I happened to come across a manual by the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE)’s Training and Education Directorate. They published the guide on Best Practices for E-learning that could be a useful resource to stakeholders in Defense Services. These simple practical guidelines are very similar to the best practices we recommend to our clients all the time.
Here, I would like to list the 6 best practices for adapting classroom-based material for eLearning development; as mentioned in their guideline.
Start with accurate learning objectives
Defining learning objectives is critical to the development of the course. They clearly indicate to the learner the levels of knowledge they are expected to demonstrate at the end of the course. Having well-defined, performance-aligned and purposeful learning objectives will ensure that the eLearning course content is focused and includes only essential information. Online learners can focus for only limited periods and therefore, it is important that the content is filtered such that key, relevant information is shared. Clear learning objectives help in this process.
Identify the right technology to develop and host the courses
It is important to evaluate the knowledge and skill level of learners when choosing the technology for the course. How comfortable are learners while negotiating computers and mobile devices? If learners are not computer-savvy, you may want to develop courses that include only basic interactivities. We once developed a course for technicians who did not have prior knowledge of computers. We used more videos and kept interaction to the minimum (that which involved pressing of one or two keys).
Similarly, you need to identify the right medium to host the courses. Would a Learning Management System be ideal for you or is it better to have courses on the company’s intranet site or have the courses in the form of CDs for those who do not have access to the Internet? It is best to assess these factors before starting eLearning development so that efforts are maximized.
Organize courses logically
Good courses leave learners with a clear message as to what has been shared during the course. The agenda, learning objective, content flow, graphic elements, case studies and animations should be used judiciously to enhance comprehension of the subject matter. Course navigation should be simple and intuitive. Course content should contain only essential information while ‘nice-to-know’ information can be included in the form of job aids, FAQs or glossary. These can be provided as online, downloadable or printable resources.
Ensure learners get to interact with the course content
E-learning courses that make learners passive receptors of knowledge are least likely to be successful. It is very easy for online learners to get distracted during a course. Therefore, by making learners engage with the course – by asking them questions, getting them to respond to situations, solving puzzles – you ensure that they are active participants in the learning process. This fosters active learning, thereby making the course more effective. However, care should be taken to ensure there are no needless animations and graphics that could distract learners.
Include formative assessments
After every module or topic it is best to have formative assessments in the form of quizzes, multiple choice questions, jigsaw puzzles, etc. This enables learners to review if they have understood the subject well. It also provides them an opportunity to go back to the course content and review the subject in case of doubts.
Don’t forget to seek feedback about the course
Lastly, it is important to have learners answer questions about the usefulness of the course – how has the course helped them? Was the course relevant to their jobs? What did they like about the course and what did they dislike? These simple inputs can help you critically evaluate your course and improve during subsequent amendments. Sometimes, the course allocated to a particular set of learners may not be relevant and they are needlessly subjected to the chore. These aspects will come to light when the feedback is made compulsory at the end of course module.
These best practices seem too simple and logical but very often these simple guidelines are forgotten in the midst of deadlines and rushed jobs. Therefore, it is a good idea to refresh our knowledge about them from time to time. What do you think about these best practices? Do you agree with them? Do you have our own list to add to these? Please share the same.