9 Mental Roadblocks That Hinder The eLearning Experience Of Your Online Learners

Emotional and psychological issues have a direct impact on the eLearning experience. In this article, I’ll share 9 mental hurdles that online learners must overcome to reap the rewards of your eLearning course. This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Making Training Count with a Training Needs Analysis (TNA)

How to Conduct an Effective Training Needs Analysis (TNA)

Making training count is the way to influence the future success of your organisation.

The health of any organisation depends on the development of its people. In order to do this, you must be able to match all training directly to the needs of the organisation and the people in it. Analysing training needs provides a focus and direction for the investment an organisation makes in its people as well as establishing a method of reviewing and assessing the success of all training /development initiatives. Because training and development is an investment, it is important to treat it as seriously as any other investment in the business. Training programmes are often prescribed to sort out a problem in the organisation. Until the problem is understood in greater detail, proposing a solution or an intervention can be an expensive and fruitless exercise. An effective Training Needs Analysis helps to identify real training issues in a systematic way, whilst linking these in a strategic way to the overall company strategy going forward.

Why should companies carry out a TNA?

  • The nature of work has changed and is constantly changing
  • To determine what training is relevant to your employees’ jobs
  • To determine if training will make a difference
  • All effective training starts with a good diagnosis
  • Benefits of the training can be measured and assessed
  • All training investment will be linked to the overall company strategy
  • Training priorities will become evident at all levels within the organisation
  • Training within the organisation becomes systematic and planned
  • The contribution which training makes to the organisation in terms of improved performance and growth will be recognised

Training will not fill all performance gaps, but a TNA will identify any gaps that can be filled by training and development. As was highlighted earlier, if an organisation does not identify its’ training needs in line with its strategic objectives, it is wasting resources by attempting to solve a problem it has not defined. Providing the best possible training for your staff can have an immediate impact on the services to your customers, the attitude and outlook of your staff, and prepare you fully for whatever the future may hold.

The fundamentals of a Training Needs Analysis are:

First set your context. Before starting on the analysis, a strategic view of the current situation, desired changes in jobs or responsibilities, technological and organisational developments are important. This will provide the information to help determine what is required of the individual, team or organisation. Evaluate what you are doing now and compare this to what you aim to be able to do in the future. This is followed by an analysis of the reasons for the performance gap and the types of training interventions that might help to bridge this.

Strategic View – Where are we now and where do we want to be?

In order to get an understanding of the context before conducting the Needs Assessment, the following questions need to be addressed:

External Analysis

  • What are your customer’s expectations of you now and in the future?
  • Is there any new legislation that will affect the way you do business?
  • What are the difficulties facing your organisation in the marketplace?
  • Does your training policy affect your ability to attract and retain staff?
  • What changes are likely in products, services and processes going forward?
  • What is the political situation like?
  • What are the stated values of the organisation?

Internal Analysis

  • How well does each department function?
  • What is your vision/ mission statement?
  • How is it measured?
  • Does your culture promote the achievement of targets?
  • What have managers observed in terms of the behaviour of staff?
  • What did your staff say at performance reviews?
  • What are our turnover rates, complaints and standards of performance like?
  • Are your competitors ahead of you?
  • How do we benchmark the performance of your people?

Individual Analysis

  • How clear are staff about the key job elements?
  • Do staff have the knowledge, skills and attitude to do their jobs effectively?
  • What do staff feel about the company and their competencies and skills?
  • What feedback has staff given about the organisation at performance review time?
  • Is it a training issue?

Once this information has been gathered, those conducting the Needs Assessment should be in a better position to begin the process by gathering the following information and following the four steps outlined below:

Techniques for investigating organisational and personal needs

A needs assessment is an opportunity to consult with a range of people in the organisation. The information collected and ideas generated by those participating often adds enthusiasm to the process. The data regarding current and desired performance can be collected from a range of sources such as:

  • Company targets/ goals
  • Performance appraisals
  • Staff turnover
  • Complaints from both customers and staff
  • Morale – measured through surveying staff
  • Standards of performance
  • Direct observation
  • Meetings with employees
  • Organisational problems
  • Focus groups

Four Steps to Conducting a Needs Analysis

Step 1- Conduct a Gap Analysis

The first step is to check current performance levels of both individuals and the organisation against existing standards or to agree on new standards bearing in mind the overall company goals. One suggestion here is to have representatives from the various areas in the organisation meet with those who are responsible for the TNA to give their input into the process as well as understanding the goals and objectives of the process. This group may also be involved in some of the diagnosis stages where interviews, focus groups or observation exercises are conducted. This stage includes two parts which are:

Current situation – Examine the current skills, knowledge and attitude of staff as well as the company goals, environment and future constraints.

