Developing successful e-learning material is probably even more challenging now than it was a few years ago. The tools that are available to us as trainers have changed almost beyond recognition, allowing us to create content in new ways that previously either required a huge budget, or were simply unimaginable. At the same time, the whole working environment has also changed, from the increase in remote working, to the effect of changing regulations on our lives, often reducing the amount of time that we can commit to a single activity in any one session. Not only does the training content have to meet the needs of our learners and the wider organisation, but it needs to use the right tools and be able to deliver key messages within restricted time frames.
As a result, trainers and learning designers need to spend more time than ever planning the learning activities they will use. I’d suggest that there are four key questions that you need to ask before developing a training course – whether you’re starting from a blank canvas and creating your own content, or taking a curatorial approach and combining content from other sources.
First, you need to identify who the learners are that you’re targeting. Getting this question wrong can lead to disaster. You need to identify the types of people that you’ll be training, considering their experience and their current capabilities so that you can pitch your content at the right level. There’s nothing less motivating than having extensive experience in a subject and then being “talked down to” by a trainer that assumes you know nothing. In the same way, it can be really demoralising to sit through training that is so overloaded with jargon and complex language that you wonder what it’s about.
Second, you need to identify why the training is necessary. Individuals will typically prioritise their time and effort based on what is beneficial to them – the age old question of “What’s in it for me?”. By clearly identifying the benefits of your training at the outset, you’ll have a much greater chance of engaging the learners during the course – the benefits may also encourage them to persevere if some of the topics covered are particularly challenging. Ideally, you should weave these benefits through the course content, helping to maintain interest.
Thirdly, you need to identify what learners need to take away from the training. At the end of the course, your learners should be able to do something new, or perform a task better than before. It’s important that the material in your course supports them, not just explaining your topic, but wherever possible including practical examples to demonstrate it as well. Adult learners are typically problem-oriented and want to learn how to resolve real-life situations.
Finally, you need to identify how learners can best learn about the topic. When you’re designing a training course, particularly when it involves e-learning, it is important to focus on the objectives you’ve set and ensure that any cool features are used sparingly and in the most appropriate way to support the objectives. Sometimes “less” really can be “more”. You need to consider how you are going to structure your content and build understanding throughout the course, creating the right conditions for your learners to learn effectively. The choices that you make when creating the content will also influence your choices for assessments to reinforce the topic. Remember that adults will benefit from applying the skills and knowledge themselves, so try to incorporate some form of practical assessment, whether through a formal assignment, a case study, or even simple scenario-based multiple choice questions.
By considering these four key questions, you should be able to make decisions about the tools and techniques that will be most effective for your learners. But the process doesn’t really end when the course is delivered – in fact, it will continue for much longer. Once your training has been completed by learners, you should seek feedback from them to help fine-tune your choices, and develop your understanding of both them as individuals, and the way that the topic is perceived. You shouldn’t be afraid to make changes to the content based on the feedback you receive and be prepared to keep reviewing it periodically to ensure that it remains effective.
Learning is an exciting journey for both learners and trainers and can happen in many different ways. To find out more about some of the ways that the Development Zone can help enhance and enrich the learning journey in your firm, why not visit the DevZone Academy (available via the Support option on any page of the platform).