Classroom-based training may well feel familiar to most employees while also providing members of staff with a chance to network and have a day away from the office, but it is beginning to fall out of favour for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, trainees no longer respond well to passively accepting the instructions of a teacher. Even though it worked at school, we now live in a world where the Internet fuels the acquisition of new information and knowledge, which is a very interactive and engaging activity.
Secondly, businesses are under increasing pressure to reduce the cost of training, which can spiral out of control when you factor in things like accommodation and transport.
Last but not least, traditional training is incredibly inflexible. The whole class must keep pace with the teacher and consume exactly the same learning materials as everybody else, even though they could well miss vital information or not understand key concepts.
Thankfully, due to the rapid rate in which new technologies have developed, e-learning is now a viable and cost-effective option for organisations wanting to adopt a new training approach. However, that doesn’t mean to say it comes in a one-size-fits-all package, as there are a number of things to consider when selecting e-learning.
Your audience’s unique characteristics and demographics will play a crucial part in terms of curriculum design. Which skills do they need to develop? What tone of voice should you use? Where are they located? Once you have answered these kinds of questions, you will need to decide whether your curriculum can be designed utilising the skills of internal staff or with the assistance of outside specialists. You will also need to think of infrastructural issues such as the availability of classrooms and bandwidth as well as ways to measure success.
If you intend to shop around for course content, you should prioritise relevancy and depth. Don’t automatically assume that a “customer service” course will provide staff with the skills and expertise necessary to improve your audience’s experience. There is also a chance that content will be too simple or illogical, providing your workforce with little to no benefits. Therefore, read course descriptions and objectives thoroughly, look for online reviews, familiarise yourself with content providers, and reach out to e-learning and industry professionals for help.
At the heart of e-learning is interactivity, as trainees have complete control over their own destiny. However, additional elements such as tests and quizzes will not only keep employees interested in course content, they can also result in higher levels of memory retention too. The same goes for concepts such as gamification, which adds an element of competition to proceedings and encourages employees to keep on discovering more.
If you decide to take course creation into your own hands, it makes sense to utilise an authoring toolset or to enlist the services of an e-learning provider. Authoring tools are generally straightforward to set-up, give you complete control over content, and produce cost-effective course materials. However, an external provider will have a great deal of experience in creating e-learning courses and can free up staff resources too.
With your curriculum and content, think carefully as to whether this is a standalone training exercise or part of a wider L&D strategy. Ask yourself whether it can merge with other parts of training and decide if all members of staff should be participating. You should also explore ways to monitor learning attendance, progress, and speed; otherwise there is no real way of knowing whether e-learning worked. Finally, come up with ways to generate and manage certification, which can be anything from an assessment under exam conditions to an informal question and answer session.
Regardless of whether you or somebody else is creating the content, there will need to be a review process in place to make sure e-learning adheres to the wants and needs of your workforce. You will also need to decide who is able to comment, make decisions, and ultimately give approval. However, this has the potential to be quite time consuming, so the person tasked with such responsibility will require ample resources and support.
In addition to the format of e-learning, which can include but is not limited to Flash, HTML, and Silverlight, you will need to choose a delivery method too. While physical devices such as DVDs and memory sticks are fairly foolproof, more and more organisations are opting for cloud-based e-learning instead, as this option can increase collaboration and enable employees to complete course content at a time and in a place that suits them. What’s more, cloud-based e-learning solutions enable you to make changes at a moment’s notice, while several providers offer reporting and measurement tools as part of the package.
It might seem like a big responsibility, but the person in charge of review and approval could also be given management and administration duties. This individual will need to believe in the power of e-learning and possess the enthusiasm to drive it forward, which also means devising some sort of future proof strategy too. A collaborative system that works in the same way as an e-learning course but invites multiple authors, reviewers and approvers to improve content can help to deliver a truly effective and efficient training solution.
There is a strong possibility that some training materials or e-learning courses will go out of date, so set-up periodic content reviews that can incorporate feedback from employees. Again, technology is your friend, as the easily adaptable nature of HTML means that changes to content do not require extensive upheaval. If you are using an external training provider for your course content, make sure some terms for maintenance are included from the get-go or else ongoing costs could keep increasing.
Evaluating your e-learning course can be from a return on investment or educational outcome perspective. But in both cases, you will need to propose a system of what you are measuring and how to measure it. Thankfully, most e-learning courses provide ample amounts of data to collect and collate, which can be used to see whether individual employees require more training or to make a decision to modify course content for the benefit of future workforces.