Build Effective Courses That Put the Learners in Charge

effective e-learning tips

Here’s part two of a recent presentation I did on letting learners drive. It presented foundational ideas on how to build engaging e-learning courses and then focused on tips that help make the courses more learner-centric.

In part one, we looked at how to create engaging training. And in this part, we’ll look at how to make it effective.

Generally speaking, most training is info-centric where content plays the main role. Obviously, content is important. But when it comes to building a course, content in a meaningful context is what matters.

Here are some tips on how to create courses that focus on the learner’s context.

Effective Courses Creating Relevant Context

effective courses are relevant

As we mentioned in the previous post, content needs context and that context needs to be relevant to the end user. How is the content used in what they do in real life situations?

Effective Courses Address Diverse Learner Needs

effective courses

Some people come to the courses as experts and some as novices. Thus, courses can’t all be one size fits all. Do a user analysis to understand the learners and their needs. Then build mechanisms in the course that give them the freedom to learn where it works best for them.

Effective Courses Give the Learners Control

effective courses let users choose

Think of your course live a textbook. Many are designed to flow in a linear path, but most people jump around topics for reference. They don’t always read everything. They usually just read to learn what they need.

That’s how it works online, as well. Want to learn something? Do a  search on YouTube.

effective courses free navigational control

My guess is you jump right into the heart of the matter and skip over a lot of nice-to-know content that wasn’t critical to your search objective.

Why not design the learning experience more like that? Why does it have to be linear?

Effective Courses Expose the Need for Learning

effective courses expose the need to learn

We tend to push content out, but we want the learner to pull it in. But we need to give them a reason to pull. One way is to expose the need to acquire content. We could challenge what they know—challenge their understanding.

This could happen with a simple assessment upfront. Not designed to pass or fail them, but instead, it’s designed to expose their need to know more. Or the assessment can be more complex like an interactive scenario.

Effective Courses Let the Learners Explore

effective courses let learners explore content

The learning experience is more than just presenting information. Information needs to be used in context. A great way to do this is to allow the learner to explore and discover content. Of course, they need to have a reason to explore.

Effective Courses Provide Contextual Scenarios

effective courses decision-making scenarios

One way to get learners to pull in contact is to have them make decisions. Create decision-making scenarios where they have to solve a problem or take some sort of action. Then use that as a way to present content they can explore, collect, and consume to make the best decision.

Effective Courses Sort Learners by Experience

effective courses sort learners

One way to provide better learning experiences is to sort learners. This can be by role, tenure, or competency. The sorting process can be simple or complex, adaptive learning paths. In either case, it helps you build a better course and it creates a better experience for the one who has to go through it.

Effective Courses Sort by Understanding

effective courses sort by understanding and competency

An easy way to sort learners is by how much they understand. This is an effective way to design annual compliance training. At the front end, challenge their level of understanding. If they demonstrate competency, then move them past content (or to the end). If they can’t demonstrate competency, move them through the content.

Effective Courses Sort by Experience or Role

effective courses sort by experience

Another common way to build the learning path is by role or experience. Create a mechanism at the front end to sort learners and then create a path that adapts to how they were sorted. If there are places where this is common content, put that up front and then branch them once they get past it.

There’s a lot that goes into building effective courses. It all starts will clear objectives that can be measured. From there, create meaningful and contextual decision-making opportunities. Ultimately, a course is designed for learning, so giving the learner as much control as possible in the process will only make it that much more effective.


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How to Create Engaging E-Learning Courses

engaging e-learning checklist

Here’s a presentation from a previous workshop on how to create interactive e-learning. For this workshop, I focused on how to create an engaging e-learning experience for the end-user.

Here are a few core points from the presentation on how to create engaging e-learning courses.

Engaging E-Learning Starts with Not Building a Course

engaging e-learning future learners are bored

That’s probably not the right heading but it is the right position to take when it comes to building e-learning courses.

Often the client defaults to training as a solution. But there are more things at play than just training. Good performance consulting helps root that out.

  • What are your goals?
  • Why aren’t they being met currently?
  • Is training the right solution?

Sometimes, people don’t have the right tools, systems, or management to meet objectives. Building an e-learning course may help them learn something, but that something they learn may not help meet the real objectives.

Engaging E-Learning Starts with the Right Content

engaging e-learning ROI

Not all courses are created equal. Some focus on performance where there are clear, measurable objectives. And some are more about information or awareness. Understanding the type of course required helps you allocate your resources.

Sometimes a simple, linear course is perfect for an awareness campaign. Or perhaps, it’s just a matter of presenting a relevant case study. And other times, a course requires interactive decision-making.

You have limited resources so spend them wisely. Don’t waste them on a course that doesn’t require it.

Engaging E-Learning Meets the Needs of Many

As a course designer, you’re a bridge between the organization or client that wants a course and the learner who has to take it.

For the client, you need to be cost-effective and build courses that meet some measurable objective. And for the learner, you need to build a course that engages them, doesn’t waste time, and helps them learn.

Ideally, the client and learner have the same objectives, but this isn’t always the case, especially with many of those compliance courses that are often pointless for the person who has to take it, but a necessity for the organization trying to set standards and communicate policies.

Engaging E-Learning Mimics the Real World

engaging e-learning relevant context

Do you want people to learn? Put the information in a context that mirrors the real world. Don’t tell them about policies. Instead, build activities where they develop competencies by using the policies to make the right decisions.

  • Find out how they’ll use the information in the course.
  • Give them ways to practice the same things they need to do to be successful on the job.
  • Provide feedback to help them learn and make the adjustments they need to make.

The key to creating effective and engaging e-learning is to build meaningful courses. They need to be meaningful for the client, thus they need to be cost-effective and meet objectives. And they need to be meaningful for the end learner by actually teaching something relevant and worth learning.


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

Upcoming E-Learning Events

2018
 

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 elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

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

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

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

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