Prometheus Training, LLC

Helping Your SMEs Create Elearning

Do your Subject Matter Experts need to create eLearning programs? Here is a self-assessment checklist, based on Adult Learning Principles, to help them build eLearning that is effective as well as informative.

I have selected content based on what the learner needs to know, not what I want to teach

Adult learners are an impatient breed. They are willing to put in the time to learn skills that they can apply in the real world. They are extremely unwilling to waste time on learning information that is purely “nice-to-know.”

And, learners in an eLearning environment feel more empowered than in a classroom environment. In a classroom, those “History of My Project” slides might evoke some yawns, maybe a couple of eye-rolls. In an eLearning environment, the learners will sign off.

How can you know what the learner needs to know? Ask them. Ask their managers. Check the FAQ logs. Look at customer-survey results. Or talk to a training specialist about conducting a Needs Assessment.

I am providing Performance Objectives for this program

Adult learners want to feel in control of their own learning. They resent hidden agendas. They want to know upfront what will be expected of them in your course. And during the course, they need guidelines for where to focus their efforts.

Performance Objectives are a way to signal your expectations for what the learners are supposed to learn. They answer the question, “What do you want the learner to be able to do at the end of this course?” Performance Objectives should:

  • Contain an action verb that describes an observable performance. Why observable? Because that way, you can assess whether they achieved the objective.
  • Indicate how well you want them to perform. Do you want them to perform at a particular rate of speed? Achieve a particular error rate? Conform to a particular standard? This is where you spell it out.
  • If you expect them to use specific reference materials or tools on the job, you might include those in your Performance Objective, too.

Here are a few examples of Performance Objectives: “Enter data from customer inquiries into the Marketing Database, with 100% accuracy.” “Explain how to apply a Performance Coaching methodology to improve performance, in a given scenario.” “List 5 benefits that the Frago-Meter provides to our customers.”

I have included the WIIFM

Adult learners demand relevance. Before they allow you to cram another factoid into their already over-stuffed brains, they want to know the answer to the magic question, “What’s In It For Me?”

Good trainers have always understood that salesmanship comes with the territory. In an eLearning environment, that means “selling” the relevance of your course up front, and then reinforcing the relevance at frequent intervals throughout the training.

How do you “sell” the relevance? Ask them, tell them, or show them how this course will benefit them professionally, personally, as part of a work team, or as part of an organization. Make your point upfront, as vividly as possible. Then keep referring back to it later in the course.

I am using visuals, examples, scenarios, or case studies to bring my topic to life

If you can get your learners engaged in learning, they are more likely to retain what you are trying to teach.

Visual stimulation is one way to create engagement. These days, you don’t need to be a graphic artist to create a visual. You can use Excel to create colorful graphs and charts. You can use Print Screen commands to take software screen shots. And you can use your digital camera to capture slice-of-life visuals from your work environment.

Another way to drive engagement is through examples, scenarios and case studies. These techniques “show” the learner how your topic might be applied in the real world. Pair them with discussion questions that prompt the learner to think through implications, or ask the learner to envision how the scenario examples might compare or contrast to their own work environments.

I am including Practice Exercises to reinforce learning and provide feedback

Adult learners retain the most if they have a chance to practice a new skill. And they need immediate feedback, so they know whether or not they are on the right track.

Before you create your practice exercises, go back and look at your Performance Objectives. If your objective is skill-based, the best practice exercise is to have the learner perform the skill. In an eLearning environment, that usually means giving them a scenario and asking them to use the skill to answer certain questions or perform certain activities. If your objective is knowledge-based, you can go with the traditional drill-and-practice, multiple choice-type questions.

Feedback is relatively easy to provide in an eLearning environment. If you are “live” online, you can use chat, Q&A, or polling. If you are creating self-study materials, your authoring program will contain some feedback capabilities.

I am giving the learners a way to follow up, ask questions, or get more information

Adult learners expect their needs to be respected and addressed. In a classroom environment, they can stop you during break-time to ask you that out-of-the-ordinary question. But in an eLearning environment, getting extra help may seem more intimidating.

If you are “live” online, make sure your learners understand how to use the Q&A capabilities. And be sure they understand your protocol for answering questions – whether you plan to take them during the main presentation, save them for the end, etc.

If you are creating self-study materials, identify the names and contact information of people who can provide additional information. Put the information at the start, at the end, and in the “Help” area of the course.

I plan to collect learner feedback about the course, and use it to improve

Adult learners expect that their opinions will be respected. And when it comes to the effectiveness of your eLearning course, their feedback is more important than your own, your spouse’s, or even your manager’s.

So encourage them to provide you with feedback. Tell them how you intend to use the information. Make it easy for them to provide the feedback, by sending them easy-to-use survey forms. And thank them after they take the time to fill out your survey.

Most importantly, read the survey results and take them to heart. Avoid the denial defense. If you get multiple responses telling you that something in your course is ineffective, force yourself to fix it. If responses to your “live” online courses fluctuate from one course to another, figure out what is causing the disparity. Sometimes, a little bit of “continuous improvement” can make a great difference in your eLearning course’s acceptance and effectiveness.

About the author

Helene Geiger is CEO of Prometheus Training, LLC.

© 2005 Prometheus Training LLC. All rights reserved. Visit for information and tips on making custom eLearning. easy.

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