Help! This Subject Matter Expert Needs to Build E-Learning

subject matter expert e-learning

Good news! It’s easier than ever to “build” e-learning. And because of this, subject matter experts build a lot of e-learning courses. This makes sense for a lot of reasons.

Subject matter experts have experience and depth of knowledge. They’re close to the subject and can keep things from becoming muddled by not involving a complicated production process or bringing on others who may confuse things. Training specialists (for all our good intentions) can complicate things and that’s not always good for the speed of business.

However, subject matter experts can often be too close to the content. It’s easy to forget that it took years to attain their expertise and that may not factor into what it takes for a new person to learn. Also, to a subject matter expert, everything is important. And not having an outside perspective means that the course may be too heavy on content that is irrelevant and not appropriate for the learning activities.

So where does a subject matter expert turn to build an effective course?

Content Doesn’t Equal Training

It’s common for subject matter experts (and organizations) to see everything as a content deficiency; and the solution is to build courses that require exposure to the content.

Putting content into a “course” doesn’t make it a course. Also, a lot of content in e-learning courses already exists in PDFs, websites, and other collateral.

How does copying and pasting it into a new medium make it better?

Not Everything Needs Training

“People are making this mistake.” Build a course.

“We have a new software program.” Build a course.

“Our customers aren’t happy.” Build a course.

“Here’s what they need to know about our organization.” Build a course.

Training works when focused on meaningful change that is measured through some sort of activity. Whatever deficiencies exist in not meeting the objectives may be caused by issues not related to training.

Some common issues that create gaps are poor management and communication in the organization. These things impact motivation. And they’re not easily solved by training. Other issues are environmental: perhaps the employees don’t have access to the right resources or technology.

Customers may be unhappy with things outside of the employee’s reach such as policies, sitting on hold forever, or the way ecommerce works. Those are also things not resolved with training.

Information vs Performance

Not all courses are the same. Some courses are informational where all that is required is exposure to the information (and perhaps a quick quiz).

Other courses are tied to performance expectations. These courses need better analysis and the right types of content and activities to ensure that skills are acquired and demonstrated by the learner. Looking at screens of bullet points will not help.

How to Build Successful E-Learning

Determine the learning objectives and how success is measured. The default for many organizations is to repackage content. But that’s not learning. Learning involves being able to use the content to make real-world decisions that meet the learning objectives.

Assuming the course is performance-based, focus on the required activities and not on the content. What do you want the person to do? Build the training around that. And the content supports getting there.

There’s a lot more to be said. But if you’re just getting started, focus on the action and what the person needs to DO. If there’s no action, that means it probably doesn’t need to be a course and perhaps a job aid is all that is required.

Bonus: here’s a good checklist when starting your course.


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro 

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Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 

Is This as Good as It Gets? Two Reasons Why E-Learning Isn’t Better

good bad e-learning

I see a lot of e-learning courses and to be honest many of them are not as good as they could be. They tend to be what we anticipate from corporate e-learning: screen after screen of content with lots of next buttons and then a final quiz. You have to work with what you have. Sometimes the training content isn’t good (like the leads from Mitch and Murray) and you can’t do much with it. But often, when it comes to the content, what could be interactive is static; and what could look engaging, looks discordant.

Why? Here are a couple of reasons why that’s the case with some recommendations to make improvements.

E-Learning Designers Lack Technical Skills

Good news: e-learning software makes it easy to build courses. Virtually anyone can build a course. However, the software doesn’t “build” the course. That requires some skill.

There’s a lot that goes into crafting a good course and it requires multiple disciplines. Instructional design is different than programming which is different than visual design which is even more different than specific software expertise with e-learning tools such as Storyline 360. However, many organizations buy the easy-to-use software and then place the burden on a single person to have a broad range of skills that could, in their own right, be separate career paths. That’s a big burden.

We’re not all graphic designers and UX experts, which explains some of the discordant aspects of the course. But we can learn the basics of the skills we need and that helps clean things up and lets us know when we’re outside our skillset.

