We’ve seen eLearning swing from one extreme to another – from the initial text-based, page turner style of courses, with little or no interactivity to eLearning materials that had bells and whistles on every page. Some have termed this the ‘Las Vegas’ style of eLearning – flashy, clever images, animated graphics and text that actually do little to aid learning. The result being that learners come away from the learning experience remembering nothing more than the Sci-Fi effects or fancy interactive gimmicks. Most professionals would agree that while learner engagement has been an ongoing challenge in eLearning, sacrificing sound instruction on the altar of meaningless glitz and glamour has proved to be counter-productive in the long run.
Does the battle-scarred learner necessarily need to be caught between the two extremes? Does he have to choose between enduring eLearning that is nothing more than a PowerPoint or a Pdf converted to an online format and having to go through highly interactive courseware with no content worth speaking about?
When devising an eLearning content development strategy, the focus has to shift back to the basics. A few simple facts we are aware of, but that are worth stating again.
- eLearning is less about technology and more about learning. Technological glitz is no substitute for poor content. Technology is a wonderful enabler no doubt, but it’s not a driver.
- Poorly designed eLearning creates an avoidance problem for learners in future and this in turn shows up as a resistance to the adoption of an eLearning culture – which is detrimental to an organization’s strategy in the long run.
- The most important component of eLearning is the way the learning is designed. It’s about creating a sequence of bite-sized learning experiences.
- A simple yet often overlooked fact – compelling content creates learner commitment and buy-in.
So what constitutes compelling content – Quality content that meets the learning objectives (which in turn satisfy business objectives), content that is engaging, relevant, fun (where possible), motivational, easy-to-digest, and with applicability to the learner’s job. And what does it take to create such content that results in an effective eLearning experience? Most of us have learned the hard way that creating quality content demands much more than mere competence with authoring tools and technologies. A focus of technology to the exclusion of content seldom results in an effective, engaging, and interactive eLearning experience.
Creating instructionally sound eLearning demands expertise and a strong background in instructional design. Most organizations planning to implement eLearning usually do not have this core competency in-house and seek vendors who have solid experience in Learning Design and who specialize in customized eLearning design. Organizations are now beginning to realize that they need to stay clear of vendors who continue to think that eLearning is all about technology. This high-end skill set of being able to consult on eLearning design and not just develop courseware is the critical difference between having an end-to-end eLearning solution and mere deployment of a given piece. The success of your organizational mission of eLearning implementation depends on the success of your instructional design practices. Once they are in place, the rest will follow.