Designing an eLearning course can seem like an intimidating task. Where should you begin? How do you plan your project?
Perhaps more importantly, what can you do to make sure that you design an eLearning course that delivers real results?
Tim Slade is a speaker, award-winning freelance eLearning designer and the author of the book, ‘The eLearning Designer’s Handbook.’ Having spent the last decade working to help others elevate their eLearning and visual communications content, Tim has a wealth of knowledge on the subject of creating eLearning that delivers results. I mean, he wrote the book on it!
Tim was more than happy to share some of that knowledge and walks you through the eLearning development process, helping you to design eLearning that captivates your audience and delivers tangible results.
How to build confidence in your abilities
If you’re new to eLearning, designing your first course can seem like climbing a very steep hill with very few guidelines to help you reach your destination. However, there are some things you can do to help build your confidence so that you feel more comfortable approaching eLearning for the first time.
Tim’s advice is to create a storyline for your course. The storyline can act like a blueprint that you can follow to ensure you take all of the necessary steps to create a great course. When you’re starting out, try not to focus too much on what the end result should look like. Start with the blueprint and gradually work your way towards that end result.
“Don’t worry about the technology of how you’re going to develop it, don’t worry about how it’s going to look – just focus in on your content.”
Tim also reminds you that it all comes back to having good content, that’s the most important part of developing eLearning that actually gets results. So, instead of focusing on the end result, focus on the quality of your content.
How to know if you have effective learning content
It’s one thing to create great content, but how do you know if you have created effective learning content? Have you created something that people can actually learn from?
I asked Tim this question and his answer is really thought-provoking. He talked about the importance of having empathy for your students:
“One of the things that makes a good educator or teacher, regardless of how you’re teaching or what you’re teaching, is the ability to empathize with somebody who is brand new at something.”
Put yourself in the shoes of your potential students. What do they need to know, learn, and do? Many people who are experts in their field can often struggle to emphasize with somebody who knows nothing about the subject matter. However, having empathy for your learners is key if you want to create effective learning content.
You should also focus less on what people need to know, and more on what people need to do.
“If you can empathize with your learner and focus on doing… you’re going to be headed in the right direction.”
Understanding the difference between pedagogy and andragogy
When creating eLearning for adults, it’s crucial that you understand the difference between pedagogy and andragogy. Pedagogy is the teaching approach used to help children learn whereas andragogy is an adult-focused teaching approach.
The majority of people attend school from age five to 18 (at least). This means that when we are tasked with creating educational content for adults, we mimic the same type of learning experience that we experienced ourselves at school. The problem with this is that those learning methods are geared towards children.
Studying adult learning theory is the best way to understand how adults learn differently than children. Once you have a deeper understanding of how to teach adults, you will be more equipped to create learning content that helps adult learners solve real-world problems.
Why Tim updated his book
While working with GoDaddy, Tim was tasked with turning a group of people who knew nothing about instructional design and turn them into eLearning designers. It was through this experience that Tim realized he had enough good content to write an entire book on the subject of eLearning and helping ‘newbies’ become expert eLearning designers.
“I wrote a book through that experience teaching these people how to become eLearning designers… all of my content was super practical about managing stakeholders and managing projects and creating storyboards and prototypes.”
Tim has recently released a second-edition of his book, ‘The eLearning Designer’s Handbook’ and added all of the things that go into creating a great eLearning course.
“One of the common themes in my book is that good eLearning design is about so much more than just instructional design. It’s everything from how you manage your stakeholders to how you create a storyboard to the visual design component, like creating good content is super important. But it’s really only a sliver of creating something that’s actually going to be effective in the practical world.”
Creating eLearning content that delivers results
To create eLearning that delivers the desired results, you must pay close attention to how you respond to your stakeholders when they say, “we need training.”
According to Tim, it always starts when a stakeholder needs training because they want people to start doing something that they’re not currently doing. How you respond in that moment is vital to the success of your course. Here’s what Tim had to say about this:
“How you respond in that very moment dictates whether or not the rest of that course is going to be successful.”
You must be contextually aware of the issue that needs to be solved. Even better, be aware of the issues before you start creating your eLearning course!
“The goal of creating training that delivers results is to shift that moment of realization that you have of what is the right answer to the beginning of the project before you invest any time creating content.”
So, how can you get that answer in advance?
The best thing to do is to carry out a needs analysis and ask questions. Asking the right questions will help you determine what is happening, why it’s happening, and what needs to be done differently. Doing this helps you to be in a better position to make an informed decision of whether or not eLearning is the answer.
Which authoring tools are the best
There are many authoring tools to choose from. Tim’s top recommendation is Camtasia for video editing because it is easy to use and if you’re new to video editing, it won’t take you long to figure it out using Camtasia.
The important thing to keep in mind is to choose the right tool for the function you need it to accomplish:
“I prefer Storyline, but there’s a lot of cool things Captivate can do. For me, you know, so many people want to figure out so many people want to know, should I be using rise for eLearning? Or should use Storyline? Or should I do Captivate? Or should whatever the case might be? For me, it’s about doing what’s fit for function for what you’re trying to accomplish.”
The future of eLearning
Since COVID-19, more people are turning to eLearning solutions than ever. But where is eLearning headed? Tim shared his thoughts on the future of eLearning:
“I don’t know what future technologies there will be but I will say I think we’re… moving in a world where you can do just about anything you want to do without having to write code, whether that’s create a virtual reality simulation, or augmented reality, or an eLearning course, or build a website or create a bot or build an app.”
Tim advises that you make a conscious effort to augment your learning. Yes, more people are depending on virtual training, but that doesn’t mean you have to try and replicate the in-person experience for the digital age:
“I don’t think organizations should be trying to replicate the in-person experience virtually, it’s just not going to work because people get Zoom fatigue, and they become zombies…”
“Here’s what I’ll recommend. If you’re looking to convert something that was done in-person into some virtual format like eLearning, really strip it down and reimagine and figure out what is it we want to accomplish? And how does that translate into the virtual world? Because you’re not creating a one for one experience.