Why e-Learning developers should helm your online course project

Let’s presume you have an important function. Two of your friends have volunteered to photograph the function. Friend One owns the latest camera in the town, knows a thing or two about photography, and is an ace with photo editing software. Friend Two, on the other hand, owns a mid-level camera, contributes articles on photography and works as a freelance photographer for a magazine. Whom will you choose?

My hunch is you will opt for Friend Two. For we do know that the camera and the software are just tools, yet give these tools to a person who knows about composition and lighting, has an eye for details, and you will get breath-taking photographs. The bottom line is it’s the person and not the technology that can get you the desired results.

Now let’s presume that you head the sales department of your organisation. Your newly-launched products are performing dismally, and the management is questioning you. Moreover, the sales managers are blaming the sales representatives, but then “we are doing our best” is what the representatives are saying. After much deliberation, you decide to replace your existing sales training course with a new one. Now the million-dollar question: Who will create the course? Will it be your sales managers who know how to create a course using authoring tools? Or – and this is a big or – will you get an e-Learning developer on board?

The first option looks tempting, isn’t it? You won’t incur extra cost, and managers are supposed to train their teams. Nonetheless, hiring an e-Learning developer will be a wiser, albeit a costlier decision.

Let me put forth a few points to build my case for why an e-Learning developer will be your best bet:

1. They will analyse the need for training

A training course may or may not be able to address poor performance. For example,
may be your sales team has not been properly briefed about the newly-launched products thereby rendering their sales pitch ineffective, or maybe the sales team comprises several members who have no experience in selling. In both the cases, a training course will be an apt solution.

At times, performance issues can arise due to lack of proper facilities. For example, if the employees of an e-commerce site are experiencing internet connectivity issues, their speed of processing orders will get hampered. In this case, a training course will prove futile.

Needs Analysis

2. They will analyse the problem in totality

An e-Learning developer will interact with different departments, employees across all levels, and if possible, your customers too. The developer will also go through the
previous training materials, sales feedback forms etc. Often such kind of a 360-degree analysis will allow your e-Learning developer to unearth the actual problems.

For instance, because your organisation makes products used in the car-manufacturing industry, the existing training focuses only that industry. The new products, in contrast, target the ship-building industry. As a result, many of the sales representatives are not fully aware about the features of the new products. In this case, the developer will suggest retaining the existing training materials and creating another course focussing on the ship-building industry.

Needs Analysis_2

3. They will decide the scope and the outcome/s

Scope and outcomes are the building blocks of a training course. Moreover, the two are closely interconnected. Let me explain you by giving an example. You want the course to focus on the features of the newly-launched products. However, what do you expect the representatives to do after taking the course? Do you want them to remember and recall the features of a particular product? Or do you want them to use the newly-acquired knowledge to suggest the most appropriate product to a customer? The two questions that I have listed here are the probable outcomes of the training course, and each outcome influences the scope of the training.

For example, if you want your representatives to just recall the features, then the scope of the training will be modules that outline the features of the newly-launched products.

However, if you want them to use the knowledge to suggest the most appropriate product, you are basically asking them to recall the features of different products, compare the features with the needs of the customer, and then suggest the most suitable product. In this case, the modules will focus on features of the newly-launched products, types of ships, needs of a builder of a particular type of ship, the features of your product and how these features address those needs etc.

Task Analysis.jpg

4. They will determine the best delivery mechanism

Your e-Learning developer will also determine the way in which the training will be delivered. For instance, if the training aims to make your employees aware of the features of a product, the ideal course will be an online module that will use a click-and-reveal strategy. In contrast, if a module aims to hone selling skills of the representatives, then just listing the points on how to suggest the most appropriate product won’t suffice. Rather a scenario in which a character analyses the needs of the customer and then suggests the most appropriate product to close a sales deal will prove far more effective. Moreover, the inclusion of activities such as role-plays will allow your employees to effectively apply the learning to real-life situations.

Task Analysis_1.jpg

5. They will keep the learner in mind

Learners are the core of any training. Therefore, your e-Learning developer will study the employee demographics, motivational level, skillset etc. to design an engaging course. For example, if your sales team love social media, your e-Learning developer might suggest using Pinterest wherein the employees can pin advertisements that use persuasion to sell their products. Thereafter, they can analyse and discuss the pins during the training period. Thus, your employees will become active learners instead of passive listeners.