Solution:

  • Instructional design is not pushing content. It’s about teaching. Make the content relevant and frame it around real-world decision-making and you’ll create a better learning experience.
  • Develop a solid foundation of basic skills needed to craft a good course: things like instructional & visual design, etc. You won’t become a pro in all things, but you’ll learn enough to know the difference and what to look for in your course design; and know when to bring on experts to do the things you can’t.
  • Stay in your lane. For example, if you don’t have strong visual design skills, don’t try to be a visual designer. That’s when things start to look a bit clunky. In those cases, stick with a simple template or use form-based Rise 360 over Storyline 360 because you won’t have to make as many design decisions and the course will look good and work well.

Companies Don’t Invest in the Resources

Companies spend what they need to meet their business objectives. A lot of e-learning is compliance training where the only objective is to get the course in front of people and verified by the end of the year. In that world, it doesn’t make sense to spend more than you need in time and money to get courses developed and delivered. And that’s why so many e-learning courses aren’t interesting or engaging.

However, if you want to build good courses, you must commit to that and invest the right resources.

Solution:

  • Determine what type of course you’re building to better allocate resources. Generally, courses are one of two types: explainer courses or performance-based courses. Don’t overbuild a course that has no expectations but a certificate of completion. Save your resources for performance-based courses with clear, measurable objectives. They tend to require more production which takes more time and money.
  • Understand what resources you need. E-learning software is one thing. Building a good course with it is something different. Do you need a designer to help produce the core structure and some templates? Do you need a graphics person? Are you looking for some custom programming or a specific type of interactivity that requires advanced skills? Figure that out and plan on it.
  • Create a budget to pay for what you need. Many organizations just buy the software and leave it at that. But it takes more than software to build effective e-learning. And like any useful product, it requires the right investment. Propose a budget for your courses.

There are a lot of other ways to improve e-learning courses. But making an investment in skills and resources is a good place to start.


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 

Die Zeit im Online-Lernen. Über kurze Einheiten, Moments of Needs und Selbstorganisation

„Haben Sie Lust, ihren Blick auf die Zeit mit uns zu teilen?“ bin ich vor einigen Monaten von der Redaktion des Fachjournals „Magazin erwachsenenbildung.at“ gefragt worden. Ich habe spontan zugesagt, denn natürlich setzt das Stichwort „Zeit“ auch bei mir sofort unzählige Gedanken und Ideen frei. Am Ende waren es fast zu viele, obwohl ich mich auf ein naheliegendes Spielfeld, das Online-Lernen, begrenzt habe. Hier habe ich schlussendlich einen kleinen Bogen gespannt, mehr assoziativ als akademisch, von den ersten Erfahrungen mit E-Learning in den 1990er Jahren bis zu aktuellen partizipativen und community-orientierten Lernformaten. Und dabei habe ich natürlich versucht, nie die Zeit aus dem Auge zu verlieren …

Hier die Zusammenfassung meines Beitrags durch die Redaktion:
„Im vorliegenden Essay reflktiert der Autor entlang seiner langjährigen beruflchen Erfahrungen den Aspekt der „Zeit“ in Verbindung mit digitalen Bildungsangeboten. Er stellt sich dabei kritisch die Frage, welche Auswirkungen die Digitalisierung im Bildungsbereich auf den Begriff, die Bedeutung und Bewertung der „Lernzeit“ hat. Wo etwa gewinnen oder verlieren Lernende im selbstgesteuerten Lernprozess Zeit? Ist der zeit- und  ortsunabhängige Zugriff auf Lernressourcen im Netz ein Indikator für Zeiteffiienz beim Lernen? Der Autor verbindet seine Überlegungen mit Gedanken zu digitalen Formaten sowie deren Zeitdimension und beleuchtet u.a., wie digitale Trends im Bildungsbereich, beispielsweise das Microlearning, vor dem Hintergrund verdichteter Zeitstrukturen der Gegenwart zu bewerten sind und ob sie tatsächlich das Problem des Mangels an Zeit zum Lernen lösen. Schließlich plädiert der Autor für Zeiträume zur Reflexion, damit Lernende Lernziele und Lernzeit selbstbestimmt miteinander in Einklang bringen können. (Red.)“

