Last week, we looked at the building blocks of technology-enabled learning, from elements like learning objectives that are common across all training formats to those that are specific to digital formats, like content authoring tools. This blog will explore more than 60 tools and technologies for successfully implementing each of these elements in your technology-enabled training program.
All training courses and programs should have learning objectives. This may seem obvious, but a lack of clearly defined objectives, or sometimes having the wrong objectives altogether, is a main reason why some training fails.
The first step in writing learning objectives for online training is to identify what type of course it is. As Tom Kuhlmann wrote on The Rapid E-Learning Blog, online courses usually fall into one of two categories: information or performance. Kuhlmann likens an information-based online course to a multimedia textbook: its doesn’t teach performance, it supports performance. Therefore, the objective of an information-based course is performance support. Performance-based courses do teach performance, and their goal is to change learner behavior. The category your online course falls into will determine how you present content and assess learning.
Learning objectives could provide fodder for many articles. Since that isn’t the goal of this post, here are a couple of resource for how to write learning objectives for online courses:
- Here’s an easy way to create learning objectives
- Here’s a way to make your e-learning course objectives interesting
Clearly defined expectations
This step also requires planning more than technology. In a face-to-face course, the expectations are usually pretty clear and can be explained at the beginning of the course. Most online courses use a syllabus to establish the schedule, policies, procedures, and expectations.
Here are some things that should be included in the syllabus:
- Course schedule: A module-by-module schedule of topics, content, assignments, etc.
- Learning objectives for the course overall and for each module
- Criteria for course completion
- How to access the website and participate in course activities
- Instructions for participating in course discussions
- Policies for communication (e.g., should all discussions take place on secure channels?)
- How to communicate with the instructor if necessary
- Where to go for tech support
This is probably more information than you are accustomed to providing at the outset, but it is crucial that learners understand exactly what is expected — especially if the course is asynchronous. Here is an online syllabus template from the College of Business at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The best part about an online course is that you are not limited to just one content format. Instead, you can choose the format that works best for each individual piece of content. Below are some tools you can use to create and deliver content for online courses.
Content authoring tools
- Website content
- Online PDF-Converter
- Microsoft Word
- Simulations — usually custom designed by an outside vendor
- Quandary — create web-based case studies
- Digital magazines
- Elearning modules — All of the modules you have created in Captivate, Articulate, or any other elearning authoring tool can be used in an online course.
Content delivery tools
Most corporate training courses are delivered using a learning management system (LMS) or other digital learning environment. If you don’t have one yet, explore this 10-part series on how to choose and implement an LMS in your organization. And remember — to meet the needs of today’s learners, your LMS must be 100% mobile.
Activities and assessments
In the previous blog, I linked to a resource with 50 ideas for online learning activities. The activities in your course will depend on the content and the learning goals. Here are some types of activities common in online courses:
- Case studies
- Group work
- Online discussions
Here are a variety of activity templates built using popular elearning authoring tools.
For assessments, there are many online software applications available. Here are just a few of the options:
Interaction and collaboration
Like the activities, there are many tools available for interaction and collaboration. In addition to course discussion boards, here are some unique tools learners can use to interact.
- DebateGraph — map out arguments and host debates on complex issues
- Google Docs, Etherpad — collaborative writing
- Google+ Hangouts
- Twiddla, Conceptboard — collaborative online whiteboard
- Cacoo — collaborative diagrams, flowcharts, mind maps, and more
- Bubble.us — collaborative brainstorming tool
- Mindmeister — mind mapping tool
- Padlet — a blank wall where you can post sticky notes and other things
Learner motivation and engagement
All of the technologies on this list are aimed at increasing learner motivation and engagement. Rather than just passively watching a lecture or clicking “Next” on a PowerPoint presentation, learners in technology-enabled courses are active participants in the learning process.
Gamification is one of the main ways companies are using technology to increase motivation and engagement in all aspects of business. Gamification is also a great way to incorporate spaced learning and distributed practice. Here are several strategies for implementing gamification in a training course.
Learners in an online course may need support, including technical support and a place to find answers to their questions. For small, synchronous courses, group text messaging is a great way to check in on learners and provide support.
Text messaging tools
Other support tools
- PassNote — message templates to send feedback to learners
- Google+ Hangouts — can be used to hold virtual office hours
- OSQA — free, open-source Q&A software
Analytics and reporting
For the most part, data is collected within the LMS or other digital learning environment, which also provides tools for reporting. If you are working outside of an LMS or want something a little different, here are a few analytics tools to consider:
- Gomo — provides learning analytics across multiple devices
- Google Analytics
- Piwik — open-source analytics platform
- Cytoscape, TouchGraph — data visualization tools, most useful for very large datasets, such as those generated in massive open online courses (MOOCs)
There you have it! 60+ tools for each of the building blocks of technology-enabled learning. These certainly aren’t all of the tools you could use to create an online course, but there should be enough here to at least get you started.
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