How to get the most out of e-learning programs

E-learning is seeing a big rise in interest, and it’s forecast to more than double to US$325 billion by 2025. But as with many new technologies and processes, there are some problems with how it’s being implemented. Many businesses don’t yet understand how it works: what content is needed, how it should be structured, and the way it all comes together.

Many HR managers are tasked with setting up training, but have limited experience in e-learning programs. It’s easy enough to create an online course - there are lots of guides out there. But they don’t tell the full story about putting all the information together, and effectively presenting it to someone. 

So what makes a successful e-leaning program? Based on our experience, acting as a platform for over 100,000 online courses, there are five key aspects for success.

  1. Relevance to the learner

Storytelling is a great way to help people to make a connection with a topic or subject by presenting relatable, real-life situations that will encourage them to retain information. Examples and terminology need to be relevant to the person taking the course, with situations that the end user will actually be around. There’s no point training a factory worker with terminology used in a hospital.

The storytelling element is all about conveying messages that are relevant and useful to the audience. I have a whole chapter on this in my recent book, A Guide to Better E-learning, which details how you can incorporate storytelling in the training industry, and different outlines and mind maps.

  1. Gamification

By gamification, we mean motivating training participants with progress-based rewards. Whenever you get a credit card from your bank, you have the incentive of earning points for using it. Similarly, you may have a loyalty card for your local café that rewards your continued patronage with a free drink for every 10 orders.  The exact same thing can be done with learning, letting people earn points, credit or badges. This pushes them to learn more.

Companies with good e-leaning programs often set up leaderboards, where top-ranked staff can earn prizes or gift vouchers each month.

  1. Interactivity

Interactive learning experiences engage participants in a much more compelling way. Basic PDFs or videos are non-interactive components. But technology enables videos where participants can stop and click on different elements, and answer questions as the video progresses. SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) and xAPI (Experience API) are two e-learning technologies that enable interactivity.

In future, we’ll see heavier use of VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) in training courses, but for now the technology - such as VR headsets - is too expensive to deploy widely.

  1. Blended learning

While new technologies are exciting, training managers shouldn’t solely rely on online courses. Traditional methods, such as in person sessions and workshops, are also important. So is informal learning, for example in the form of team meetings and discussions, or relevant articles and blog posts. All these should be part of a structured learning program.

Research shows that integrating traditional methods with technology has a much higher engagement rate than focusing solely on online or traditional learning.

  1. Develop a culture of learning

Above all, you need to build a culture of learning within your organisation.  One of the companies that uses our platform tried adopting how we do this at GO1. They found that by incorporating workshops, they now have people internally wanting to create workshops and carry out further training. Sharing and learning from colleagues will develop a learning culture internally, and sharing knowledge will reduce your training costs.

One of the hottest trends in elearning right now is micro-learning, with 10 or 20 minute courses that can be done on the train or bus, or in a lunch break. Doing a little bit every day, or every other day, is another effective way to build a culture of learning.

Learning is both a required building block of innovation as well as a consequence of it. There are many learning processes and styles, and all of them are important for innovation. But people can only be innovative if they have a diversity of information and knowledge to build ideas upon, and getting workplace training right is a key part of that.

Scott Cooper is Vice-President of Marketing and the author of A Guide to Better E-learning. Scott is also the founder of learning newsletter, and a co-organiser of the Bay Area learning Design & Technology Meetup in San Francisco.

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