October 17th, 2018
    Digital Learning

8 ways to develop mind-blowing online courses

cgaborit 5 min read
social learning

“Mind-blowing”. It’s quite a goal. Online training that not only equips learners with knowledge and skills that they are ready to employ in the real world – but also that excites them and leaves them wanting more. In our age of constant distractions and full-on demands, can we really expect eLearning developers to deliver all of that? We should, and do, demand the very best of what thoughtful design and appropriate technology can provide.

If we design from the perspective of what the learner needs, rather than what we want to create, we can develop a set of materials that feel like a personalised experience.

That doesn’t just direct a learner through a course: instead, the learner has an immersive experience that allows them to engage with the material and guide themselves through their own learning journey. A single online training course isn’t the end goal. It’s the start of something big in the learner’s personal development.

Get into the learner’s head

How does a learner benefit from taking this online training? Why is it a valuable use of their time? What can an eLearning approach provide that can’t be experienced anywhere else? These and other questions should be the starting point when developing online training with real impact.

1. Design thinking.

What does the learner need from the training? Design thinking asks you to examine the experience a learner brings with them, as well as any gaps in their knowledge. Designers need to review feedback from this and other courses and incorporate the changes. Learners should be involved in the design process and their comments after training should be looped back in.

2. User experience.

How the learner navigates the eLearning determines their brain’s response to the training overall. Make the training appear complex, text-filled and unapproachable and your learner’s fight/flight response will be triggered: turning them off the course entirely. Instead, keep your pages clear; use infographics, audio and visual elements in place of text; keep the look and feel in line with other corporate systems.

learning on macbook

Julia is engaged in her product skills module thanks to upbeat music, infographics and video

3. Draw on the experience of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).

Your SME could be anyone, in any department. It’s that one person who has the most knowledge or skill in a particular topic. What they will provide is content, as well as the insight and understanding you need to create your training. However, you need to ask questions and go through a process of selection, to make sure the SME is the right fit for your eLearning project. You may need to look more widely than you might have expected.

Design for the way people want to learn

Flexibility is something that has been lacking in the L&D world. Training was a scheduled event, decided upon elsewhere. The learner needed to comply, and fit in. Online training turns this idea on its head: learners have the autonomy to complete the training they need and when they need it.

4. Provide learning in different ways, mostly at the point of need.

Your learner could fill any role in the organisation. They could be a production employee, accessing training via a shared computer; they could be a leader, time-poor but requiring mission-critical policy updates; or perhaps they are a contractor, brought in to fill a temporary position. All of these need to have learning at hand, in a form that they can realistically complete, at precisely the point they need it. Just-in-time training is essential in all of these scenarios.

5. Support learning using multiple devices.

Responsive learning is the baseline for modern online training. In fact, most designers look to build-up from a mobile interface to a desktop version, so that the training works seamlessly – anytime, anywhere. Learners no longer need to be restricted by the location or timing of training pre-established elsewhere. The decision over when and where to complete a course is put in their hands – literally – with mobile learning.

training on the train

Putting training in the hands of people who need it, when it suits them. For Josh, this is on his mobile device, whilst on the train to his client meeting.

Focus on the right design elements

It’s tempting to pack online training with every feature your authoring tools provide. Better, though, is to use design elements selectively to pack a real punch. Absorb your learner in your eLearning course with visual elements that excite and engage. Break your learning into bite-size chunks. Creative design has the power to transform the learning experience.

6. Use video – or even better, use interactive video.

Visual elements in eLearning are becoming more creative, powerful and intuitive with each day that passes. Embracing video as a technique to transfer skills or content is essential for an impactful course. Using branching scenarios combined with video is a powerful way of testing skills safely. A video doesn’t have to be expensive – but focus on being inclusive by representing the diversity of your workforce and environment.

7. Use microlearning at the right time.

Micro-games, infographics, leadership interviews, even blogs – all can be used to provoke thought and to reinforce training content outside of the formal course setting. You can “push” microlearning assets to target individuals to deliver just-in-time training, or provide an additional resource that was identified in a skills gap analysis after the course was completed.

8. Create connections using social learning.

It’s too easy to become isolated in today’s workplace. Learners that have the opportunity to connect via group collaboration activities, forums or one-to-one messaging are able to test out their theories, learn from others and benefit from social interactions.

social learning

Collaborative learning activities are a great way to for colleagues to connect

No two learners are the same. Every one of us approaches training on the basis of our preference, experiences and current circumstances. As L&D professionals, we have the responsibility to reach each learner as an individual. Whether that is through a thorough training needs analysis, or through catering to a range of learning styles, putting the learner at the centre of the eLearning module is essential when designing for maximum impact. It’s a fool’s game to imagine that an all-singing, all dancing online training course packed full of features will achieve learning goals. Much more powerful is a tailored experience, where learners have the opportunity to test out their skills and then connect with their peers. Let’s not underestimate our learners. They want to be given the options and fulfil their own objectives. Our job is to clear that path for them and to make the learning options as engaging and impactful as possible.

At The Learning Factor, we simplify the business of learning. We craft exceptional training solutions that solve critical business challenges across all touchpoints, screens, and devices.

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