10 Common mistakes when developing and delivering an eLearning course: Part 1

make your eLearning courses pop

You’ve acquired a Learning Management System. You’ve been sold a “Just In Time” eLearning tool that, apparently, anyone can use.

You have a laptop full of tired old PowerPoint presentations that are churned out every time there’s a need for another induction course, fire safety training or anything else that’s boring, but mandatory.

So, all that’s needed now is to find a cheap and willing resource – maybe an intern, or a trainer who doesn’t perform too well in the classroom – to spend a few weeks converting them to eLearning. The result will be a library of courses that can be used over and over again at no cost, reducing training time, delivering key objectives and driving business growth. Right?

Well, not quite. Hidden within this scenario are some of the most common and costly mistakes that training managers can make when trying to roll out eLearning on the cheap.

1. Don’t simply re-use existing course content

It’s certainly possible to create eLearning courses internally based on existing resources, and there’s no reason why existing PowerPoint presentations, or extracts from recorded webinars shouldn’t play a part in this.

But, an eLearning course isn’t the same as face to face training. There’s usually no teacher present to involve, engage, excite and motivate the students, or to pick up the signs that someone doesn’t understand something, or isn’t being stretched. The design of the material has to do all this – and that isn’t a job for a novice. Today’s eLearning authoring tools are certainly very easy to use technically – but they’re much more difficult to use effectively to promote learning.

For that, you really need the services of an eLearning professional, with real experience of talking to relevant stakeholders, learning needs analysis and instructional design.

2. Don’t overlook the importance of objectives

eLearning courses, like any other training interventions really do need clear objectives. Otherwise, there’s no way of knowing whether they are working, and whether they are going to lead to real improvements in business performance, or tick the right regulatory compliance boxes.

Objectives need to state clearly what the learner will be able to do at the end of the course – not what they will “understand”, “be aware of” or “appreciate”.

They don’t always have to be in the form of a traditional list -“At the end of this course, the learner will be able to …” – they might be hidden in games, or real life scenarios, or online role playing exercises.

The instructional designer will need to know the target audience to figure out what will work best. But, without any clear objectives, the course is likely to flounder, meander and not really deliver.

3. Don’t make everyone follow the same path

A common mistake in eLearning course design, especially if the content is taken from a PowerPoint presentation is simply to use the first module or section as the model for everything else.

However, the first module for a face to face course isn’t always the best introduction to an eLearning course – and there’s no reason to force all learners to go through the course in the same order.

Some may already be familiar with some topics and want to concentrate on new content. Others may spot a topic they recognize and want to start with that.

In many courses, there’s no right or wrong way to work your way through the content, so make sure your course structure doesn’t impose one unnecessarily.

4. Don’t overfill the course with too much content

One of the temptations in writing an eLearning course is to include anything and everything that might be useful. Different stakeholders will want to ensure that their pet topics are included, and no-one will be willing to compromise.

The result is a cluttered course, full of unnecessary information, tangential issues and volumes of content that don’t really offer any real-world benefits.

Stop. Re-read the objectives – what new skills do you want users to achieve? What actually needs to be in the course, and what might be better provided in the form of links to PDF documents, existing internet or intranet content or other resources. Don’t overfill the course – and don’t overfill the screen either!

Some experts on presentation skills counsel against ever having more than half a dozen words on the screen at once. Elearning courses can save time, but only if they are carefully crafted to make the best use of learners’ attention.

In Part 2, we’ll look at six more important mistakes to avoid.

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