Anzumerken ist noch, dass nicht nur mein Artikel, sondern die gesamte Ausgabe mit dem Schwerpunktthema „Erwachsenenbildung und Zeit“ online zur Verfügung steht (CC BY 4.0). Und ein Blick in das Inhaltsverzeichnis macht schnell deutlich, welche spannenden und unterschiedlichen Anknüpfungspunkte das Thema für die Erwachsenenbildung bietet!
Jochen Robes, in: Magazin erwachsenenbildung.at. Das Fachmedium für Forschung, Praxis und Diskurs. Ausgabe 41, 2020. Wien (pdf)   

Kollaboration im virtuellen Raum

Noch im alten Jahr ist diese Ausgabe des fnma Magazins erschienen (Forum Neue Medien in der Lehre Austria). Themenschwerpunkt bildet die Kollaboration im virtuellen Raum. Wie immer vermitteln kurze Impulse und Erfahrungsberichte erste Eindrücke. Es geht unter anderem um kollaborative Video-Annotationen, virtuelle Lernwelten (Virtual Reality), virtuelle Hochschul-Konferenzen, interaktives Online-Peer-Feedback und viele Tools, die in den letzten Monaten auf diesem Feld zum Einsatz kamen. Das Ganze wird eingerahmt von Vereinsnachrichten und Meldungen, vieles aus dem OER-Umfeld, ein Bereich, in dem das Forum und seine Mitglieder besonders aktiv sind.
fnma Magazin 04/2020, 18. Dezember 2020

Where Does E-Learning Fit into Learning

dangerous e-learning

When people talk about effective e-learning it’s usually around meeting performance objectives. Many take the position that any e-learning course that isn’t performance-based is wrong; and inevitably, you run into a lot of lamenting about the dangers of click-and-read e-learning.

First off, is a click-and-read course really “dangerous?”

I think swimming in shark-infested waters is dangerous. Clicking a series of next buttons is not the same level of danger (unless that next button was connected to the 108-minute countdown timer in Lost).

Granted there are some bad e-learning courses, but that’s not because they’re click-and-read. It’s mostly because they’re not designed well. An e-learning course is a tool in the learning process.  Sometimes it’s the only tool and sometimes it’s one of many. And how it’s used is of most importance.

E-Learning Only

When the e-learning course is the only tool used in the learning process, then it makes sense to ensure that the course contains a more dynamic learning experience and avoids the typical linear, click-and-read structure that only presents content and no activities to support learning.

This is where most of the complaints about bad e-learning originate. The e-learning courses have actionable objectives and thus should contain activities designed to practice and prove competency. However, they don’t. And if the content-heavy e-learning course is the only tool used in the training to meet the performance objective it’s a waste of time and won’t do what it’s supposed to do.

E-Learning Plus

The other day I was talking to a group of students about some classes they were taking for an e-learning certificate.  I asked what they did in the class. Guess what? They had to read a bunch of instructional design books. I yawned and said, “That’s so boring you won’t learn anything.” Books are literal page-turners. They’re old-school click-and-read learning.

Joking aside, a book is almost all content with no performance-based activity. However, that doesn’t make the book useless because it’s usually not the only part of the training program. In addition to reading, the students did reflective writing assignments, had group discussions, and then practiced applying what they learned in various projects.

In that sense it is ridiculous to suggest that because the book offered no interactivity, it was useless or boring. And the same can be said about click-and-read e-learning courses. The course is a resource that aids in learning. If it’s only content yet tied to actionable objectives, it needs to be coupled with other activities outside the course.

In previous projects I’ve used the e-learning course as a pre-meeting activity prior to face-to-face instruction. It allowed us to deliver the content consistently and gave the person freedom to go through it at their own speed and leisure. And then they came to our sessions at a point where we could do a quick review and jump into practice activities.

