E-learning has come a long way since I first started lecturing in 2006. We now have tools to build more supportive and engaging learning which can ultimately contribute to more efficient working practices and better success rates for our learners.
With such rapid developments in the field it’s easy for organisations to fall behind; what passed for an advanced online course a decade ago is now comparably frustrating for learners.
Consider your own organisation – compare the way you use e-learning now to the way it would have been used 5 years ago (a world without the iPad!). Would a learner notice the difference, and would they have a significantly better experience?
Content is a good indicator of how up-to-speed your e-learning is. Older courses tend to be comprised of static content in the form of PDF documents and Powerpoint presentations. Learners are usually expected to download and work through these items separately, sometimes even printing them off to be submitted by hand!
Let’s be clear; no student wants to access a course only to be immediately confronted with endless lists of documents and presentations. This is equivalent to guiding your learners into a dusty library and leaving them to get on with it.
That said, static resources do have their place, especially where you are sharing content which has been referenced during face-to-face contact, but they must be well structured.
Think of these resources as a part of reference library which is available alongside other e-learning content. Build an area within your course which houses these resources in an indexed fashion so that the learner can easily access and browse the library if they choose to.
A better approach for content is to embed it into the course using modern web technologies, allowing the learner to dip in and out of the content without being taken away from the course itself.
Typical examples include rich text web pages, embedded videos, and SCORM activities or more niche examples such as interactive timelines, geographical maps and other forms of data visualisations.
Take some time to think through how your learners will navigate this content. It must be clear to the learner where they are expected to start and in what order they should approach the materials you have made available.
Structure and pathways
You must clearly identify the learning objectives for a course. Ideally these objectives should be visible throughout the journey, highlighting the current learning objective that is being worked towards.
The best e-learning courses use completion tracking to monitor what a learner has done so far and when used in combination with assessments this can even be used to dynamically tailor the learner’s pathway dependant on how well they learn.
Tracking of resources usually takes the form of a tickbox which can be automatically marked when a learner accesses a piece of content, or which learners can manually mark off when they have finished with a piece of content.
Many administrators get pre-occupied with the concept of tracking the learner’s every movement on the site in order to ensure they have watched every second of a video or worked through every part of a SCORM package. The truth is that the best way to monitor your learner’s progress is through good summative assessment throughout the course.
Finally, remember to consolidate the learning towards the end of your course. Use a quick video or even just a bullet point list to remind them of the objectives they’ve covered.