November 18, 2017
    Fatal flaws that will doom your eLearning programs
    By Tracy King, M.A., CAE | 12/22/2016

    We have such good intentions.

    We recognize the importance of offering eLearning to round out our training portfolio. We've set aside a pilot budget to get started. And we've established our "go live" goals. What could go wrong?

    So many things.

    Think of this fledgling eLearning program as a Tragic Hero from your college literature class. If our Hero possesses any combination of the seven Fatal Flaws below, our eLearning program is doomed to fail the quest.

    1. No defined destination. First things first, we must know where we are headed with our eLearning programs. What do you intend to achieve with online learning? Without a defined destination, we can't measure how close we are to celebrating our success. Ask yourself:

    - How does online learning fit into our overall education strategy?

    - Which content priorities will we address with eLearning?

    - How will our eLearning programs intersect with the rest of our learning portfolio?

    - Do we have a business plan in place for each learning program so we know what success looks like?

    2. Uncertain objectives. How do you know whether learning has happened? The truth is you'll never know unless you specify measurable learning objectives. We typically collect what we call learning objectives from SMEs, but often these are a mushy pile of what they want to talk about and not how the learner will be transformed by this amazing online experience. Ask yourself:

    - Are our learning objectives specific and measurable?

    - Are our learning objectives mapped to Bloom's Taxonomy?

    - Do we design our eLearning to achieve the learning objectives?

    - Are we measuring that the learning objectives have been met?

    3. Ambiguous audience. If you are tempted to believe that "everyone" can "get something" out of this eLearning course, you have fallen into the trap of designing the training for no one. Books are written with a primary audience in mind. Films are crafted with a particular audience in mind. All training must be developed with a specific learner in mind. If we don't understand who we are designing online learning for, it will appeal to no one. Ask yourself:

    - Who is this training intended for?

    - Do we understand our target audience's prior knowledge and knowledge gaps?

    - Are we designing the training to appeal to the target audience?

    - Do we understand our audience's tech literacy level?

    4. Ineffective assessment. Have you ever had to answer a bunch of multiple choice questions and said to yourself, "these are pointless and prove nothing!" Me too.

    Don't inflict that upon your learners. Ask yourself:

    What is our assessment strategy?

    Do we apply the best practices for assessment design?

    Do we utilize assessments to measure learning has happened (aka: learning

    objectives met)? Do we utilize assessments as another learning opportunity to correct misconceptions and deepen understanding?

    5. Lax LX. This is a biggie. Your LX (learner experience) will make or break your eLearning programs. Acquiring an LMS does not an excellent LX make. You've got the tools, but you've got to know what to do with them. The different Generations within the workforce you're preparing elearning for will have different expectations for how they want to interact with content online. Get to know them. Ask yourself:

    - What's our LX plan for this eLearning program?

    - Does our style guide address our expectations for visual design, branding and navigation?

    - What's our plan for working with SMEs who are text heavy to ensure they're chunking, sequencing, and structuring their content?

    - What are our expectations for interactivity for synchronous vs. asynchronous learning?

    - Are we designing for the device of delivery (laptop, tablet, phone)?

    6. Imitating classroom training. How many of you get home from a long day at work, kick off your shoes, ease into your recliner with a laptop and say, "Ahhhhh! Can't wait to dig into another 60 minute conference capture lecture!" The reason for that is because we do not consume online content in that manner. An online learning experience must utilize the native strengths of that learning environment. Where so many "eLearning" programs go wrong is assuming there is a 1:1 correspondence between live content and posting the same experience online. Conference capture, recorded webinars, courses produced in Storyline (or Captivate or Lectora) which are actually recorded slide lectures, are not quality online learning. They haven't been designed for learning online. One more time: Live classroom training does not transition to an effective online learning experience. We are talking about very different learning environments with different challenges, different advantages, different expectations, and different requirements for engagement. Ask yourself:

    - Are we designing our eLearning to maximize the native features of the primary learning environment (think: device of delivery)?

    - Are we employing best practices of online learning interaction and engagement in our online training?

    - Are our eLearning content assets approximately 5 to 20 minutes in length? (Shorter is fine if it meets a micro learning objective but longer is risky! Think YouTube)

    - How are we maximizing the gifts of our digital learning environment to deliver effective experiences learners cannot get in a live f2f classroom?

    7. Resource sabotage. When we set ambitious goals for eLearning programs but do not invest the resources to achieve those goals, we sabotage our efforts. Our quest will never be fulfilled because we have not provided what is required to complete the
    journey. Ask yourself:

    - Are our resource allocations in alignment with our strategic outcomes?

    - Do we have the right technology to deliver upon the eLearning experience we intend? (As well as software, stock license, graphics templates and other raw materials for digital training)

    - Do we have instructional designers on our team, whether FTEs or contract, to produce effective learning designs?

    - Do we have qualified staff dedicated to maintaining the technology, testing new courses, and providing customer service when things aren't quite working?

    Give your Hero a fighting chance. Confront these fatal flaws for an epic eLearning win.

    King is chief learning strategist and founder at InspirEd. She is an author, speaker and education thought leader in the association space. Read her blog Tracy King EdThreads.


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