On another project, a lot of the core information was previously delivered in a loud production environment by various people who may not have been as motivated to stay on script. We separated the onboarding content from the hands-on activities. The onboarding content was delivered via e-learning. They learned about the production environment, the organization’s safety focus, and the machines they would be using. And then we sent them to the floor to work in a hands-on environment.

In both instances, the courses were mostly linear content with a few simple quiz questions. By themselves they were deficient. However, when the content was coupled with real-world activities it was part of a successful and effective training program.

And that’s how e-learning courses should be judged. If a training program has performance expectations with actionable objectives and it uses e-learning, then the course by itself needs to be more than content with appropriate assessment activities or the course needs to be coupled with real-world practice activities.


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 

How to Help Your Clients Built Better E-Learning

effective e-learning

One frustration I’ve had when building e-learning courses is getting the client to understand what makes an effective course. People tend to ask for what they’re used to seeing. And since many experience e-learning as click-and-read content they tend to ask for that type of course, which for an e-learning developer isn’t exciting.

There are many times when a click-and-read approach is appropriate.  So, this isn’t a rant against click-and-read courses. However, there are also plenty of times, where a click-and-read course isn’t the best solution.  In those cases, it can be a challenge getting your clients to see past what they’re used to and consider a different approach that better meets to goals.

What does the client expect as an outcome?

All courses aren’t the same. There are many that are more like certification courses that are annual reminders of company policies or regulatory requirements. In that world, there’s no real performance expectation other than compliance and the desired outcome is to have a record of course completion at the end of the year.

That’s different from a course where the client expects real changes in performance such as improved production or increased sales. In those courses, there’s some desired area of improvement that’s been identified and ideally training offers some benefit to meeting that improvement.

Allocate resources appropriately.

If you’re building simple compliance training, don’t overbuild the course and waste time with superfluous interactivity and other media which can take more time and cost more money. Build the simplest course that conveys the compliance information effectively and meets the needs of the organization.

If you’re building courses to change behavior, don’t get stuck in a click-and-read rut because it’s easy. Build the appropriate learning experience to meet the goals. This usually involves a lot more analysis and commitment. Effective performance-based e-learning takes more time to build and costs more to produce. With limited resources, you don’t want the resources consumed by simpler compliance training and not have them available for more expensive development when required.

Align course objectives to the appropriate metrics.

Once you understand the desired outcomes you can collect the metrics to prove course success. Compliance training is easier because the requirement is mostly to track and report course completion by a specified date. Let’s face it, you’re not building ethics training where 75% of the company is unethical and after the training it’s down to only 10%. You’re reminding people about ethics and company standards.

Performance-based objectives are a bit more challenging. The organization has a desired objective, and they have some way of measuring whether it’s currently met or not. That is good because that provides the basis for clear metrics to help determine if the training is successful.

However, the reality is that training may only be part of what changes behavior and meets those performance objectives. There are other things that have an impact on success that are outside of training such as access to resources, environmental issues, and personal motivation.

You’ll need to work with the client to determine what the course can impact and how you can measure it to report success.

That’s quick overview. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that. But if you’re building courses, don’t just start with the easy click-and-read. Work with the client to understand their goals and then build the course that best meets them.


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 

Auch für die E-Learning-Branche wachsen die Bäume nicht in den Himmel

Das mmb-Institut hat wieder die Ergebnisse seines jährlichen Branchenmonitors veröffentlicht. Nachdem es letztes Jahr noch hieß „E-Learning-Branche erstmals seit Jahren wieder mit zweistelligem Wachstum“, kann dieses Mal nur von einem einstelligen Wachstum berichtet werden. Die Zahlen, auch das sei erwähnt, beziehen sich auf 2019.

Es haben dieses Jahr 40 Unternehmen am Branchenmonitor teilgenommen, wie immer freiwillig, und haben Einblick in ihre Zahlen gegeben. Neben der Umsatzentwicklung informiert der Monitor über die Umsatzanteile einzelner Geschäftsfelder sowie die Zahl der MitarbeiterInnen und ihre Tätigkeitsprofile.