6. They will take care of the course’s look and feel

The navigation style, layout of different elements, and images/graphics play a critical role in learning. Present a layout that is packed with text and images, and you will overwhelm the learner. Likewise, a confusing navigation style will leave the learner lost and confused, thereby even demotivating him/her.

Images too can aid the learning process vastly. Hence, choosing the correct images will be one of the important tasks your e-Learning developer will be performing.Let me give you an example. Given below are two images of the human digestive system. Now, if the objective of the course is to make the learners recall the parts of the digestive system, which image will you use?

figures1and2An e-Learning developer will choose Figure 1. That’s because the learner’s attention will remain focus on the digestive system. In contrast, in Figure 2, the hair, the face of the person is visible; therefore, sub-consciously, the attention of the learner will split between the essential (the digestive system) and the non-essential (the hair, the face).

7. They will act as a trouble-shooter

The job of an e-Learning developer does not end by developing a training course. Evaluating the course is also important. Your e-Learning developer will take feedback from the sales managers, the sales representatives, and customers to gauge the effectiveness of the course.

Formative Evaluation

Based on the feedback, your e-Learning developer will make further improvements. For example, if some employees having difficulties in remembering the features of different ships, your e-Learning developer will create a printable chart for a quick reference.

Thus, an e-Learning developer is someone who is well-versed with learning principles as well as tools and technology. If you hire one to develop your course, rest assured that you will not regret your decision.

About the author:

Punam Parab has been active in the field of e-learning, instructional designing and content development for close to a decade now. She has experience in designing content and learning materials for both children and adult learners. Likewise, she has developed both offline and online courseware and considers creating scenario/story-based learning modules, designing curriculum and developing academic content as her specialities. You can find more about her on http://punamparab.weebly.com

Smartphone video training for course designers

I recently participated in one of the e-Learning Heroes’ weekly challenges which challenged participants to create a training video using their smartphone.

Before I started this challenge I did a bit of research on using smartphones for video production and came across this YouTube video which I found extremely helpful, particularly the tip about how to focus on the main object you’re trying to capture in your video.

 

I produced a short video on the topic “How to make coffee” and learned many lessons along the way.  This challenge proved to me that there is value in considering this option for producing training content, but having the right set-up equipment would definitely help.

Here is my final production, with an overview of how I went about this and what I learnt   (click on the image).

How to Make Coffee

You can view other entries in this challenge on the e-Learning Heroes community blog here: E-Learning Challenge #42: Smartphone Video Training for Course Designers

What motivates us?

Over the last few days I’ve come across several references to Dan Pink and his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  In this book he proposes that for the challenges we face today, there is more and more need for people to find intrinsic value in their work and the secret to high performance and satisfaction is not rewards, but “the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world”.

In this TED talk, Dan talks about the power of incentives, extrinsic and intrinsic motivators and the research findings that particularly for tasks involving cognitive function, rewards narrow our focus, restrict our possibility and lower performance.

 

In his article “Why Corporate Training is Broken and How to Fix It“, Jay Cross proposes that wise managers take control by giving control.  He talks about how corporate training has changed from the Industrial Age where workers were “cogs in the machine” through the Social and Information eras to the Network Era of today where workers are much more customer-focused, are rewarded for innovation and where collaboration is replacing command and control.   He also suggests that traditional training is not keeping pace with reality in that modern day workers are making more of their own decisions and want to learn but they don’t want to be trained.

Knowledge workers, according to Dan Pink, are motivated by three things:

Autonomy – our desire to be self-directed
Mastery – our urge to get better at stuff
Purpose – the feeling and intention that we can make a difference in the world

In order for knowledge workers to be self-directed, managers need to “inspire workers, set expectations, and get out of the way”.  In this podcast Dan Pink also suggests that managers can increase the intrinsic motivation of their people not by developing elaborate incentive schemes, but by helping people recognise their progress, shine a light on that progress, recognise it in front of other people, celebrate that progress and help them stay on a path toward making progress. 

As depicted in this RSA animate adapted from a Dan Pink talk, management is great if you want compliance, but if you want engagement, self-direction is better.