So your company is ready to move into online learning?
Terrific! Just hire an instructional designer or an e-learning development company, show them what you need, and voilà! Your first online course.
That may work, but you won’t necessarily end up with the most effective learning program. Two often-overlooked factors could spell the difference between an online learning course that fully accomplishes your objectives and one that’s largely a waste of your learners’ precious time.
1. Instructional design
You wouldn’t build a house without designing it first. In fact, the time and creativity you invest before you pour the foundation is the single biggest factor in whether or not the finished house will meet your needs. The same is true of your e-learning course. Evaluate your audience. Analyze your learning objectives. Consult your budget. Then invest some time and creativity in determining the best way to present, reinforce and measure the effectiveness of the learning.
You may be tempted to build PowerPoint-style screens to lecture your learners, but that won’t be effective in an online course. Online learners need to be challenged to engage and think. You need to lead them into teachable moments (those “aha!” experiences).
If your online program feels like a slide deck to recap last quarter’s financial performance, then it’s missing an instructional design...the blueprint that ensures it engages, stimulates and challenges learners, while at the same time teaching, reinforcing and leading them to apply the learning.
2. Support services
OK, so you've designed an effective online course, you built it and you're ready for your first group of learners. But what happens when someone has a question? Or doesn’t understand something? Or wants to ask the instructor about a particular issue?
Or a video or the audio doesn’t play, or an illustration doesn’t render properly? Those issues require a support services plan.
So think about how you will offer support. How will instructor questions be handled? How quickly must they be answered? Who will provide Tier 1 technical support to respond to and fix simple problems? And who will handle more complex technical issues that often require a programmer to solve?
So, next time you begin planning to develop e-learning, take the time to create an instructional design blueprint and develop a plan to support your students. Otherwise, you will likely end up with a less-than-effective online program.