Und wenn ich mich abschließend selbst zitieren darf: Der E-Learning-Markt ist ein offenes, dynamisches Feld, und der Branchenmonitor eine jährliche Gratwanderung. Die Teilnahme bzw. Nicht-Teilnahme eines einzigen Anbieters reicht manchmal aus, um einen Trend loszutreten. Dieses Jahr führen SAP Training & Adoption und ComCave Group die Liste der umsatzstärksten Anbieter an. Letztes Jahr waren es noch WBS Training (dieses Jahr nicht dabei …) und SAP Education (= SAP Training & Adoption? …).
mmb Institut, mmb-Branchenmonitor „E-Learning-Wirtschaft“ 2020, 10. Dezember 2020 (pdf)

Free Background Music for Your E-learning Courses

free background music

I like to add background audio to my screencast tutorials. Like many of you, I don’t record in a profession sound studio. Often, I am recording in a home office and there’s always some ambient noise which I find distracting.

Background music can mask some of the ambient noise. Another benefit is that it helps set a pace and tone for the recording.

Free Background Music

There are a lot of “free” sites, but to tell you the truth most of them are useless.

Here are a couple of options that should provide most of the free background music you need. Like always, be sure to check the license and attribution requirements which can change.

free background music

  • YouTube Audio Library: free for commercial use, no attribution search options. Lots of variety and easy to filter to find audio based on mood and duration. This is my go-to for tutorials.
  • Mixkit: free; no attribution. They have a good selection of music.

You can search the Internet for other sites, but for my money, either one of those two above are more than what you’ll need. And the price is right.


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 

When to Use Background Audio in E-Learning

audio

Background audio is not as common as it once was in e-learning. It is a little old school. And often it is distracting. Also, with mobile technology (and some limitations playing multiple audio tracks) it may create some problems playing the way you intend it.

However, there are times where background audio makes sense.

For instance, I like to use background audio to establish some context. It makes sense to have some ambient audio in decision-making scenarios, for example. You can set a tone or create a more immersive experience for the learner.

In those cases, I like audio like the hustle and bustle of office workers and machines, or a busy street with traffic, or a coffee shop with lots of human activity. I prefer that over music tracks because it feels like you’re there.

I do like to use music tracks. One place where they work well is when I am doing quick screencast tutorials. Sometimes the audio was recorded in a less than ideal room with a little bit of ambient noise like my air conditioner. Adding a subtle background track covers the noise. And the right track with a good beat can set a tone and help move the tutorial along.

There are a lot of studies that also show that some types of music can influence how the brain processes information. Perhaps, a background audio track works for your course to help learners retain content. Not sure, but something to explore.

I will add that an audio track won’t make your boring course less boring. It’ll still be boring, but at least they can listen to something entertaining until they’re done.

Next time you’re meeting with learners as part of your analysis, listen to what their world sounds like. Is it possible to add that to your courses?

I know that there are many of you who will trot out the cognitive load arguments. That’s all good. However, I’d say there are thousands of other examples outside of e-learning, where multimedia effectively integrates audio into the experience. Look at advertising, gaming, and other entertainment industries for ideas.

I’d love to hear how you’re using audio in your courses. Got any tips and tricks? Feel free to share them by clicking on the comments link.


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

Upcoming E-Learning Events


Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 

Digitales Lernen – kann Lernen digital sein?

Eine kurze Fingerübung (IJAB Journal, Jg. 14., 1/2020, S. 12-13) von Martin Ebner, in der er über die Rolle und Möglichkeiten digitaler Technologien im Unterricht nachdenkt. Ihr Potenzial steht dabei für ihn außer Frage (Flexibilität, Kollaboration, Anschaulichkeit). Sein Plädoyer: „Es geht also nicht darum, dass wir digitale Technologien zwanghaft in die Lehre bringen, sondern dass Digitalisierung als völlig normal am Bildungssektor angesehen wird und selbstverständlich zum Einsatz kommt.“
Martin Ebner, E-Learning Blog, 24. November 2020

Bildquelle: Markus Winkler (Unsplash)