Online course development is making it easier for businesses of any size to break down geographic barriers and build course consistency irrespective of variation in instructor or classroom setting. Many companies are realizing the potential and efficiencies of establishing an online learning environment and many are willing to invest the dollars to begin the process, but a fair share often overlook the work that goes into the transition from traditional, classroom-based learning to a digital or blended (class/computer) learning environment.
What content you want to build into your digital course, whether you want to supplement your e-learning with classroom components, the level of interaction and evaluation your employees will need, these are all factors that will affect how you go about online course development. If the choice seems complex, it’s because it is, but here are a few simple things you can do to evaluate your company and classes to figure out how to best digitize your learning needs:
Know your goals
What are you trying to achieve with your online course? Are you looking to shift behaviour? Change attitudes? Provide enriched understanding of a specific topic? The goals of your course, or learning outcomes, will affect how the curriculum is designed. If a course is designed to train for safety, the best solution may be a video that illustrate how to wear a harness or safely operate a piece of equipment. Employees learning about product details might be better served by text-based material that can be modified with notes and manually or digitally copied with ease.
Know your content
Before you put your course material online, it’s important to do a full content inventory. Do your best to compile syllabi, notes and any other material that will go into making your course. Having a full information audit will let you know the size and scope of the project you are in for. Remember, multimedia can dramatically boost learning retention.
Have an end goal in mind
Don’t just think of immediate solutions. Think of how your course will affect staff in the long run and what resources you’ll need in order to deliver the course effectively over time. Is the course meant to solve a short-term problem or will it be a dependable part of employee orientation. Will delivery be required seasonally or annually? Will you be using internal or external resources for course delivery? Do your courses require updates or approval from any official regulatory bodies? All of these things will need to be incorporated into the long-term plan around your course deployment.
Engage with dialogue
In the classroom, dialogue is easy; instructors are immediately available to explain concepts or walk employees through difficult problems and learning supplements are at arm’s reach. This is not always the case for online courses and it has taken several years of technological advancement for e-learning to progress past a one-way information exchange to become a two-way dialogue. The downside of this process has been preparation for instructors and course designers. While email exchange and chat portals have alleviated the dialogue drought, it’s still up to course designers to tailor information for this exchange, which can sometimes mean rewriting things like PowerPoint slides or course information in a way that promotes digital dialogue and participation.
Instructors can do simple things to bolster classroom engagement and make digital content more effective:
- Ask questions every 5-8 minutes to maintain learner focus.
- Add pauses in material to enable mental digestion.
- Add turning points, where information unfolds.
- Include stories and examples to illustrate complex concepts.
- Include small tests at the beginning and end of lessons to gauge retention.
- Use impact videos.
Evaluation is another important step, and while you may already have tests in place to measure learning retention, digitized scoring often requires multiple choice questions and other alternative testing methods.
Prepare for Blended Learning
Blended learning (mixing classroom learning with online learning components) is another solution to the ‘dialogue dilemma.’ Studies show that blended learning is more effective than the independent use of either classroom or online learning and can be extremely effective at producing long-term results. By using classroom training for necessary components, you can reduce the total expenditure for instructor’s time and space rentals. The downside is that you will still need to book classroom and provide instructors with specialized directions for training delivery