eLearning is a $56.2 billion industry and it is likely to double in size before 2015, which is pretty amazing. There are several reasons why eLearning is successful and spreading like wildfire. One of which is that eLearning is effective, for both the learner and the organization.
eLearning guru Tom Kuhlmann does a great job in this blog post reviewing some reasons why eLearning is so effective. Tom comments that eLearning supports the learner’s development by providing real-time access, freedom to fail, improved retention and personalized learning. He also states that eLearning supports the organization’s goals by providing improved training costs, decreased material costs, increased productivity and standardization. To summarize, eLearning can produce great results by helping to decrease training costs while also improving performance.
Okay, so you’re ready to jump on the eLearning band-wagon but how do you get started? I have put together a few fundamental questions to consider before you decide to implement eLearning in your organization:
Do you have the technology?
Thanks to the internet and mobile technology answering this question becomes easier and easier. At the very minimum, you need to make sure your learners have access to a computer with a reliable internet connection and a relatively current browser version installed.
Are your learners comfortable with technology?
Another question that is becoming easier and easier to answer. Your learners need to be comfortable in front of a computer with the ability to take an eLearning course with very little guidance. Keep in mind that a little bit of upfront expectation setting can go a long way.
Is there internal leadership support for eLearning?
Now the questions start to become a little harder. Assess whether there is enough support internally. This is important because you need to make sure that your eLearning initiatives are going to be valued and supported. Moving from traditional classroom based training methods to eLearning is a shift and takes internal “champions” to make it successful.
Do you have the content?
Mostly likely you will have training materials you are already using, whether that is PowerPoint slides, Word documents or manuals etc. You need to come up with a strategy on how to turn those materials into eLearning. You have the option to do this internally or you can outsource the work to a content development company.
Assuming the answer to all these questions is “Yes”, then you’re ready to develop your eLearning strategy. You’ll start by deciding whether to development your eLearning in-house, outsource the development or adopt a hybrid approach.
To develop an in-house eLearning strategy there are many items you will need to consider. First of which is your choice of authoring tool. Here are a few items to think about before choosing a tool:
- Who will use the tool and how will they become skilled in its use? What is your users’ ability & experience? What does ‘competent’ look like?
- What is the capability of the tool and cost? Effective instructional design is key within eLearning; more so than with ILT courses as the facilitators personality isn’t there to back up the design.
- Do you have access to technical support? Getting support from people who understand the software is important. If you’re using the tool for the first time, you want to be sure that you have the ability to ask questions and can get the support you need to be successful.
When considering fully outsourced or custom development there are several further considerations to take into account. One very important question to ask when interviewing development companies is if they will send you the source files upon course completion. Often you will get the reply “No”. This means that whenever the course needs to be updated, even with the slightest change, you will need to ask the development company to do it for you, and there will likely be a fee.
These items are just a starting point for considering an eLearning strategy. I recommend you do your research and take advantage of all the blogs, resources and, above all, use the phone! There is no replacement for having a real life conversation with an eLearning expert about your company, your needs and your goals.