Building an effective e-learning program is a seven-step process. The first step is to assess the current learning situation in three parts: content, learners, and systems. Before we discuss these elements, it’s a good thing to remember that e-learning in general is different than traditional learning interventions. E-learning is a different concept, with different conventions, rules, and delivery methods. So if you’re new to e-learning, wipe your mind clean while we discuss the seven steps of creating an effective e-learning program. Along these lines, assessing e-learning requires a different “eye” than assessing traditional learning. With that in mind, let’s discuss assessing the situation before you begin an e-learning program.
The first element of assessing e-learning is to look at content, both existing and future. Before you look at your existing content, decide what is appropriate for e-learning. In many cases, informational course material is the best way to start with an e-learning program. This type of material can be made easily interactive and lends itself to participants who are not in a classroom. Tutorials, pre-work, and some collaborative exercises such as case studies may also be good candidates for transformation to an e-learning platform.
As far as your future content, you’ve got a blank slate. One way to see what content is being used and in what contexts is to go out to major Learning Management System vendors such as Learn.com or GeoLearning and ask for a free tour. You’ll see that e-learning possibilities are very broad and are only limited by your audience and possibly your budget.
Next, you should assess your learners. On the surface, this may seem like an easy task. You know where your learners are located, how many exist, and what jobs they hold. But to successfully implement an e-learning program you must go deeper into the learner’s skills and abilities as they relate to technology. In fact, that’s the first question. Are your learners “tech-savvy”? Do they have exposure to computers and computer programs every day? Some parts of your organization may have this exposure, while some may not. It all depends on your industry and your specific organization.
Do you think the learners will be able to learn via online programs? This question extends past ability and into environment. For example, skilled workers who are members of a union may have to have special time and permission written into their contracts. With this question comes the question of management: will you be able to train the management to give their groups time to complete online learning programs? Are your learners adaptable? Let’s face it: some groups are not necessarily the most ready to accept change. But then again, if the organization is ready to modernize then it may be time to separate the change champions from the status quo.
Once you’ve assessed your learners, you must assess your organization’s requirements. The first requirement is simply a question of budget. How much money will you have to spend on e-learning development and delivery? Once you have an idea, take a look at the vendors again to see what they have to offer – and at what cost. But before you ask for a demo, decide what “bells and whistles” your system will have. Do you want or need to use streaming video or will a simple platform with basic graphics suffice? Do you have a large number of learners, let’s say, over 1000? Finally, determine what technology is already out there – and decide if these computers and equipment stand up to the test of modern e-learning software and applications. We will discuss systems in more detail in the third step of our seven step series on the successful implementation of e-learning programs.
This three-step assessment is probably only the beginning, but you will answer some of the basic questions that can point you toward the right staff, systems, and e-learning content. You’ll also have a good idea of what requirements to hand over to your vendors or your IT department, depending on who will help you roll out the new e-learning program.
Once you’ve taken the time to assess, you’re ready to move to step two, converting and creating content.