The growth of e-learning courses as a training tool for companies has the potential to cut training and on-board costs drastically. It also promises to expedite the process and move new employees into their positions or introduce needed information more quickly. The challenge comes in making certain that employees retain the information as needed. Here are a few mistakes people make in designing their e-learning course.
This is the foundation of whatever material you are going to provide. Too often managers look at e-learning as a way to make sure everyone has read the intended information. They worry about the legal aspect of documenting which confirms that the audience has seen the information. Not much concern is given to confirm whether or not learners will be able to actually use the information. It has to be more than watching a prefabricated screencast with some quiz questions at the end.
That approach is fine for certain information which protects a company from legal liability. Things like sexual harassment and discrimination have rules and policies that everyone have to be familiar with. However, if you are wanting to create a team that fully takes advantage of everyone’s diverse perspectives, it needs to do more than that. Preparing a listening guide is a simple way to promote active engagement with the presentation. Even better, including some reflective exercises which can be done in private, encourages your team to think about what they’ve seen.
You had to sit through them at some point. Several years ago when someone talked about e-learning it meant they’d posted a video online that you were required to watch at some point. The video probably included some sort of quiz or questionnaire that was supposed to verify that everyone had watched it. Someone told you, “It’ll only take a few minutes,” which inevitably meant you’d be spending a half an hour getting through the process. Even worse, because of other things taking priority in your work, you might have pushed this to time after work, meaning it would disrupt your time with your family.
And you know what happened. Some smart Alec took one for the team, went through the material, and wrote down the answers to the quiz. He then handed those answers out to everyone making him the most popular guy in the office for an hour or two. He didn’t mean to subvert the process, although that’s exactly what happened.
Again, if you’re only concerned about making sure the company is protected against legal liability, then perhaps it’s fine. We have to make some decisions about where we’re going to spend our time and energy. However, if you’re sharing information that could make your team more effective, this isn’t the outcome you’re looking for.
A quality e-learning product will be organized to present information in a scaffolded fashion making sure that the information is segmented into its needed units and then spirals so that each segment uses the information from the previous segment to build to its objective. Between each segment, it will include questions that go beyond a simple fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice option. Perhaps it asks participants to write a reflection on the material. If it’s being viewed in a group setting, it might take advantage of the moment to promote a discussion.
Everything we know about learning suggests that if participants have immediately put to use what they’ve learned, it’s retention skyrockets. An effective e-learning system will incorporate these strategies so that the learning gets cemented in place.
One of the most difficult aspects to manage is the timing of the presentation. e-learning has become a popular delivery medium because of it’s inherent economy of scale. We can develop or purchase learning content once and then use it repeatedly at minimal residual cost. As already mentioned, if people are left to their own devices, they’re going to prioritize certain deadlines ahead of others. And if you bring everyone together with a trained facilitator to guide them, you’ve gone against the exact effectiveness that makes e-learning a valuable tool.
You know what is going to work for your team. Perhaps providing individual or team incentives will help promote sincere effort. Perhaps they’ll respond to a group effort in viewing the material. The key is overcoming the negative response that comes with making something mandatory. No matter what you do, you need to provide time during the workday for your team to tackle whatever e-learning you wanting them to tackle.
In many ways, e-learning has lived up to the expectation that it could provide certain material in a cost effective and expeditious way. Today the key is finding ways to also make it improve employee performance and knowledge retention.