Summary: The article emphasizes the crucial role of a well-defined concept in eLearning training, focusing on audience identification, clear objectives, and interactive elements. It highlights the importance of selecting appropriate tools and incorporating feedback for effective training development.
A good idea is a key element of training, especially in eLearning. The training is based on this idea, so it is worth—at least in the initial stage of eLearning—to devote a lot of attention to the training concept. Mistakes made at this stage will likely haunt you long after the production process has ended. It’s half the trouble if you commission the training to an external company, which, if professional, will ask about all the elements needed to develop the concept and will write a script. The role of such a company is also to maintain consistency of visualization and script with the concept. Not maintaining this consistency is another potential source of problems in implementation. I will discuss more about this with an example I recently experienced.
The concept of eLearning training is a basic document organizing the conceptual stage of course implementation. It contains detailed descriptions of the training objectives, its thematic scope, structure, technical aspects, planned interactivities and engaging mechanisms, and graphic convention. Based on the concept, the most important element of eLearning training is written: the script.
The concept of eLearning training should include the following information:
The more precisely we define the target group, the better for the project’s success. How old are the recipients, and at what level of management in the organization are they? Is the training intended for all employees of the company, or just for a specific area/department? How proficiently do they use eLearning, or is this their first encounter with this method? On what devices will the training be launched, and will it include mobile devices besides computers? What is the level and type of the recipients’ motivation in the context of this particular topic? We will construct training differently for employees aged 25-30 years, and differently for 50+ years—all these elements can affect the construction and ultimately the reception of the course.
The concept should precisely define the training objectives. What exactly should the users learn and remember, and at what level, what skills should they have after the training? Should the training influence attitudes—if so, which ones and to what extent? The more specifically the goal is defined, the easier it is to plan the training content and choose the components of the eLearning methodology.
A trivial example: if an eLearning course is aimed to teach how to use an application for placing orders, then we focus primarily on planning and developing simulation exercises in the system, rather than on descriptions of what the application is for.
How long should an eLearning course be? There is no one answer to this question. Theoretically, the shorter it is, the better, but shortening can also negatively affect the way content is constructed and its substantive scope. The length of the course depends on several elements, including the amount of content being conveyed and the characteristics of the persona; the training objective plays a significant role.
Currently, it is assumed that smaller forms, so-called knowledge pills, should not last longer than 5 to 10 minutes of the recipient’s work while eLearning training should not be longer than 60 minutes; if it can fit within 45 minutes, great. If there is significantly more content than 45 minutes, it is good to divide the training into parts. Either way, even short trainings should be divided into modules. Users, after all, are not able to work with the course from beginning to end without breaks. It is best, therefore, to plan such a construction and division of content so that the training modules are no longer than 8–10 minutes. This is nothing else than the atomization of content.
We need to provide the training somewhere, most often in a company’s training platform. And here, we need answers to a few basic questions. In what standard does the platform work, how does it report, and what data do we want to receive in reports? Should the training have an audio version or not and in what tool will it be prepared? Or, will the training be available in a web version on the intranet without reporting options or in an offline version (although such situations are becoming less common)? On what devices will the course be launched? Whether it will be a mobile course or a responsive one, adapting to the size of the device is essential.
The concept should also answer the question of what the training will look like, whether it will be in flat design or maybe photo convention. What is the layout of the training? What will the buttons and main graphic elements of the training look like—if we use animations in scenes, then what kind? Does the visualization anticipate elements of corporate identity (most often there is such a requirement)? The consequence of this information will be the visualization of the training prepared at a later stage, i.e., the appearance of basic types of screens. This definitely facilitates the work of the scriptwriter and developer.
Very important information, the decision regarding the graphic convention is crucial, although it may seem like one of many. Imagine a situation in which the client accepts—at the concept stage—the graphic visualization. During work, already after accepting the concept, for some reason, the client changes the decision and wants training based on photos. The natural consequence of such a change should be information that corrections to the script need to be made because, for example, dialog scenes will be difficult to replicate one-to-one as described in the script (facial expressions, poses, gestures, settings of graphic elements). And that’s okay, provided that the client is aware of the consequences of such a change and understands the limitations. If we do not take care of this, we have a good chance that, at the training production stage, we will not be able to meet the client’s expectations…arising from the script.
These are all those elements that affect the level of content retention and participant engagement. The range of interactivity is very broad, with at least a dozen types of exercises at our disposal, ranging from classic drag-and-drop, through fill-in-the-blank, matching drag-and-drop, to crosswords and multi-path story-based simulations. Additionally, important elements of training can include engagement mechanisms such as the dramatization of content built around a story that forms the basis of the substantive content, usually set in the professional realities of the training recipients, to facilitate their use of the substantive content in the training.
Another mechanism is personalization, where we, for example, give the user the option to choose an avatar assigned to a specific professional profile, role, or position in the organization. Often such a choice affects the range of content provided; choosing a role results in the generation of a dedicated (personalized) training path. And (most commonly discussed) gamification, which involves putting the training recipient in a game situation, where, by familiarizing themselves with successive contents or completing available tests, they earn points and levels. In all this, it is important to remember that planned interactivities or applied mechanisms should not cause content chaos and should not result in the training objective being diluted in successive fireworks, which serve no clear purpose. Moderation is definitely recommended here.
Usually, training is implemented in a program that the client has access to or one in which the development team feels most confident. In an ideal situation, the key criterion for choosing the program in which the training will be developed is whether it allows for the realization of the training’s objectives (educational, visual, methodological, etc.). Some tools are perfect for application training, while others are great for dramatized business simulations. The tool should be chosen based on the training objective.
Finally, when we have already created a thoughtful and coherent eLearning training concept, let’s check how well it meets the needs of the recipients and the organization. Show it to a few selected people who will use our training in the future and ask them if it is understandable. Another person worth asking for an opinion is the training scriptwriter because the quality of this document determines the entire effect of their work. It is also worth sending it to the developer working on the training creation tool. Once we collect all the positive feedback, we can start creating the training script.
This text has been published on elearningindustry.com – the largest portal gathering e-learning professionals worldwide
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