E-learning – considering the possibilities

E-learning solutions have become commonplace. Even before COVID-19 pushed everyone out of the office and into their spare rooms, opportunities to engage in remote education had grown from classic open university style origins and had, to use bumbling yeti, Boris Johnson’s favourite catchphrase ‘levelled up’. Courses, delivered online with video content and other multimedia thrills, were here for good. Once the pandemic had got us into home working for a few months, it became hard to move around online without slamming into someone’s advert for an online course.

And not only did one get hit by the online courses themselves, one also got regular adverts from course creation experts and platforms telling you how they could transform your course idea into a stunning piece of online education that would kickstart a passive income and have you living on a beach in the Med within about seven minutes. In fact, the industry facilitating would be course creators has without a doubt made far more money than most course creators themselves.

So instead of telling you how you can make a fortune with an online course (realistically – you probably can’t), I want to focus on a far more useful benefit of e-learning, saving time and money training your staff and/or team.

Basic e-learning courses are perfect replacements for human rinse and repeat training. With a little bit of forethought, a good percentage of any staff training program can be delivered remotely with pre-recorded courses. They can be accessed by your staff or team at a pace that suits them (though any platform worth its salt will give you a full overview of student progress, so you can be sure that the training is being done). They can be accessed time and again after the course is completed, so staff can refresh themselves easily on a particular process or system. On a good platform they can be given ‘sell by’ by dates allowing for automatic reminders for individuals who need to go on a ‘refresher’.

So how does that save you time and money? Well, the time aspect is likely obvious. If you are finding that you do the same training time and time again then the single effort of recording that training into a course means that you suddenly free up all that time for other things. And, should you need to engage third-party trainers in your business, again there is a good chance you can be spending less if you can commission that training into an online course.

Perhaps you are thinking – “well that’s great, but a lot of my training needs to be bespoke”. Well, of course, not everything will fit into the online model and nor should it. However, using an online preparatory course first can save valuable ‘on the day’ time that was previously wasted bringing a student up to speed with the basics. I have a few platform users that create courses specifically in this vein and it works a treat.

Of course, if you create something that has a student sitting through an hour of video without any interaction, don’t be at all surprised if the student fails to learn (or indeed even finish).  But, if you can put together an inciteful professional learning experience, you’ll find your staff or team will benefit hugely as you claw back all that time and money.

With that blanket statement out there, let me conclude with a few bits of advice on things you need to consider to be sure that any online course replacing live training keeps students enthralled to the end.

To maintain attention at full levels you should keep two words in mind ‘bitesize’ and ‘blended’.

‘Bitesize’. People often ask me ‘what’s the perfect length for a training video’. There is no right answer here – it depends on many factors. However, I would advise that shorter content is better for learning. As we all know, to eat the elephant you go one bite at a time!

Good online platforms allow you to build up a course in chunks. They call them ‘modules’, ‘lessons’ ‘units’ but they are essentially the same thing – a chapter of learning on a larger course. As an example, I recently put a course up for web developers to teach them how to use a particular piece of software. The course contains 8 modules each with a video from about two to ten minutes in length.

Each of your modules tackles one particular element and teaches your students that. Modules following on from that build on the knowledge gained in previous modules and so on. Keep each module short, simple and easily digestible.

Which moves me onto ‘blended’. People learn differently – some might want to watch your video, some may prefer to read the info. In any given module, provide the same information in at least those two ways – again a good course platform will allow you to add downloadable handouts for exactly this purpose.

But blended also refers to another essential element to the online course – not just varying the way lessons are presented but adding further variation with how a student interacts with the course. Courses should include assessments. They not only track student progress, but they give the student something to do. Multiple choice quizzes, uploading coursework, even engaging in a live tutorial if you want an active interaction mid-course – a good course platform should give you all these options. If it does, you can create courses that blend together a variety of different assessments and interactions that keep your student clicking the next module right up to the end.

And the last thing to say about creating truly engaging courses – get the right kit. Yes, you can shoot on your mobile phone. Yes, you can use natural light. But with minimal investment in basic USB lights, a decent HD webcam (and who hasn’t got one these days anyway) and a decent lapel microphone, you can already push your presentations head and shoulders above 80% of the video content homemade online. I’ve lots more to say about that including engaging professional presenters, animators, voice-over artists, but I’ll reserve that for another time.

For now, I hope that has opened your mind a little to the possibilities of e-learning over and above the rubbish the ‘get rich quick’ cowboys tell you and given you some food for thought. The likelihood is, whether you are an advocate or not, e-learning will be increasingly a part of your world in the coming few years.

John Scotcher
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John Scotcher

John started his business in February 1999 and continues to have success twenty-plus years later. John knows all things 'website' having built his industry expertise from almost the moment the web became commercial. More recently, given his experience and recognising the need for a better online platform for courses, he successfully developed and promoted his own - Tovi e-learning.