One of the difficulties many people find when starting to build an elearning course is deciding where to start, and there are so many possibilities that you could find yourself drowning in a sea of content and data, with nothing to hang onto and no clear way to get to the shore.
Like any expedition into unknown waters you need to plan and prepare before you get off the ground, and even here at Cursim where our developers have years of experience in fields such as Instructional Design, Graphic Design, Content Development & Software Simulation we still plan each project out the best we possibly can.
So where do you begin? What information do you need? What questions should you ask? Here’s a look at some best practices:
What’s the topic of your course? And what do you expect to get out of it?
Going beyond your title, what do you want to achieve? The very first thing you will need to come up with is the primary goal behind each course such as:
- Filling a knowledge or skill gap
- Preventing a re-occurrence of an issue
- Changing a behaviour
- Collecting data or information
Objectives are also important both from a learning perspective and a strategic one. Some questions that should be addressed early on are: What is it we want our learners to accomplish? What should the impact be when it’s all over? And how can measure results after the course has been taken?
Who is it for?
And while we’re talking ‘learners’, let’s think about the target audience for the course. When asking yourself “Who should take this test?” take your primary goals into account. This may help you stay focused.
Let’s take a reasonably common example: most public sector organisations are required by law to respond to information requests and disclose data so all employees are aware of the information. In some cases different people need to know different things:
- Every person will need to know how to respond to an initial request, and where to forward that request for it to be processed
- Those who process the request (whether that be a dedicated team or nominated representatives in each department) will need to know how to gather data and structure for release, as well as details on what may not be covered by the request
- Finally policy makers, data controllers and legal teams etc. will need something different as well
So, yes everyone needs a course but there will be variances across different job titles.
What do we already have that we can reuse?
Most often elearning courses are built from existing content or information. They can be used as a way to get training out to a larger group of people in a shorter space of time and possibly on a smaller budget. If this is the case for the course you are working on – maybe the course is available in another format to re-purpose? And if so, what is it we want to change or improve? Some other questions you might want to ask are: What didn’t work last time and what needs to be different this time? What resources do we need: time, budget, band width? What will it take to make this a successful project now?
How do we know we’ve been successful?
What does success look like for our course? What do we use to measure learners success? Tests and assessments or course completion, or do we look at longer term effects such a reduction in accidents or complaints.
If we are looking at the ‘instant’ results of tests and completions, what constitutes sufficient and revealing evidence that the learner has been successful and how do we track it. Are we using LMS or some other method?
Also, as well as a method to track results (completions & passes) you need a strategy to manage what happens if the learner fails: How many attempts should the learner get? Is the result a pre-requisite for something else or even a requirement of employment?
- If we are looking at the longer term impacts, what ‘before’ data do we have so we can compare the ‘after’. Is the ‘before’ data up-to-date and accurate? How long will it take to gather the ‘after’ data to glean a useful comparison?
What will it look and feel like?
In elearning your visual design can have a lot of impact, and it can definitely have a negative impact. I know that everyone has differing tastes, but your organisation will likely have standards that you may need to meet, and you can use your visual design to enhance the learning. Things to consider:
- Colour schemes
- Graphical elements
- Animation effects
- White space
- Voice over
- Levels of interactivity
- Localised content
Ready to go?
Almost! Getting the answers to the questions may give you a life-jacket to help keep you afloat during the project, but if you begin to struggle your rescue may come in the form of documentation and sign off.
Documenting decisions and opinions (or lack of them) is key because as you work through the project you could need to go back to reiterate or defend decisions made early on to stakeholders, testers and users (with evidence to back you up) so you can prevent yourself getting swamped by a whole new wave of problems.