Common mistakes when developing and delivering an eLearning course: Part 2
In the first article, we explored the most common pitfalls that we’ve found eFrontPro users face. We also offered a few quick workarounds that can make your courses pop!
In this episode, we’ll dive deeper into what makes a well developed and appropriately delivered course succeed its goals, your goals. With no further ado…
5. Don’t rely on one learning strategy
Think carefully about what you’re asking your learners to do. Reading text, text and more text isn’t usually the best way to get people to learn. Clicking “Next” after every screenful isn’t enormously motivating.
Different people learn in different ways – some like reading, others like listening, quite a few find images or video more helpful. Many are more engaged by having to do something, to make decisions or choices and learn from the consequences. Some like to learn the theory first, but many more prefer to learn by trial and error.
To follow only a text-based learning strategy, and to assume that everyone will achieve their learning goals in this way is a recipe for boredom.
6. Don’t overlook the importance of clear design
Today’s eLearning authoring tools are great at allowing you to incorporate all kinds of graphic design elements into your course, but unfortunately, they don’t exercise any kind of quality control.
Designing a course often seems to be a matter of starting from a blank screen, or accepting one of the default templates on offer, which are probably nice, but might not suit your content.
There are several different issues involved here. Some element of consistency, provided by templates, themes and master slides is important, but it shouldn’t be so uniform as to be stultifying.
Maybe experiment with different colors for different topics, or different placement of images on the screen. Clear, consistent design rules let learners know where they are in the course, and help to promote effective learning.
7. Don’t assume everyone is using a Windows PC
A few years ago, eLearning designed for an 800 x 600 laptop screen would look OK to most users. Not any more.
Although a lot of corporate clients will still insist on all learning taking place in work time on standard PCs, more and more users will either have much larger screens, or much smaller screens (tablets and phones).
And with some organizations experimenting with BYOD (bring your own device) policies, your eLearning needs to look good in a much wider variety of sizes. Fortunately, most authoring software can cope with this – but it takes a bit more design work.
8. Don’t rely on boring imagery
All too often, good course design is let down by unimaginative use of clip art or stock photos. Groups of fresh-faced young executives gathered around blank laptop screens with exaggerated smiles may be appropriate for some types of learning, but probably not that many.
Ideally, you’d have photos and video specially commissioned for each new course, or graphics created by a skilled artist, but most of us have to settle for less.
All is not lost however – vintage photographs, striking images, or unusual camera angles can transform otherwise dull subject matter, and attaching a moving path to an image (sometimes known as the Ken Burns effect) can often be more effective than video.
Don’t settle for the mundane and familiar. If your learners have seen it before, it’s unlikely to help them remember what you’re trying to teach them.
9. Don’t overlook the LMS
When the course is more or less complete, you’ll probably start thinking about how you’re going to host it, and whether it’s going to be compatible with the company’s Learning Management System.
This should have been part of the planning process from the beginning. Conventional LMSs that rely on SCORM can only really track success or failure on assessments, the number of screens viewed and the time spent on a course.
If you have to track other things, you’ll need to find imaginative ways of using advanced features within your course authoring tool to set variables, and perform a few calculations.
Most things are doable, but not at the last minute!
10. Don’t forget about assessment and evaluation
Finally, the course is ready to roll, and managers are going to want to know if it’s doing the job it was intended for. Are learners learning? Are the relevant business metrics moving in the right direction?
To answer these questions, you’ll need to address issues of assessment and evaluation. Formative assessment (within the course) and summative assessment (at the end) may help, but to really assess the return on investment, you’ll need to think about evaluation strategies that track learners long after they’ve completed the course.
All too often, eLearning courses are regarded as cheap and cheerful interventions that allow learners to pick up what they need to know and then move on.
However, as you now realize, there’s a bit more to it than that!