Desired Situation – The conditions needed for organisational and individual success need to be identified. The necessary job standards and individual competencies and attitudes should be highlighted and agreed at all levels in the organisation. The greater the involvement of all staff in the analysis process, the higher the likelihood of buy into the training process.

It is this gap between the current and required situation which will identify the particular needs, purpose and objectives.

Step 2 – Identify Training Priorities

The first stage should have produced a range of needs for training and development, career development and organisation development which now require further examination and ranking in terms of priorities. These priorities need to be agreed in terms of the overall company goals and strategy going forward. It is by aligning training activity in terms of the overall company goals, that its impact is real and measurable.

Step 3 – Identify Causes of Problems and Opportunities

Having highlighted and prioritised the areas of importance, the next step includes looking at key problem areas and opportunities in the organisation. Two critical questions need to be asked for every need identified :

  • Are your people doing their jobs effectively?
  • Do they know how to do their jobs?

In order to answer these questions, a detailed analysis of current performance needs to be conducted using some of the techniques described earlier.

Step 4 – Identify Solutions

The solution needs to be agreed based on the diagnosis. Training may not be the answer. Organisation development activities such as performance management, team building, strategic planning or restructuring may also be possible solutions to the gaps identified. It is by matching the need identified with the best solution and measuring the success of the initiative that training and development initiatives can make a real difference to overall company performance. Whatever the solution identified, as with all the other stages, staff should be involved in deciding the way forward as much as possible so that they feel part of the process, which ultimately has a major impact on how they work.

Once the analysis is completed, the training plan needs to be agreed between management and staff, as individual and organisational goals are assessed relative to the larger goals and strategies of the organisation. The more thorough planners we become, the more likely we will be to handle change as it arises whilst taking a lead in directing your organisations into the future. The elements of a training plan are outlined below:

  • What are the business needs for the programme?
  • What are the departmental/team needs for the programme?
  • What are the individual needs of the programme?
  • Identify what will be delivered in terms of objectives. State the learning objectives behaviourally.
  • Identify the main content areas to be covered and prioritise.
  • Identify how the programme/intervention will be delivered in terms of learning/training methods to ensure the greatest transfer back on the job.
  • Outline the resources needed including estimates of overall costs – on/off the job costs.
  • Who will deliver the programme? Who will be responsible for running it and evaluating its success?
  • Who is the intervention aimed at?

In conclusion, then, Needs Analysis is about looking for the gap between the current situation and the desired one and then focusing resources where they are most needed. The analysis identifies the areas which are priorities in addition to generating possible solutions which include training and organisational development initiatives.

Implementing an effective TNA requires a high level of commitment from management and employees, so it is a process which needs to be carefully structured and directed. The needs analysis enables a data-driven look at the work, the worker and the workplace which form the basis of targeted training and organisational development initiatives aimed at improving the success and growth of the organisation going forward.

The post Making Training Count with a Training Needs Analysis (TNA) appeared first on eLearning.

Recommended Research: Constructivism & Learning Technology

Last week, we had an awesome virtual class on how to implement an effective gamification strategy within a corporate learning environment!  Here is the recording and slideshare.

In class, we briefly touched on some learning theories and research related to constructivism and the effective use of technology, games and gamification within the overall learning environment.  I’ve been reading a lot of articles recently that relate to constructivism, and some of our attendees were interested in receiving a list of those resources.  Below are a few reading suggestions.

I’ll create more recommended reading lists, so follow me if this sort of thing is useful to you.  The next blog posts will probably be devoted to virtual and augmented reality resources.  (If you haven’t checked out the crazy cool VR features in Adobe Captivate 2019, please take a look!)  I will also post my own summaries of select articles over the next few weeks.

Please add your own suggested reading articles in the comments section!

Here are three introductory level readings that are great as starters:

A great explanation of what constructivism is, what helps us learn, and what learning truly is.

