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5 keys to online learning success

Today’s workforce is very different than it was ten, maybe twenty years ago. Time is perceived differently as there doesn’t seem to be enough of it anymore. Everything happens with great speed, schedules are packed and extra activities such as learning are becoming harder and harder to fit in.

This situation combined with the growing need for cost reduction and globalization of L&D programs have turned e-learning into the perfect solution for organizations large and small. Its flexible nature and increased accessibility are just what the doctor ordered for the busy yet knowledge-hungry modern employees.

5 keys to online learning success

Yet all is not without challenges. Below are a few tips for L&D professionals who want to make sure the online classes provided by them will be a real success.

Be mindful of technology requirements

Before enrolling employees in a certain program, check to make sure all have the required technology to complete the class. In many cases, it’s as simple as having a working computer with a decent video plaque and an up to date browser.

There is nothing more annoying and counterproductive than spending the first half hour (or more) of the time one is supposed to be learning talking to the IT department and watching the little arrow magically moving across the screen in order to install, enable or disable necessary add-ons.

This situation can be avoided by talking to the IT professionals in advance to make sure that the hardware that will be used for running e-learning courses is prepared for it. In case the learners choose to go through the materials on their own devices, it helps making a list of all the technical requirements and providing it to them in advance.

Organize the units in an easy to follow manner

Traditional corporate learning has a generally set structure: attend classroom sessions, have discussion and Q&A sessions, take tests or complete projects that show what was learned. It all flows rather naturally.

With e-learning, however, schedules and workloads are decided by the learners, who are solely responsible for when, from where and how they complete the learning units.

It gives them a sense of greater responsibility and autonomy but also comes with the risk of them feeling overwhelmed if at some point they feel they have fallen behind. It’s best to include time estimates, have very vivid visual representations of progress and periodically remind them (in a friendly manner) of where they left off and how far or near they are to completion.

Work on increasing participation

It’s true that e-learning allows the learner to go through the course at their own convenience. Allowing them the autonomy to make the choice of what the best time for learning is will increase engagement.

Yet the instructional designer has some of responsibility for this. The materials are always available and one can go back to them but whether this will happen or not depends on how attractive and interactive they are.

Using the mechanics of games as incentives will come in handy. If for example, a certain frequency of participation will unlock some attractive features or help the learner move up on the leaderboard learners will be more motivated to come back. Having message boards where the participants can start discussions, ask questions and share ideas are also a good method to get people more involved.

Create an appropriate learning space

Even if it is up to the participants when and where they access the e-learning material, it’s best if they have the option of doing so in an appropriate learning environment. There may not be a training or meeting room available at all times so arrangements could be made for a certain space to be occasionally reserved when there’s demand.

One telecommunications company I used to work for chose to send a comprehensive list of all available e-learning materials to employees. They could pick the courses they were interested in and every Friday from four to six PM one of the training rooms was available for them to log on adequately equipped computers. They could also choose to do so from their desks but many preferred the training room option as they felt it was a more appropriate space to be learning in.

Get constant feedback

With e-learning gaining more and more terrain each day, it’s easy to think that simply providing good courses is enough to ensure learning within the organization. However, it’s best to keep in mind that in traditional classroom training you had a person in charge of raising engagement, adapting the curricula when it got to be too much for the participants and drop in the occasional joke or ice-breaking exercise when the general mood was becoming rather stale.

As an instructional designer you can’t possibly be in the virtual space or logged in everytime somebody enrolls in one of your courses but you can make sure to include some questions about the experience that will let you know if and what adjustments need to be made.

Constantly updating the content or the delivery methods will lead to improved information retention and ultimately e-learning success.

Over to you

There is no perfect recipe to create successful e-learning programs, as each organization has different learning needs. However, the above five aspects are almost always part of it.

What would you add to this list, based on your L&D experience? Do share your knowledge in the comments section below!

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