E-learning has long been a training partner for the corporate sector because of its flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness. The increase in usage has led to the emergence of several e-learning service providers. But what makes some e-learning partners different from others is the learner-centric courses they offer. Investing in a non learner-centric course would not result in effective learning outcomes.
Imagine giving a highly engaging video to a set of learners who do not prefer watching videos. No matter how great and efficient the course is, it would not result in the preferred outcome. Therefore, developing a course that targets the learners’ needs and requirements is a must when it comes to e-learning. In order to develop engaging, interactive, and learner-centric courses, you need to consider the following factors.
Once you are sure of your learning objectives, it's easy to write the corresponding content. You must know the objectives of your course – what you want your learners to do after taking the course. Next, you should be able to communicate the objectives to your learners.
The target audience is the first and foremost thing to consider before developing an e-learning course. To put across an effective learning program, you must know your target audience and their learning preferences well. Only then can you develop strong, focused content which should ideally be reviewed by an end user who will be able to say if it is workable or not. Developers need to consider several elements about the target audience while developing the courses. The following elements need to be known about the target audience as it will give developers a clear picture of what to include in the course and what not to.
It is necessary to consider the educational background of the target audience before delving in to develop the course content. Why? Imagine creating a highly technical course for employees of the manufacturing or food processing sector. These employees do not have great dexterity with the mouse and keyboard. Even though the e-learning course is good enough, it would fail to serve these employees. Therefore, knowing the educational background of the employees will help developers assess their requirements and design and develop the e-learning course accordingly.
Although this might seem to be a less important factor to consider, it might actually be one of the most crucial factors that determine the usefulness of an e-learning course. Learners who do not have prior experience with e-learning would find small interactivities such as click-on tabs very interesting and engaging. At the same time, if the learners have prior experience with e-learning, giving them basic level courses would actually de-motivate them. Knowing this would help developers design and develop courses accordingly.
Knowing the business goal of the course beforehand will help developers design the course around that goal. For example, if an organization wants a course on developing the selling skills of its sales workforce, then it would be best to develop a course addressing that need. Extra content such as in-depth product features and more can be eliminated. Content chunking will help the learners assimilate byte sized information packets, without being distracted from the main points.
Sometimes, during the analysis phase, although the details of the content that needs to be included are decided, developers might face requests to include other content during the course development. Knowing the business goal in advance will help eliminate this scenario, in turn reducing the development time and finally the cost.
Some companies have the “BYOD” policy where employees bring their own devices, mostly portable devices such as iPads to work. All the features and interactivities of e-learning courses might not be compatible with all devices. Therefore, before developing an e-learning course, it is best to analyze the business goals, the usage of the courses, the aim of the courses, and more. In this way developers can best assess the features and interactivities to include in their courses. For example, if an organization has the BYOD policy, interactivities such as “hotspots” or “rollovers” should be avoided, as they do not work well on iPads.
Using various kinds of interactivities in e-learning content helps learners remain involved, interested, and engaged with the course, since it takes out the monotony of one-way communication. It also makes active experimentation possible.
According to cognitive theories, any new learning is possible if it has a reference point, called a schema. This makes retention of new information easier. Using real life scenarios and examples helps learners relate new information with familiar situations or facts and so improves the quality of the transfer of knowledge and its retention.
Thanks to technology, e-learning is made easy with the help of webinars, facilitators, voice chat, chats, video conferencing, asynchronous and on-line tutoring, etc. These techniques form important links between ILT and e-learning, and augment their advantages. They also afford learners the convenience of learning at their pace – when and where needed.
Assessing the age of the employees accessing the courses is crucial for their development. Courses for the Millennial generation differ greatly from courses for older generations. Millennials respond to more game like elements, interactive videos, or courses that contain more activities increasing the interactivity between the learner and the course. Older generations prefer smooth courses that deliver the required knowledge in a linear way. Therefore, before developing the courses, developers need to assess the age of the audience that is going to be trained through the e-learning course. This will help them create more learner-centric courses.
While creating the courses, it is best to analyze the audience preferences for visual, kinesthetic, and auditory elements. Some employees prefer more auditory elements while some do not. If there is no clarity about their preferences, it is better to include all three elements in equal measure. For example, developing an e-learning course with audio in just a few screens will disappoint auditory learners. It is therefore crucial to include all three elements to give learners a good learning experience.
While creating e-learning courses, it is best to consider employees with physical disabilities. For example, not using colors to differentiate important elements on the screen will help employees with color blindness. Such minor factors, when considered, will help in creating more accessible courses.
Factoring in all these elements will help design learner-centric and accessible e-learning courses that will serve their purpose efficiently.