Creating eLearning Focus Groups: A Practical Guide

eLearning focus groups are collections of individuals who represent your main learner body and need to be actively involved in your course evaluation. Often, however, we select individuals who are able to comment on only a few aspects of the eLearning course: they provide invaluable feedback on the course aesthetics, but may not have much to say about the content, inevitably creating an evaluation gap. So, how can you create the right focus group for end-of-the-course evaluation?

While the process of evaluation itself is a simple and a straightforward matter, what creates the desired effect is the correctly formed focus group.

If you are trying to make the most of the focus group evaluation, answer the following questions carefully when developing eLearning focus groups:

Why are you creating a focus group?

There are the general benefits of eLearning focus groups, but they need also need to be an answer to a question that you specifically have:

– What recurring eLearning course issues do you have?
– What kind of feedback are you looking at from previous eLearning focus groups?
– Why exactly do you need a focus group for this particular course?
– Are you learners too elementary or too advanced for your eLearning course design? If this is the case, a focus group can help pinpoint if the course is too easy or too challenging for them.

Also, for training programs, eLearning focus groups need to be able to relate emotionally to the scenarios and characters they are learning with. Or maybe you’re not sure that the content is appropriately localized. Especially if you are unsure whether your narration could be culturally insensitive, a definitive answer is critical.

These and many more problems can be solved with the aid of eLearning focus groups.

Do you have individuals in mind for your focus group?

When forming an eLearning focus group, aim for a widely representative learner body. This means you should have a special needs learner, a foreign learner, an over-achiever, as well as many other diverse individuals.

Another good idea is to include people who are involved in the design and development of your eLearning project. You can also choose members with varying degrees of computer literacy.

Alternately, you could have a set of two or three focus groups, each created to solve a particular design aspect of the eLearning course. You may have subject matter experts, managers and IT experts in one focus group, who can fine-tune your content.

Having separate focus groups according to the member capability and position within the organization is very important. Members should be able to express their opinions freely, without being self-conscious and biased.

How many members should be in your eLearning focus groups?

A minimum of two members to a maximum of ten. The number of members in your eLearning focus group really depends on the complexity of your course. The main purpose of the focus group is to discover hidden issues and perspectives within your course.

All focus group members must feel heard. There should be no negative competition within the group. Everyone should feel valued and appreciated. Also, the location and schedule should be fair and convenient for everybody.

Focus group checklist

Each course requires a unique mix of focus group members. And each group will have their own agenda to work through. Before the session begins, it is wise to hand out a session checklist. Begin by introducing yourself and inviting others to introduce themselves. Talk about the eLearning course, its outcomes and the target audience. Try to keep your personal opinions out of the session. You want neutral and honest comments from the group.

Make sure you receive feedback on all areas of the course from all members. Have them tick off each item on the checklist to ensure they have evaluated all areas. In the question-answer session, talk about feelings and personal perspectives. Any eLearning experiences will help too. Collect all print materials such as surveys, checklists, devices etc, towards the end.

A session that ends in lingering and lively discussions is a sign that all went well!

How long should the evaluation be?

So, you have the eLearning focus group ready to run through the course. For how long should they be exposed to the course? For example, for a six-hour long course, what time-frame should this focus group be on? Thirty to maximum ninety minutes. The longer you expose the group to the course, chances are they will get bored and run out of new comments.

Create a selection of pages to show on the main screen. Group pages like the introduction, main topics, reinforcement exercises, assessments, and summary, together. Also, make the original course available on their personal devices. Try to have the course experienced through a smartphone, a desktop, a laptop and a tablet – in one session.

Also, have a survey of questions ready for them with a pencil. A space for extra notes or comments will also do wonders for your course. It is easier to write while experiencing the course than to stop and insert comments.

If you feel that the group is lively and engaged, by all means, extend the session beyond thirty minutes. Ensure that no one is pressed for time. Provide multiple time slots for all members to vote on. Provide coffee or refreshments to help them get through a longer session.

Moreover, make sure the session is held at a comfortable and a casual setting. You want to encourage active dialogue and free-flowing communication. The more your members feel welcome and comfortable, the better quality and accurate comments you will receive.

Your goal as an eLearning team lead is to receive plenty of useful information and opinions on the new eLearning course. Critical analysis and brainstorming for possible solutions is an integral part of a successful eLearning focus group sessions.

Creating and conducting a focus group successfully will lead you to improve your eLearning program and ensure that it’s well received by the target audience.

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