Implementing e-Learning: Keys to Success

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Effective implementation of e-learning relies on many factors involving people, systems, processes and content. In our work, we’ve found there are at least eight key factors to consider when designing and implementing e-learning.  

Here’s a summary of an effective approach.

1. Pick the right first project

When selecting your first custom e-learning content project, pick one that matters to you, your business, staff and key project stakeholders. Ensure it can be done quickly – in weeks rather than months if possible – and has a minimal number of sign-off points.

2. The learner is the key stakeholder

The learner’s opinion counts the most. Develop your content to cater for all learning styles. Take the time to visit your learner’s work environment and determine how you can best structure the content to meet the challenges of the location and the time they have for online learning.

3. Demonstrate first, sell second

Most people quickly grasp the e-learning concept if you demonstrate how it works and how it can help their business. Use prototypes to demonstrate e-learning to key players and influencers. They’re a great way to get buy-in and support for your project and to show people what online learning is, and what it’s not.

4. Design to a best practice level

Best practice is what works best for your project, organisation and business goals. Focus on learning content that is designed so that learners can effectively and efficiently acquire new knowledge, skills and attitudes using their preferred learning style.

5. Create ‘impact’ first time

Create a great impression with the first e-learning module you release. Use rich media (audio, video) if it supports the learning process. Go for a ‘wow, this is a great learning module’ reaction from your audience. This creates excitement and interest and helps to engage people for future modules.

6. Partner with IT 

Engage your IT team early in the project to build an effective learning platform and system for your content. Tap into their expertise to overcome any challenges around bandwidth and rich media content being run on your organisation’s network.

7. Get the people stuff right

Carefully plan, communicate and direct all change initiatives when releasing content to learners. The reaction of your people and their buy in is the key driver in a successful implementation.

8. Have a strong second project to follow 

Plan ahead with a content development pipeline to maintain the e-learning momentum with the regular release of new modules. If you have a series of courses ready to release, consider spreading them over several months to control the rate of change and maintain your staff’s interest level. 

e-Trends Conference Presentation

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This month, Lisa and myself presented at the 2007 e-Trends Conference where we discussed emerging technology and its impact on learning & development in Australian organizations. The two day event featured a wide range of topics on e-learning and collaboration. It was great to exchange idea with professionals from different sectors and hear about their online adventures. 

The E-Learning Networks Project is designed to advance the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system in Australia by ensuring individuals gain access to the best national and international knowledge about e-learning. The Project fosters sustainable professional learning practices within an environment of online networking and knowledge sharing. They have some great resources on their site. 

The conference archive of all presentations is available at: http://networksevents.flexiblelearning.net.au/ 

Simon Oaten
Learning Dynamics 

In a Twitter about microblogging

twitter.jpgFad or anoying distraction? I’m still considering its uses, but it seems microblogging is upon us and hear to stay…at least for awhile.

Micro-blogging is a process that enables you to write brief text updates about your life on the go, and send them to friends, associates and interested observers via text messaging, instant messaging, email or the web. For example, “I just wrote a new blog, isn’t that exciting?”.  Well, without being too cynical, the idea is that you can create a ” persistent presence”  and keep a core group of people informed about your current activities.

There seems to be two camps at present – those who see it as a breakthrough form of communication and those who think it will end up an annoying distraction and navel-gazing activity.

I can see some potential uses in the learning space during a real-time activity where you need to keep learners linked and collaborating. Although, it may be far easier just to phone each other!

The leading  application at present is called “Twitter”.  When you send a mobile text to the Twitter site,  it sends it out to your group of friends and posts it to your Twitter page. They can check your update on their phone or via your Twitter page.  Likewise, you receive your friends’ mobile updates on your phone.

For further information, you might like to check out their blog.

 http://twitter.com/blog

Simon Oaten
Learning Dynamics

Learning campaigns that achieve sustainable behavioural change

puzzle.jpgWe’ve all heard the claims about the potential effectiveness of blended learning, but how do you realise this potential when developing your blended learning strategy? Try a learning campaign. 

For many years now the benefits of blended learning have been touted. Extension of the learning process, embedding of knowledge/skills/know-how, appealing to people with different learning styles, providing consistency and reinforcement and cost effectiveness are just some of the benefits that can be gained from the implementation of a blended approach. 

We’ve been trialling blended learning approaches in the corporate world and have found there is much to be learnt from marketing and advertising strategies. Here are some of the techniques we’ve used that are achieving very positive business and learning results.

Develop a cohesive and exciting campaign to support the change 

When devising your blended learning strategy, map out a campaign of events that will create a meaningful user experience, support the learning process and provide data to help you access the effectiveness of the campaign. Events could include a pre-workshop teaser, e-vite with assessment questions, face-to-face workshop (which links to the collated findings from the e-vite), follow-up e-learning modules, learning portal, access to online tools/content, coaching tools and activities, further refresher face-to-face modules and assessments. Choose the right learning methods for each stage of the learning process.

All events in the campaign need to be branded with a consistent look and feel, build upon each other and deliver a fully integrated and holistic program.

