By Matt Cherry | September 18, 2013
Many organizations and companies are looking at the possibility of migrating existing face-to-face trainings into the e-learning environment. There are some compelling reasons to do so. E-learning can be more affordable, accessible and consistent for trainees across a broad geographic range.
It’s important to follow established best practices for training design and implementation. I like to use the ADDIE model—Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate. By following an established instructional design methodology such as ADDIE, you can produce an effective online course that meets your organizational objectives.
What’s the most important step in turning existing trainings into e-learning products? Analyze what you’ve done and what you want to do.
Take a look at your objectives. Conduct gap analyses to identify missing content. In the e-learning environment, you may be working with a new audience, so it’s important to conduct a user analysis. What do your new learners need to know? How comfortable are they with technology?
The things you discover in this phase inform every other step of this process.
Ready to design your training? First, divide your content into manageable and reusable chunks (or learning objects). Then map each learning object to a specific learning objective and knowledge reinforcement activities. Data gathered in your earlier analyses can guide your design.
Decide on a course format. You can choose synchronous learning, where a group of learners moves through a set of online resources and activities at the same time. Or you might prefer asynchronous learning, where learners can access content on their own schedules, in any order they choose, creating a learning path that matches their personal needs. Blended learning combines self-paced study with activities involving a live instructor through webinars, chats or lectures.
Build in support for informal learning—the kind that happens when learners talk peer-to-peer about the course. In face-to-face training, this occurs in classroom discussions or a talk over coffee. In the e-learning environment, options include forums, chats and messaging.
As you develop content templates, use rapid prototyping and functional mockups. Run tests early on to see if your content makes sense to learners, the technology is working effectively, and actual learning is taking place.
Once the course is designed and tested, you need to deliver it to your intended learners. This often includes marketing or promotion, providing training about how to use the course, and planning a launch event that helps get the word out.
Evaluation is an ongoing process. Good designers include feedback loops with stakeholders throughout the course development process. You’ll also want to conduct a formal evaluation once the course is launched, using a well-established and professionally recognized model, such as the Kirkpatrick 4-level evaluation model.
This is a very high-altitude look at best practices in e-learning conversions. Here, on the ground level, there’s a robust science-based community that can provide effective guidance and help you deliver e-learning that works.
I’m excited about new directions in the field. As more people gain access to computers, the Internet and mobile devices, more are also beginning to understand the benefits of e-learning. Course planners can see the value of following planning and development best practices to produce courses that really make a difference.
Matt Cherry coordinates the design and development of content for the Online Learning Center and VISTA Campus. For more information about ETR’s e-learning development services, contact Matt at email@example.com.