So, your new eLearning course is ready to be launched and you are all excited about the prospects of “immensely” pleased stakeholders in your organization.
You know you have integrated the complete bells and whistles of an eLearning program: from using branched scenarios to interactive labeled diagrams. You even have a compelling storyline set in the backdrop of your organization. Your CEO is a cool lady who allowed you to use her cartoon version as an avatar to motivate learners. What more could you possibility need to add to your cauldron of successful spells?
Reality check: plenty!
eLearning is all about iterations and versions. It’s best to revise with a group of experts and instructional developers than with the major stakeholders and learners
In this article, we uncover a research-based model for evaluating your eLearning course before that final takeoff from the runway.
Sara de Freitas and Martin Oliver proposed a set of four eLearning design and development elements called the Four-dimensional Framework. This framework can be used by:
- Trainers and training managers to select appropriate training programs for a training situation.
- Researchers to assess eLearning materials.
- Training designers to select specific teaching factors.
The question is, why use this Four-dimensional framework?
The reason is simple: If you have an eLearning program that includes scenario-based interactions akin to serious games (never mind with the scoring), then this is the tool for you. The fact is, any eLearning program that uses game-like features in the form of reinforcement exercises, assessments and simulations is safely classified as a serious game or a training game. Yes, that includes your newly churned out eLearning course ready to fly shortly!
Need any more convincing?
This is what the creators of this evaluation tool say:
“Although a number of frameworks exist that are intended to guide and support the evaluation of educational software, few have been designed that consider explicitly the use of games or simulations in education.
Similarly, research in game studies has generally focused upon approaches based upon playing leisure games, and therefore do not take enough account of factors including the context, learning theory and practice and the attributes of the learner and learner group.” (de Freitas & Oliver 2006, p.262)
On the whole, this structured analysis provides a comprehensive support to the training developers and facilitators who work in teams to create game-like trainings. The use of this framework is two-pronged:
First, it enables training managers to demonstrate the appropriateness of the newly developed eLearning program in terms of the training need. Secondly, it also enables them to find the best way to apply the tool within the learning context.
Consider a training scenario for improved customer service through the use of the latest CRM software installed within the organization infrastructure. For each aspect of the Four-dimensional Framework, we describe how the training needs fall into the training provisions of the eLearning program.
Notice how specific and general these questions are. By the end of this exercise, you will have a complete report ready for your stakeholders!
Context which determines the learning environment – it includes the macro level, so historical, political and economic factors (for example, are you developing this eLearning program because it is a mandatory training, a job aid or a professional development program?).
Micro level context is defined through the subject matter experts needed, the instruction designer, the facilitator background and experience, and the development costs
Consider the example of the new CRM training for improved customer service. This means, you would be developing training for one aspect of the CRM software (the customer service and experience).
This will be your eLearning development context. Define the micro and macro components of this context.
Learner specification analyzes the learner completely. This includes their preferred learning style, their previous knowledge and identifying the methods that will support their differing needs.
Again in the CRM customer service training example, your learners could be bank tellers, IT help desk professionals, product support team or even sales personnel. Define these learners in terms of their current performance, their education level, their computer literacy level and many other factors that will enable you to design an eLearning program that is attractive to these learners.
Mode of representation defines the degree or level of interactivity needed in the eLearning program.
Think about the immersion level of the learning context. Should the program simulate the work context completely or partially? How will you brief and debrief your learners in terms of explaining them the learning outcomes etc.
Going back to the CRM customer service example, how will you design your eLearning course/program? Will it include a storyline to capture the learner? Will they enjoy a video of funny customer service situations? Should the scenarios include simulations?
To teach the CRM dashboard features and other specifications, an interactive simulation is definitely needed here.
Pedagogic principles require the trainer to integrate learning models and theories in order to design effective eLearning programs. Learning theories that focus on adults are more advisable in corporate training. Touching on learner psychology will enable you to create compelling reinforcement exercises and assessments.
Think about your CRM customer service team once again. As adult learners they would prefer meaningful and relevant information.
This means separating information from “need to know” to “good to know”. Needless to say, many learners will guiltlessly skip the “good to know” information and focus on the needful. This is because adult learners want immediate transfer of newly acquired knowledge to their work environment.
Knowledge about learning theories will help align your course’s content with learning objectives.
Now that you have completed this final evaluation on your new eLearning program, you are all set, ready to roll! Good luck!
de Freitas, S., 2006. learning in immersive worlds: a review of game based learning, JiSC. Available at: www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearninginnovation/outcomes.aspx
de Freitas, S. & Oliver, M., 2006. How can exploratory learning with games and simulations within the curriculum be most effectively evaluated? Computers & education, 46(3), 249-264.
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