MAKING THE DECISION “ — part two —

Continuing with our “Buying Process” discussion, the next step is the “Instructional Design Review.”

Today, e-Learning is not part of the video world. E-Learning is, also, not a part of the videotape, laser interactive videodisc, or CD-ROM continuum. At this moment, e-Learning is closer to the radio world.

Sure, the necessary compressed video capability is readily available — BUT, the infrastructure for most would-be corporate users is not.

Today, unfortunately, most e-Learning courseware creation resides with technical writers and programmers. Yet, with e-Learning, excellent instructional design may be more important than ever.

Without video tools, the instructional designer must be more creative than ever. The imaginative use of audio becomes the “secret ingredient” to effective e-Learning.

We already know that written words reach only a minority — almost half of our workforce does not ready above a 4th Grade level. Hence, instructional designers must find new ways to bridge the gap. All script language must have a “to-be-heard” option.

Effective use of audio as a critical instructional design element enriches the learning experience. Dialog brings “stills” alive. Sound effects provide motivation and realism. Mood creation establishes a familiar and comfortable environment.

Thus, when you are making your training purchase decisions, start with an analysis of the audio utilization. And, the place to start your analysis begins with “optional word-for-word” audio. That feature alone will guarantee that your learners who are reading fluent can turn the audio off and move forward at their own pace. It will also guarantee for your less fluent readers that, by listening to the complete audio they, too, will have the opportunity for full comprehension of the subject taught.

Here are some additional instructional design elements you should require:

1) Navigation through the course is simple, consistent and intuitive. In other words, are the screens user-friendly and obvious to the learner?

2) The instruction is both meaningful and interactive. In other words, are the individual units of instruction performance based and require meaningful responses from the learner? In addition, knowledgeable instructional design will segment the course into very small units of instruction, each tied directly to a performance objective.

3) Adult learning characteristics are accommodated. In other words, are the designed communication techniques consistent with the learning culture of the individuals to be trained.

4) Administrative management requirements are satisfied. In other words, the test results, time spent, etc. are readily incorporated into your LMS.

5) The media used is appropriately integrated into the learning experience. In other words, the graphics, stills and animations are directly appropriate to the subject being taught.

There are some practical expectations you should look for, as well.

1) Does the e-Learning lesson you are reviewing provide adequate learning for your targeted audience?

2) Does the e-Learning lesson you are reviewing work on your intended delivery system — internet, intranet, or both?

3) Is the e-Learning lesson you are reviewing SCORM compliant?

The final review-subject should be “The Customer Support Review” —an activity that many of you don’t realize is even possible. After all, customer support shows its pretty or ugly head sometime after the sale.

And, in many ways, that’s true. Some vendors regard their customer support activities only from a cost control standpoint. They believe that a customer support function is nothing but an expense item. So, they try to put roadblocks between them and the customer in order to delay the inevitable as long as possible in the hope that it will “just go away.”

Unfortunately, far too many training vendors put a “Contact Us” on their website, BUT only provide an e-Mail method of contact — no phone number!

Other vendors place the caller into a voice mail activity, bypassing the customer’s need to get immediate service even though that customer may have a class of learners waiting without a solid internet connection to the purchased courseware.

What can you do during your review process in order to minimize your chances of ending up with one of those non-customer oriented vendors?

Well, you should ask your salesperson for a “number to call” in the event of a problem and an e-Mail address to contact whenever you’re experiencing problems.

Now, run a test. Call the number provided and time how long it takes for them to get back with you. Ditto with the e-Mail address. The answer to those two tests will tell you a lot about the future problems you are going to encounter with that particular vendor.

We all know that technology is not perfect. There will always be hiccups. And, most of us know enough not to expect perfection.

But, it is not too much to expect vendors to treat those imperfections with the care and concern you, their customer, deserve.

Some vendors are truly customer oriented. Find one of those. It will save you a lot of grief.

This week I’ll be at the ASTD International Conference & Exposition in Chicago. If you can attend, and I hope you do, please stop by the ITC Learning booth (211) and say, “hi.” Would love to chat with any of you who can come.

More when I return on Friday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning