January 15, 2014

(continuing from the January 6th, 8th, and 13th blogs)

The fifth essential quality for truly effective e-Learning is a course design that exhibits “Efficient Sentence Use per Screen” — composed with reading-level-appropriate vocabulary.

If longer term retention is the ultimate aim of your training program, the emphasis of individual teaching screens should be on the visuals while the sentences/phrases may be included as an enhancement.

These visuals should be rooted in full motion video (and/or animation) and may include photographs, graphics, charts, and diagrams.

We do not want our learners to concentrate on lengthy text screens, which have proven to be less effective in meeting retention goals.

Short sentences, then, or short “bullet” screens describing a single information point is the hallmark of good instructional design. The learner who can read quickly and well can then focus on the visual teaching of the screen, just as the individual who prefers to listen (by exercising optional audio) can quickly move on to the real teaching focus of the screen.

Instructional Designers who have a good grasp of effective teaching soon learn how to confine their scripting instruction to short, to-the-point sentences.

This gives you yet another way to evaluate the potential effectiveness of any e-Learning offering you are asked to evaluate or produce. The more we understand about the significance of effective Instructional Design, the more payback we’ll get from our training initiatives.

And, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?!?

The sixth essential quality for truly effective e-Learning is a course design that exhibits “Subject-appropriate Instructional Design.”

Many years ago, I was invited by the president of one of the Big Three auto companies to attend a Detroit meeting in order to help him understand why a very expensive math program for UAW employees had resoundingly failed. The program had been created by the Deans of Mathematics, or their representatives, from sixteen Michigan colleges and universities.

At that meeting, I asked two questions: “How many of your assembly plants had been visited by this creative team?” And, “How many UAW workers had they talked with?”

The answer to both questions was the same: “None.”

That story says it all. Those professors obviously knew their subject well. BUT, they failed, totally, to package their knowledge into a subject-appropriate design.

The answer is clear. Successful learning begins — and the results end — with the abilities (or lack thereof) of the Instructional Designer(s).

How, then, should you proceed when tasked with evaluating vendor-produced e-Learning or with online programs you choose to produce for your own organization?

First we must acknowledge that effective educational programming has always been a designer’s medium. It has never been an evolving electronic gadgetry world. Instead, it has been developed and used as yet another communication tool for efficiently transferring skills and knowledge.

And, it all starts with the content, the people to be trained, the goals, the varying learning cultures, and the design knowledge of those characteristics that will enhance retention.

The seventh essential quality for truly effective e-Learning is a course design that is “Capable of Doubling as a ‘Help Desk’.”

Research has shown that nearly 70% of information learned in initial formal training is forgotten by the time the worker actually needs it. When unique on-the-job conditions arise those workers need a quick and easy way to get refresher training.

E-Learning is singularly qualified to meet those requirements. Sometimes this is called “just in time” training and sometimes it is referred to as “help desk” training. The effect is the same. E-Learning saves much time (and, therefore, dollars) when it is readily available for calling up necessary nuggets of instruction at any time and from any place.

The implications of this invaluable aspect of well-designed e-Learning should have a major impact on how we work in the future. Many companies are finding that they can no longer rely on having a wealth of experienced employees with detailed knowledge of all the procedures they are asked to perform. The “help desk” aspect of well-designed e-Learning is designed to fill that gap.

Poorly designed e-Learning does not cross reference the teaching points nor does it reference training objectives and procedures. The upshot is that those inadequately designed programs serve the trainee only in a passive way. They do not live on after the formal session is complete.

Pay close attention to the “help desk” function of any e-Learning program you are evaluating. The payback in significant time and dollars saved will be immense if that “just in time” aspect has been thoughtfully designed.

For the past two weeks we’ve examined the characteristics of “winning e-Learning” — both what works — and, what doesn’t. They’re all worth remembering.

We’ll have a new topic on Monday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning (Mondays & Wednesdays)