An in-depth look at the learning process from beginning to end, including how to use educational technology (and how not to use it), and the importance of social learning and collaboration.

An overview of the types of educational technology available for use in the learning environment, as well as a historical perspective of how that technology has evolved.

I just finished working my way through the below articles, many of which are referenced by the above chapters, and cross-referenced amongst each other:

  1. Shaffer, D. W., Squire, K., Halverson, R., & Gee, J. P. (2005). Video games and the future of learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 87, 104–111. Google Scholar
  2. Shuler, C. (2009). Pockets of potential: Using mobile technologies to promote children’s learning. New York, NY: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Google Scholar
  3. Thomas, M., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace. Google Scholar
  4. Van Eck, R. (2006). Digital game-based learning: It’s not just the digital natives who are restless. EDUCAUSE Review, 41(2), 16–30. Google Scholar
  5. Vavoula, G., Sharples, M., Lonsdale, P., Rudman, P., & Meek, J. (2007). Learning bridges: Mobile technologies in education. Educational Technology, 47(3), 33–37. Google Scholar

More articles and article summaries coming soon.  Please follow my posts if you’d like to see more!

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What Opportunities are there for Instructional Designers  &  Developers?

What Opportunities are Available?

In the context of writing this article, I am focusing on the Irish & UK employment market.

Training is now recognised as not only needed in all industries but in some countries, it is mandatory to provide quality training to your employees.  It is also vital that you provide training that can be accessed by all employees, including employees that may have accessibility impairments such as vision, hearing or motor skills.

In Ireland and the UK, we have a shortage of Instructional Designers, Developers and Trainers to meet demand.  This is good news if you want to follow a carer path in this industry.  So what’s involved in starting a career in this sector?  First, you need to identify what role you wish to take, designer, developer or trainer?  Remember that you can add to your skill set along the way. Next is to decide how you will start your learning path.

Getting your Tuition paid for by the Government

Great news for student s in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK is that the government now subsides college fees for both the unemployed (mature students full tuition paid) and for people currently working in any sector (90% of the college fees are paid).  SO there has never been a better time to start in the learning and training sector or to start to upskill and eventually move to this sector.

Also if you’re a stay at home mom or dad, that has been out of the workforce for a number of years you can return to college for free, regardless of your partner’s income levels.

Your local college or employment centre will have all of the details for the courses and services available.

Who does what?

Many designers don’t develop eLearning and the opposite is also true for developers.  That said you may be required to design, develop and roll out the training for smaller companies and you may be the only person on board. But over time it is best to have a firm knowledge of all the areas of eLearning as either way you will have to deal with stakeholders within the company or organisation.

What skills are useful when entering the eLearning industry:

There are many skills that are useful, but I feel these are the most important ones:

  • Being a creative person (a must have)
  • A passion for helping others to learn (a must have)
  • Knowledge of how students, employees and adults learn
  • Knowledge of following theories and models:
    • Situated Cognition Theory
    • Sociocultural Learning Theory
    • The ADDIE Model
    • Merrill’s Principles Of Instruction
    • Individualized Instruction
    • Bloom’s Taxonomy Of Learning Objectives
    • The SAM Model
  • Knowledge of eLearning authoring tools such as Captivate
  • Knowledge of Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and other Adobe products
  • Knowledge of a Learner Management System (LMS)

It’s worth noting that all the relevant skills can be acquired through study apart from the passion to help others, you are either born with this or you’re not.

When you enter this sector you do not need to have experience of any particular employment sector such as catering, customer service, etc, you will get all the information of how the company or organisation operates and what their Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) are and how these are enforced or used with the various departments.  You will most likely have access to Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) within the company.

If you are starting off in this career, you might find it best to undertake a short course at night school or do a course on Udemy or Lynda.com or LinkedIn.  Linked in is great for getting started with some very excellent courses from Dr. Pooja Jaisingh , where she will take you through all the basics and advanced modes of Captivate.

A word of caution to anyone that intends on becoming a self-employed designer/developer, please keep in mind that it can be a very solitary role where you work for long periods on your own and without the company of others.  This is fine for many, but you may find that it can get a little depressing, I worked from home for five years and then moved into an enterprise incubator service where I have my own space, but also have the pleasure of being around other creators every day.

This is just an introduction to the opportunities that are available, if you would like me to create a more in-depth article then please let me know.

I hope you enjoy this short post and that it helps you in your career.

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Creating Courses for Adult Learners

Designing for Adult Learners

While college students are happy to work through a syllabus and achieve their grade at the end of the semester, the same is not true for adult learners in the workforce or following an online path of education.

To engage the adult learner there is a phrase that we use “What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM)”.  Adult learners need to see results fast, therefore, we need to create our modules and courses differently for them.  Telling the adult learner what is in it for them is so very important and can be linked to their needs in the workplace.

For instance: Suppose we have an electrical engineer that need to access training online because his parent company is in the USA and he is located in Ireland.  This engineer needs to access only the information that is relevant to the new tasks he will have to perform.  There is little point in going through the basics with him again as he is already qualified to do his job.  This new course may be how to programme a new electronic temperature system that collects data from a large food processing plant.

If we throw out lots of information then he will have no incentive to complete the course and you will make him feel under-qualified if you give him a full course to complete that starts off with simple engineering.

What he needs to know are the following:

  • An introduction to the new system
  • What are the advantages of the new system
  • A video demo of the new system
  • How to programme the new system
  • A Software simulation (by him)
  • Knowledge Check
  • Final Quiz

Best Results Are Achieved By:

Giving the adult learner everything they need to cover the “What’s In It For Me” issue.  Now he is motivated and encouraged to complete the course and add to his skill-set.  Again it’s important to know that the technical jargon should be kept in line with the adult learner, always use simple words when they will do the job. WIIFM can be as simple as “at the end of this course you will be able to programme the latest version of the Temperature COllection Master”.

Again it worth remembering to keep courses and modules for adult learners short and sweet, no longer than 20 minutes.   Make sure that your title or introduction slide sets out exactly what the adult learner will be able to do after they have completed the course.

Where possible build breaks into the modules, for example, if you are demonstrating a new piece of equipment it may be useful to get the adult learner to visit the manufactures website to download the technical manual or to see what issues and faults have surfaced in the past.  You could also have them stop the module by giving them an exercise to complete before restarting the course or add in a knowledge check along the way.  This breaks the learning up and allows the adult learner to take in more of the information and process it for later.

In one of my HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points – Food Safety Course), I have the employee take an iPad and work their way through the kitchen to enter the answers to certain questions in within the course module.  This gives them both the theoretical knowledge and practical hands-on knowledge that reinforces the module and further engages the adult learner and their level of retention.

Know Your Audience

What’s important is to know your audience and deliver modules that meet their expectations? The guys that have a vast technical knowledge will want to have loads of detail, whereas the learner that works at an office desk may just want a basic outline of the task to be learned.

Learning Ways

It’s important to note that not all learners learn in the same way.  People have five learning inputs that the use to learns as follows:

  • Aural (The like to just listen to a video or a recording to get the gist of the task to be learned)
  • Visual (The like to see images, diagrams or sketches to understand what needs to be completed) They may say things like “I see what you’re Saying?
  • Physical / Kinesthetic (these learners like the touchy, feel of the task to be completed)  They may say that doesn’t feel right to me?
  • Logical (These learners like to work out the problem first and need to see things in a logical pattern) They normally create lists throughout the day.
  • Verbal (These learners just need to be told how to do the task) They are happiest when you sit them down and tell them what needs to be done.  They may say I hear what you’re saying?

Most learners have at least two of these as their strong point, but many learners can use some or all of these to receive information.  Check the cues for how they learn in the descriptions above.  Remember that when you create modules for learners you have to put them at the forefront of the design and development process, how you learn is irrelevant to the learners.

As an instructional designer (ID) it is your job to incorporate as many of the ways that learners take in information into your course and modules.  That said it may be necessary to create a number of versions of the same course for different departments as they may have different requirements for the tasks they are required.  For example; I have created three versions of my HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points – Food Safety Course), as I have to deal with three different levels of requirement with level one learners requiring just an introduction to food safety, level two requiring an intermediate level of knowledge and level 3 requiring full food safety certification.

So, in conclusion, you need to give special treatment to your adult learners, keeping the information simple and fast to process.  You also need to understand that we all process information differently and you may need to create many versions or branching of your courses to allow for the requirements of the learning in their role in the business.

I hope you found this article useful and that it helps you create a better level of Adult Learning going forward.

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