 27, 2015 No Comments
To wrap up our series exploring arguments against massive open online courses (MOOCs) and potential risks associated with the courses, in this final post we’ll turn the tables and look at some risks of NOT adopting MOOCs and other technology-enabled learning initiatives in corporate training programs.
MOOCs and other forms of technology-enabled learning signal a shift in our thinking about training. Today, learning isn’t just something we do in class; it’s something we do all of the time.
Companies that choose not to move their training programs into the 21st century using technology face three main risks:
- Not being able to provide enough training
- Not providing training that is as effective as it could be
- Being perceived as out of touch
The Association for Talent Development defines the term skills gap as “a significant gap between an organization’s skills needs and the current capabilities of its workforce that occurs at the point at which an organization can no longer grow or remain competitive because they don’t have the right skills to drive business results and support the firm’s strategies and goals.” (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On February 26, 2015 No Comments
For the past month, this blog has focused on common objections to using massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other technology-enabled learning tools in corporate training programs. We’ve explored the arguments that MOOCs aren’t interactive, that they are a one-size-fits-all solution to a many-sided problem, and that people don’t learn very well in them.
This article finishes up the series by addressing the idea that MOOCs are simply too risky on which to bank something as important as corporate training success.
What are the risks of MOOCs?
In addition to the issues explored earlier in this series, here are some perceived risks of using MOOCs in particular and technology-enabled learning in general.
The technology could break down or become obsolete.
Well, yes it could. But so could any other technology your company uses, whether it be an iPad or a cloud-based software application. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On February 18, 2015 No Comments
In the five previous articles, we have addressed common objections to using massive open online courses (MOOCs) in corporate training. Here, we take a step back to tackle a more fundamental objection—the objection to using technology at all.
Here’s a sentiment commonly heard in training departments and conference rooms:
We’ve always done instructor-led training. Our entire training program is based on face-to-face interaction, and I don’t think learning technologies can offer us much of an advantage. Using learning technologies just isn’t right for me or for my company.
“We’ve always done it this way” syndrome is rampant in companies, especially regarding adopting new technology, and it can be difficult to overcome. This objection usually stems from an unwillingness to learn something new. But while adopting a new way of doing things can be painful for some, it must happen for businesses to survive and grow into the future. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On February 12, 2015 No Comments
This is the fifth in a series of articles that tackle common objections to and arguments against using massive open online courses (MOOCs) for training. Read the previous article: MOOCs Aren’t Interactive, So There’s No Real Learning Taking Place.
I understand the benefits of digital learning environments, but the problem remains that MOOCs are not very well controlled. How will we know what learners are doing? They could say they are taking the course, but really just be watching YouTube. And what about our intellectual property and other proprietary information? We can’t have employees holding Twitter chats about our business.
Retaining control over employees’ training is a very real concern for many organizations. Not only is training time paid time, but training often involves the communication of sensitive business information that companies do not want publicly disseminated. In addition, many courses are mandatory and training departments are often held responsible for tying training efforts to performance metrics, so the idea that learners could engage with their courses according to their own schedule and using their own devices can be a bit scary.
I have two major responses to this objection:
- MOOCs used for corporate training don’t need to take place publicly.
- The lack of tight control found in MOOCs can actually be an advantage for organizations.
Let’s look at both of these in more detail. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On February 5, 2015 No Comments
This is the fourth in a series of articles that tackle common objections to and arguments against using massive open online courses (MOOCs) for training. Read the previous article: MOOCs Treat All Learners the Same.
MOOCs aren’t interactive. They don’t provide opportunities for active learning or engagement. Learners just sit in front of a computer and watch video lectures (they probably aren’t even paying attention) and take multiple choice tests. There is no learner-learner interaction, no instructor-learner interaction, and only a minimal amount of learner-content interaction. This isn’t meaningful learning—one could hardly call it “learning” at all.
This would be a very convincing argument, if it were true.
In the previous post, we saw that the widely held perception of MOOCs as a one-size-fits-all solution is inaccurate. While some MOOCs do take a “cookie-cutter approach” (which isn’t always a bad thing—think compliance training), this is not a trait inherent to the courses themselves. The same idea applies to active learning and interactivity. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On January 30, 2015 No Comments
This is the third in a series of articles that tackle common objections to and arguments against using massive open online courses (MOOCs) for training. Read the previous article: Face-to-Face learning had FAILED.
All learners are different. They come from different backgrounds and have different levels of prior knowledge. They have different learning styles and preferences, different needs and different questions. For education to be effective and engaging, it needs to be adaptable for the needs of individual learners. MOOCs treat all learners the same, and a one-size-fits-all approach works just as well for education as it does for clothing, which is not well at all.
This is probably my favorite objection to MOOCs, perhaps because it is the one (aside from low completion rates) that has gotten the most attention. The basis of this argument is that “massive” courses can never work because they don’t take into account the needs of individuals. In fact, I (and many others) believe that MOOCs are able to support individual learners even better than traditional instructional formats. (more…)
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On January 28, 2015 No Comments
This is the second post in a series of articles that tackle common objections to and arguments against using massive open online courses (MOOCs) for training. Read the previous article: Public Libraries Are Failures (and So Are MOOCs).
I’ve heard all of the benefits of online learning. Learners can access the course materials anytime, from anywhere. They can schedule their courses around their life, rather than their life around their courses. Companies can offer the same amount of training in less time and with considerably less expense.
I know all of that. But when it comes down to it, people just don’t learn as well online. They don’t put in the time or they get distracted by their email. They can’t easily ask questions. And besides, there is just something magical about an instructor standing in front of a class that simply can’t be replicated in or replaced by the online experience. Right?
The myth that people don’t learn as well online–that there is indeed something magical about face-to-face instruction–is as pervasive as the myth that teaching to individual learning styles affects learning outcomes (it doesn’t). The idea that people don’t learn as well online is usually the first argument made against massive open online courses and in defense of instructor-led training (ILT). But it isn’t true.
Let’s explore the research behind this idea. (more…)