Potholes on the Road to Rapid Elearning (part 1)
(This is the first of a two-part article)
These days, organizations are looking for the fastest and easiest route to workplace learning. No wonder Rapid Elearning Development tools are so popular. These tools give Trainers and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) an express lane through the instructional design process, allowing them to by-pass time-consuming side trips for media production and programming.
But there are potholes lurking on that express lane to Rapid Elearning - issues that can slow you down, or leave your training looking decidedly flat. So be forewarned and steer clear of these common trouble spots:
The way your Rapid Elearning looks sends a subconscious message to your learners. If the look is unprofessional or inconsistent - or even downright sloppy - you are signaling to your learners that what they are about to learn doesn't matter very much.
If you want your courseware to be credible, it has to look credible. That means consistent formatting, appropriate graphics, and color choices that work with your brand. Frankly, we find that few Subject Matter Experts have the time, the inclination - or the skills - to get this right on their own.
Does that mean we are recommending taking Rapid Elearning development tools away from SMEs? Not at all. But we do recommend creating publication standards to guide your SMEs, and requiring that programs meet those standards. At Prometheus, we even create custom templates that make it easier for SMEs to meet corporate publication standards without needing to channel their inner graphic designer.
Does this sound familiar? Your SME has a terrific, PowerPoint-based training program that has been wowing classroom after classroom of learners. "But I'm wasting too much time in the classroom," your SME reasons. "All I have to do is import my slides into that nifty Rapid Elearning software, and we can offer an equivalent course as eLearning."
There is a lot to be gained - by SMEs and learners - in re-purposing classroom courses into eLearning. However, it needs to be done carefully, or you could be losing more than you gained. For example, typically a classroom course includes a lot of content that is "between the slides." In fact, the more successful the classroom version, the more likely that the instructor or SME was adding value by positioning each slide, expanding on the slide's content, providing examples and answering questions about the slide.
How do you figure out what the "between the slides" content might be? When we work with clients to re-purpose their classroom presentations, we often video a classroom version of the presentation. It's a good way to document the "added value" content, so you don't lose the power of those simple diagrams sketched on the whiteboard, or the range of examples the instructor can come up with on-the-fly for different audiences. It takes some creative design to work that added-value content into your Rapid E-Learning, but the results are well worth the effort!
SMEs tend to like their content - a lot! But sometimes their enthusiasm can be a bit overwhelming for the learner, particularly if it comes in the form of information overload. Of course, good SMEs and instructors know how to adjust the amount of classroom content based on their learners' interest level (or - in extreme cases - by their level of consciousness). But because the SMEs don't see a way to make the same type of adjustment in an eLearning setting, they often err on the "give 'em everything they could possibly need to know" side of things. The result: bloated, indigestible eLearning courses.
The problem is one of instructional design. A well-designed course serves up content in manageable chunks, with enough interactivity and feedback to help the learning go down easily. And good courseware also includes "second helpings" for learners who have specific information needs or crave deeper knowledge.
At Prometheus, we use a variety of techniques to chunk up content, and give learners some control over how much they are ingesting. For example, we may create interactive menus (yes, you can do menus in a Rapid Elearning course!) listing the 3-4 main topic areas in the course. Within each menu item, we layer the content so the "need-to-know" information reaches every learner, but the "nice-to-know" is presented as an option. And of course, each menu item has its own reinforcement exercises and feedback, so learners can fully master a topic area before moving on. Finally, we include a mastery test or exercise, to make sure the learner understands how all of the pieces fit together. This model adapts to just about any type of content, with consistently good results - high learning and retention rates, as well as good learner satisfaction scores.
Rapid eLearning tools can shortcut the process to developing high quality training. By coupling these tools with organization-specific design standards, templates and course models, you can get your SMEs on the fast track to eLearning success, and avoid those potholes in the road.