“The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding” – French author, philosopher and Nobel Prize winner, Albert Camus.
While the above quote refers to the good intentions of people causing as much harm in this world as the works of evil people, I think this quote holds good and true even in the corporate training world, where good intentions often do as much harm as good, solely because of a lack of understanding of the learner’s needs, during the creation of online training modules. Let me explain:
With all good intentions, course developers and subject matter experts create online training modules, believing that they MUST be loved by learners and produce awesome results, merely because of the time, money, and effort spent in creating them. But the end result is often far from what we want – the courses are unappreciated and do not yield the desired results. Here are some possible reasons we fail:
#1 Making the course too long: Human attention span has been steadily declining and currently stands at 5 minutes. A Microsoft Corp., study says that our attention can be less than that of goldfish, which is 9 seconds! Lengthy online courses are not appreciated and employees lose interest, making it impossible to understand or retain information, making training a failure, and making learners hate your online training modules. Keeping this in mind, we must keep our courses short and crisp.
- Use bullet points
- User short and crisp sentences
- Provide bite-sized learning nuggets instead of long text
- Use videos instead of text
- Provide hyperlinks for additional information
#2 Not Understanding the audience: Tim Walberg, in his statement on the hearing of ‘The Fair Labor Standards Act’ said this of federal policies: “Good intentions can often lead to unintended consequences. It is hard to imagine a law intended for the workforce known to Henry Ford can serve the needs of a workplace shaped by the innovations of Bill Gates.” The above quote is perfectly applicable to training programs – what works for one workforce will not work for another.
Understanding your employees and their needs and creating courses based on those needs rather than using an off-the-shelf course that does not speak directly to, or relate to your employees’ needs, will be ineffective at best, disastrous at worst. Courses that are created from scratch must take into account what your learners want to learn. At the very least, create a course, and allow them to choose their starting point, if they are already familiar with parts of the course. When using off-the-shelf courses, choose those that can be customized to fit your learners’ needs.
#3 No control over learning: It’s human instinct to want to be free and have control over one’s life. So why should it be different with the courses that we provide our learners? Freedom within boundaries can make a big difference to a learner. Here are some ways learners can have control over their learning:
- Allowing them to choose course content
- Allowing them to decide their starting point in a course
- Giving them the freedom to navigate through a course and explore the content
- Adding videos and hyperlinks that they can access if they want to
- Adding additional course material that is optional
- Giving them the freedom to access learning on a device of their choice
#4 Not enough engagement: Employees hate courses that are dull, boring, and monotonous. One of the advantages of online learning is that, unlike textual learning, course creators have the freedom to use their imagination to make a course as colorful, interactive, and adventurous as their imagination will permit. Creating a text-heavy course, unengaging course will create a disengagement and a hatred for online learning. Here’s how you can make an online course engaging:
- Provide the course only at the time of need
- Make sure the course content is relevant
- Make the course interactive
- Add assignments after each subchapter, chapter, and at the end of the course
- Make the interface appealing – take the time to design the look and the feel of the course
- Allow learners to navigate through the course
#5 No testing conducted: Quality analysis is a big part of any online training course. But this often goes no further than making sure that the course runs smoothly on the designated platforms and there are no technical glitches. While there is a designated team in charge of quality, no course is truly evaluated until a learner has had a test run and his inputs are incorporated.
A test group of 5 to 10 employees from the concerned department(s) must take the course before it goes live. This group will tell you what they like about the course, what they don’t like, what works for them, and what doesn’t work for them.
Don’t give your learners a chance to hate your eLearning modules – by knowing where you could go wrong during the creation of a course and avoiding these mistakes, you can make your online courses a smashing success!