The 7 Critical Elements of eLearning

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 07:42

Guest post by Simon Moore

According to Global Industry Analysts, corporate training is a $200 billion industry, with $56.2 billion now attributed to eLearning. Unfortunately, despite the vast technological and creative possibilities of eLearning, not all eLearning is equal, nor is it effective.

To assist in the improvement of effective eLearning tools, I’ve identified seven critical elements that are often overlooked or misunderstood during the eLearning development phase:

1. Content is king, but beware of it becoming a dumping ground

Obviously content is very important, especially when building eLearning modules, however it is important to be adequately selective and avoid meaningless content repetition.

The application of the content being provided also needs to remain in focus. Regardless of the subject matter, information needs to exude relevance and where possible it should address the “What’s In It For Me” framework to help engage learners.

Overall, the important thing to remember is that content selection is critical. Keep the important information up front to help retain attention and maintain the energy of the learner.

2. Don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to training – know your learner

To save money, many organisations explore the option of re-skinning pre-existing courses purchased from a training company. While this can be an adequate solution, it can present challenges.

Although your staff may be exposed to an excellent training program, it may not address the specific areas of improvement relevant to your organisation. What is worse, the repetition and generic nature of material itself may drive your team to subconsciously disconnect from the training.

It’s better to build smaller, customised learning modules that address your specific needs.

3. Context is everything 

Creating an eLearning course that resonates with the learner is an important aspect of learning development that should never be overlooked.

Context helps maintain engagement – it increases the value proposition for the learner and has the power to prompt behavioural change. How information is presented – through storytelling and the provision of meaningful and applicable examples is essential to motivating a learner to stop and focus on the information being presented.

4. Expecting learners to remember lots and lots of information

It is not unusual for a client to provide us with massive amounts of content and say “It’s imperative that ALL this information is included in the training.” The client will argue that learners need to know everything in order to be more effective in doing their jobs.

Perhaps that is true in some situations, however no learner can sit for eight straight hours and retain an information overload. Breaking down an eLearning course into bite-size chunks makes it far easier to digest, easier to understand and easier to remember.

5. The power of mobility

mLearning is a tool that utilises mobile technologies to facilitate the learning environment

For example, a common scenario we’ve explored is the movement of a person from one mining site to another. Before commencing on the new site, the person is asked to complete a site-specific induction. Completing this training is very time-consuming and many employees feel it’s a waste of time as much of the information is the same as on previous sites.

The use of mobile technology to deliver just-in-time training makes this problem easy to solve. By simply updating the induction to specifications for mLearning, employees are able to complete their induction while in transit to their new location.

6. Thinking games are a waste of time – games aren’t what you think they are

Why is it that people will complain about learning programs after 30 minutes, yet they will play a game for hours?

Simply put, games are fun. Games motivate us with rewards and let us try again when we fail. Learners pay more attention when they are fully engaged, which helps improve retention, which in turn helps learners apply new concepts. The gamification of eLearning is especially important for Gen Y, who have interacted with video games since birth.

When applying gaming mechanics to any adult learning, especially eLearning, the most effective model to use is CCAF – Context, Challenge, Activity and Feedback.

7. Thinking only about the end cost – keep your eye on the prize

The true value of eLearning comes when you link the training solution to the business goals of the company.  When you consider the end benefits of eLearning and how it adds significantly to the value of the company, that in turn adds to the bottom-line.

Unfortunately, the cost savings that reflect the true value – increased productivity, a shorter learning curve, improved retention and greater satisfaction are difficult to measure. Nevertheless, that does not exclude them from the equation.

The seven elements explored here are merely seven items to consider amongst many when developing truly simple and effective training solutions. However, they offer a strong starting point for managers to facilitate, inspire and add fun to everyday eLearning.

Simon Moore FAIM is the Group General Manager of TheCyberInstitute, a multi-award winning business that specialises in eLearning and online training solutions for business, corporate and government sectors. He has previously operated his own marketing, communication and management consultancy practice and sat on a number of boards ranging from commercial advertising and media agencies to not-for-profit organisations which tackle poverty.