E-learning: training content

You can have an incredibly advanced e-learning system, but if the content isn’t relevant and compelling, the whole thing will be a waste of resources.

You have several options: take whatever content packages the supplier offers; create bespoke content; create it on a joint basis; leave it to the supplier. Even the latter will require some input from the client. Other than the first option, the client should do the following:

  • Agree with the supplier who is responsible for what content.
  • Set up a content team. For this you will probably need:
    • Content team leader
    • Trained e-learning content developer
    • Subject matter specialists
    • Trained reviewer
    • Deployment expert
    • IT department nominee
  • Agree project plan for content creation and deployment.
  • Consider whether or not to buy a “rapid” content development application tool and ask the supplier for advice on this. The likes of Atlantic Link, Giunti Labs and Epic supply these tools.

Topics that work and won’t work with e-learning

Suppliers will tell you that there isn’t a subject on Earth that can’t be conveyed via e-learning. But some topics are more suited to it than others. A rule of thumb is to ask if topics are best covered in the training room, with on-the-job training or via e-learning, and how likely staff are to access them online. If you believe that contact and conversation with others is beneficial to the learning of some topics, they are best covered in the classroom. Courses for senior management are best left out of the e-learning mix – they will like to go off-site and engage in argument, discussion and conversation. Generally, soft skills are not suited to e-learning while the acquisition of hard information is more so. For example IT-related skills, such as learning how to use a particular program, are well suited to e-learning if learners are happy to study alone. If you’re not sure, try blended learning, a mix of e-learning, class-room training and mentoring.

More suitable for e-learning:

  • Compliance training.
  • Induction.
  • Some IT skills, such as acquiring supplier certification status (for instance Microsoft Certified Solution Developer) .
  • Legal requirements.
  • ‘How to guides’ for specific processes.

Less suitable:

  • Leadership development.
  • Change management.
  • Presentation skills.
  • Managerial skills.
  • Media training.

As Microsoft Learning points out: “The online format is appropriate for candidates who prefer to learn on their own and possess the self-discipline to do so.”

Getting e-learning right

E-learning is not suitable for all training and learning topics. Most reputable research, such as the CIPD learning surveys, indicate that training and L&D specialists tend to rate it as the least effective medium after on-the-job and classroom training and mentoring. If e-learning is used in conjunction with other forms of learning – in a blended learning approach – it will work well enough.

Here’s what you need to do so e-learning works for you:

  • Set measurable, modest and achievable objectives.
  • If it’s new, run a pilot scheme.
  • Make sure the SLA covers the technology essentials.
  • Ensure the SLA includes 24/7 support.
  • Insist that content is lively and not overly text based.
  • Ensure that learners’ progress is assessed as they go along through quizzes and tests.
  • Get stakeholder buy-in, especially of line managers.
  • Align e-learning provision with organisational goals.
  • Track sign-up and usage thoroughly.
  • Promote it and create a sense of excitement if it’s a new launch.
  • Agree progress meetings with suppliers and stakeholders for a year ahead.
  • Be ruthless with underperforming suppliers.

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