Depending on what it is you wish your workforce to learn, there exist pre-designed courses that industries can purchase. However, each organisation is different, and there will be times when you want to use your platform to train staff on areas of the business that are unique to your company. It goes without saying then, that at these times, you will need to build your own courses and modules. For the unseasoned e-Learning module designers, it can be a daunting prospect, but it needn’t be. In this guide, we will take you through some basic steps that, should you follow, will not only illustrate how easy it can be to a build a module, but how the process can be fun and engaging as well.
Before you even start
Have a clear idea of who your intended learners are. What knowledge and skills do they have already? How should your module be designed to be most appropriate for their learning needs? Always keep in mind a mental image of your employee sitting at the computer studying your module. Prior to undertaking the course, you might wish to encourage your employee to seek-out other information to complement the module. However, the module must be self-contained and cover all that the learner needs to meet the specific learning objectives.
Step 1: Entice them from the beginning
‘Start strong, finish stronger’ as the old adage goes, and it applies very much to e-Learning modules. To entice, intrigue and enthuse the learner, the title page to your module needs to be visually stimulating. In essence, it is an advertisement selling the content and the learning opportunities within, and so should be designed as such. Striking images, inspiring quotes, intelligent use of colours can all be amalgamated to create something that will capture both attention and imagination, and stoke the desire to learn.
Step 2: Decide on a clearly defined learning objective
Although you may have a clear idea of what your module aims to achieve, writing down clear LOs needs careful thought and is the essential first step in module development. Designing a module before deciding on an LO can mean the content becomes muddled as it lacks focus. It may be that you want to use a few LOs (try to cap it at four) which is fine, but get them down before you do anything else.
A good LO should clearly state what the learner should be able to do by completing the module. They should be ‘active’ so that the learner will be able to assess for themselves whether they have achieved it. Using ‘active’ words such as ‘perform’ and ‘explain’ clarifies to the learner what they should be able to do once the module is complete. You may need to try re-wording the LOs a few different ways to get the balance right between including sufficient detail, but not making them too long-winded. It is often useful to include numbers in LOs; for example: After this training the employee should be able to explain the 5 key ways that…
Step 3: Make the content relevant
This might sound rather obvious, but it’s common for course makers to fall into the trap of fleshing out a module with content that is either tenuous, or doesn’t apply to the learners. Think carefully about what your employees know and can do now, and what you’d like them to know and be able to do. Include only content that facilitates that transition.
So if, for example, the module is intended to teach employees how to interpret data they’ve previously not been exposed to, include real examples. Have pages with annotated charts and describe what they mean for the company and how they can be influenced. As the employee nears the end of the module and approaches assessment, they can be given questions on other sets of data to check their understanding. The point is, it is directly relevant. By the end of the module they should be able to interpret such data when they come across it in real-life.
Step 4: Make it engaging
Captain Obvious to the rescue here, but it’s at this crucial step that all the previous good work could be undone. However enthused the learner is at the beginning, however clear the learning objectives, and however relevant the content is to their training, if the module presents as a glorified ‘read and click’ PowerPoint, there’s every chance you’ll lose them. To maximise engagement, abiding by the following principles will give you the best chance.
Keep it conversational: Information that’s presented as formal instruction can be intimidating, doing little to relax the learner. A friendly, conversational, and personal tone resonates much more deeply and defuses the tension that some may be feeling. Author Dau Voire said, “Good and interesting conversations are a necessity for me. I want to feel like you’re expanding my mind. I need my attention captured.” Have a good and interesting conversation with your employee. Expand their minds and capture their attention.
Maintain a narrative: “The best way to teach people is by telling a story,” asserted American author and management expert Kenneth Blanchard. Every single course should have a story arc. Present and examine a workplace issue in the opening. Use issue-resolution with examples in the main body for employees to study and work through, and end with a summary that reiterates the main points.
Good visuals and simple navigation: Your e-Learning course should include a variety of attractive visual design elements, maintaining engagement with aesthetics. Include different multimedia tools, utilising pictures, audio, and videos. Arresting design though should not come at the price of poor navigation. Users should have no difficulty in navigating through pages and modules. Overload of multimedia, can not only cause this, but is time-consuming to design, and can clutter modules.
Reminders of relevance: At no point do you ever want your employee to start thinking, “Why am I doing this?” That’s when minds start to wander. Throughout the course, subtle reminders should be given as to how this learning will benefit the employee personally, how it will enhance their ability to perform tasks, and how it can lead to progression within the organisation.
Step 5: Assessment
A necessary part of any learning program, and an opportunity to have a bit of fun. Straightforward multiple choice questions at the end of a module are simple to put together, and can be quickly and easily assessed. However, they do run the risk of reducing deep learning into a pick and mix of answers that employees guess part of their way through. They can also become boring if used every time. Multiple choice has its place, but like anything, it should be used in moderation.
Don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit. Companies have had success using gameshow style quizzes, or even at the end of the module, putting employees into groups so they can present their learning to peers. Using open-ended questions, producing qualitative information to be reviewed by managers takes more time to assess, and obviously involves managers taking time out, but is an opportunity for employees to demonstrate deeper learning.
Step 6: Feedback and support
As powerful a tool as e-Learning is, it is further enhanced with a bit of human interaction. Ask employees what they liked about the course and what they didn’t, give feedback on their performance, and if necessary support.
Always be looking for ways to improve courses, and remember; there are no winners from a poor learning experience, and no losers from a great one.