I was asked recently to write an article for a retail chain around elearning 101. That was actually harder than I thought! There is so much to share, almost like too much content when actually writing elearning! They said 500 words, it turned out more like 700.
So here it is, I would love your thoughts!
What you need to know about elearning before introducing it to your organisation?
It is hard to believe that only 15 years ago email was brand new, and now it rules our lives. Technology has driven a change in the way we live (as Robyn V asked in a recent NZATD article, “what is the first thing you touch in the morning? Your partner/spouse or your phone?” Well I couldn’t say ‘device’ could I!)
It has also changed the way we work. And learn.
Even 5 years ago, elearning was a relatively new phenomenon, now it has become an accepted way of learning.
First of all, what is elearning? Before we answer that question, we need to ask, what is learning? In the broadest sense, learning requires you to a. remember something, or b. remember where to find the information. You must always remember this when developing any learning. Because knowing what type of learning you want some one to do, will depend on what you offer and how you offer it. You probably want trainee pilots to remember how to fly a plane, but only need a data entry operator to know where to find your chart of account codes, rather than remember them off by heart and then apply them to the correct income and expense.
When we look at elearning in New Zealand, it usually means creating a series of learning activities (content, activities and quizzes) in a format that can be played and interacted with by a learner in the hope that they will learn something. Usually on a PC, however there is also a move towards this learning being able to be played on ipads and smartphones. And latterly, a curated and social approach to elearning.
An ‘authouring tool’ is a specialist piece of software that creates the elearning (mostly powerpoint on steroids and there are hundreds of them.) These range from a few dollars to several thousand dollars.
The content is then played on a ‘player’ which is hosted on another specialist piece of software called a Learning Management System, (there are hundreds around the world – www.trimearitus.com ) and they can be located on a server or hosted in the cloud. They range from $20 per month, to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Think of the Learning Management System as the bookshelf and the result of the authouring tool, the book.
This is in comparison to what some people think of as elearning where learning resources, such as pdfs and word documents are stored on an internet page or server somewhere for learners to access. This is not elearning, this is a document management system!
And then there is ‘online’ learning. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are a great example of online learning, run by universities all around the world, for free, on any topic a business could need. (A description here http://bit.ly/lyNmGX and a list of business courses run by Coursera MOOCS here http://bit.ly/19oQ30N. Topics from accounting, to strategy to psychology. Not only are they online, they are social too, with participants from all around the world. It is learning, how we learn in the real world.
The benefits of e and online learning include; a significant reduction of training costs (e.g. travel, accommodation, room hire) increasing standardisation of the message, flexible (small chunks of learning) and it can be self paced.
So if you are considering getting into elearning, what is the very first question to ask?(and this applies to any learning intervention by the way) ‘What is the business result the learning is to achieve?’ For example, increase in sales, reduction of complaints, increase in profit margin. And then making sure that those things can be measured pre and post training. If it can be measured, making sure that the benefits outweigh the costs of implementing any intervention. So often, training is a feel good exercise with no real business impact measured.
Once you have answered that question, there are so many ways to get started cost effectively in elearning. But I think that is a topic for another article.
Now you have an idea of what elearning is, and the questions your business needs to ask itself before embarking on any learning intervention, ‘e’ or otherwise.