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How to plan online training programs so you save time and money

I’m sure that most L&D professionals feel like laughing at the concept of planning e-learning. As crazy as the last couple of years have turned out, there’s been absolutely no time to plan anything. It was mostly “create and deploy as soon as yesterday.” All the well-planned learning paths have more or less been abandoned in the face of more pressing interventions.

Read more: How the pandemic transformed L&D

However, it’s also a well-known fact that anything that is done too fast will need a lot of after work and will probably end up costing more as well. So, here is the ideal sequence for planning your corporate e-learning programs:

Clearly define the program objectives

The most important thing to know at the beginning is "why" something needs to be done. In the case of e-learning, it’s not only about the "what" but mostly about the "who" – namely, the trainees.

The initial stage should be about what needs to be taught and to whom. This will save a lot of time later on because a thorough learning needs assessment will help you avoid repetitive and irrelevant modules.

Further questions should include queries about culture, language, translation needs, technology access and constraints, and alignment with organizational goals. For a big project, it’s a good idea to create a learning persona.

Read more: First and foremost — get to know your learners

Get the right SMEs on board

One of the mistakes that learning designers frequently make is that they call upon the subject matter experts (SMEs) after creating a good chunk of the content. Asking them to review something will be a lot more time-consuming than if you incorporate their input from the get-go.

The best course of action is to find the right people for the project. This way, you’ll know what is truly relevant and access reliable resources to back up the program. Having the instructional designers work together with the SMEs means fewer adjustments and little to no discarded material.

Read more: Harnessing the power of SMEs for successful workplace training

Prioritize according to the goals

A possible downside to working closely with SMEs from the beginning is that they may think that everything is highly relevant. They could ask for everything to be included in the courses. Therefore, it’s important to keep in mind the main objectives and the audience analysis to make sure you prioritize the items that are genuinely important and useful.

Look at all the topics and decide which ones should have the highest priority for becoming learning content. You can also offer extra resources to trainees and make sure they can access more information if they want to or need it. Think about the iceberg analogy – what you teach should be the visible tip while a world of knowledge exists under it.

Figure out the tech

Before embarking on the development journey, you need to know both the strengths and the limitations of the company’s tech environment.

If you are part of the internal L&D team, this will come easier as you’re more familiar with the organization's digital infrastructure. If you are an independent contractor, you’ll have to ask many questions and maybe test some of the tools used by the employees.

In any case, it’s very important to make sure that all courses can be easily deployed within the existing infrastructure. And if you are dealing with a very technically advanced enterprise, make sure to step up your game. If the employees are used to state-of-the-art immersive technologies, don't choose PowerPoint presentations.

Read more: Immersive learning environments may become the norm in training

Talk about evaluation

While evaluation comes after an e-learning program has been designed and deployed, it’s important to discuss this step from the start. You need to know what are KPIs to take into consideration.

It’s essential to keep in mind that you're not assessing the training material itself, but how well it manages to cover the objectives. In fact, beginning with the end is a very effective time saver as fewer adjustments will have to be made.

Read more: Building efficient questions for learning program evaluations

Closing thoughts

With cost reduction on everyone’s minds, L&D needs to show that it's capable of this without taking anything away from the quality of the work. It will, however, require careful planning and finding the answers to a lot of questions before moving into the execution phase.