Use a range of learning techniques that suit your audience

Draw on a broad repertoire of learning techniques that align with your organisational learning culture. The design of the program will be heavily influenced by the way in which your target audience uses technology voluntarily. Influences include online communities, user forums, blogs, online dating sites, online collaborative games, location-specific content for mobile devices and podcasts/vodcasts listened to online, on iPods or mobile devices.

Support on-the-job application and coaching 

Integrate tools that support on-the-job application and coaching interventions from managers. Our experience has highlighted the invaluable role managers play in supporting the blended campaign’s effectiveness particularly in the usage of online learning components and coaching interventions. Bring management on-board and firm up their support before the learning campaign is rolled out.

 Track completion and link learning to accreditation processes

If possible set up a system to manage campaigns, track completion of each element of the campaign and report on return on investment. For large numbers of users a learning campaign management system is critical to minimise administration and provide data that helps you evaluate campaign effectiveness. When we couldn’t find an off-the-shelf system to manage the campaign we developed our own system to automate and manage all components of the program.  When tracking is possible you can link completion of campaign components to an accreditation process. For example accreditation to a sale training program may require completion of the pre-workshop questionnaire, workshop attendance, e-learning module completion, completion of 3 coaching assessment and a pass-mark on the online assessment. Establishing an effective accreditation process will help maximise take-up/usage, communicate the importance of the campaign, increase learning/business outcomes and deliver sustainable behavioural change.

Experiment

Experiment with new technology and associated blends of learning interventions. Track effectiveness of your campaigns and continually strive for that perfect blend. Lisa Vincent
Director
Savv-e

Making the Grade: Online Education Report

ist2_720164_path_to_efficency_compass.jpg“Making the Grade: Online Education in the United States 2006” is the fourth annual report on the state of online learning in U.S. higher education produced by the Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C).   Sloan-C produce a terrific range of publications and reports of interest to e-learning developers working in the corporate and tertiary sectors.

 Sloan-C’s core purpose is to encourage the collaborative sharing of knowledge and effective practices to improve online education in learning effectiveness, access, affordability for learners and providers. Their great website has excellent resources on all areas of online education.  

The “Making the Grade” report is aimed at answering some of the fundamental questions about the nature and extent of online education. The report is based on responses from over 2,200 colleges and universities and examines a number of key questions:  

  • Has the growth of online enrolments begun to plateau?

  • Who is learning online?

  • What types of institutions have online offerings?

  • Have perceptions of quality changed for online offerings?

  • What are the barriers to widespread adoption of online education?

A free copy of the report is available here.

Social networks and the future of collaborative learning

istock_000001563316small.jpgLast week IBM announced their plans to launch a range of social software tools for the corporate market called Lotus Connections. It seems the same technology that underpins the success of MySpace and Facebook will soon become a tool for L&D professionals to use for learning programs and knowledge sharing within their organizations. 

The New York Times sums up the product as such: “Lotus Connections has five components — activities, communities, dogear (a bookmarking system), profiles and blogs — aimed at helping experts within a company connect and build new relationships based on their individual needs. This is the first business-grade application that will bring the tools teenagers use into the corporate world, knitting together blogs, feeds, communities, networking tools like profiles, and bookmarks into one easy to use package. The tools will be available on one platform, thus facilitating better collaboration between remote teams and networks based around shared interests and skill-sets.” 

 So what might this mean for e-learning designers? Essentially it’s an opportunity to adapt our methods to develop learning programs that give new people entering the workforce the business-grade equivalent of the tools and experiences they already use and like for finding information and learning new things. Interesting times ahead. 

Podcasting – enhancing organisational communication and learning

mp3.JPGPodcasting is getting lots of coverage of late as communication managers look at how they can harness ‘social networking’ to improve organisational communication.

IBM recently commenced using podcasts for a weekly online program called “Shortcuts” which helps employees make the most of digital tools. It’s an interesting blend of communication and learning in a very neat package.

Ben Edwards, IBM’s head of new media communications, was interviewed in The Business Communicator (September 2006) and put forward some helpful tips on how to use podcasts effectively. Here’s the gist of what he said.

Step 1: Create a few ground rules

Consider what tools you’ll use and think about self-publishing. Set out guidelines and expectations as you would for company blogs or wikis.

Step 2: Don’t make it too professional

 A hallmark of the podcast is the DIY aspect and its creativity. So keep content “home-made” sounding. Don’t script or overproduce. Try and capture informal conversation with real people saying real things.

Step 3: Podcasting isn’t a one-off

To build relationships you have to have a real voice. Don’t think of podcasts as one-off recordings, but rather as your own radio or television station. To help IBM managers engage with the podcasting tool they gave out 38,000 mp3 players. (Yes, we appreciate not every company can splash out like that!)

Step 4: Have fun when you’re making them

Jump in and get started. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to discover audiences that really want to listen. But it’s important to keep podcasts as short as possible. IBM started doing 15-minute ones and are now looking to bring them down to two minutes. People want as much information in as short a time as possible.

As an aside, in early 1990s the Evolve team played around with a project called “Manager Radio” where we produced 10 minute talkback radio style programs for company managers and distributed them on rather clunky audio cassettes. People enjoyed the message, but always found the medium a bit average. A reminder to this day that you need to get the message and medium right for effective communication and learning….