We want eLearning – now what? Part 1

This is the first of a six part series on how to implement eLearning.

The first, and perhaps most important step, for implementing eLearning has nothing to do with the technology. It is understanding your training requirements and your overall business objectives. How will eLearning support your business goals? Will it be through the development of online content, improved reporting and management or both? Is it your objective to increase student numbers, increase completion rates or reduce staff contact hours?

You will need a set of business requirements and a list of specifications of what you need to achieve your goals. For example, the list might include specifications on the ability to: provide self-registration; provide alerts that the due date for completion of the training is near; support online feedback and evaluations; support e-portfolios and the marking of assignments online; use online discussion as part of a course.

Once the business objectives have been identified, develop a clear picture of the organisation, focusing on four key areas. The first is the learner. you need to know about such things as their level of computer confidence, their language skills and their ability to self-manage their learning (their metacognitive skills). The characteristics of your learners may or may not have an impact on what eLearning applications you buy, but it will impact on how you design the eLearning, and what alternative strategies you put in place for those who have different needs.

The second focus area is the learning environment. In particular, will the learners be in an environment that is suitable for learning? You want to ensure that whatever type of eLearning you deliver the learner is able to receive it and use it. If the environment is not ideal, it does not mean you do not offer eLearning, but you design to accommodate it. For example, if your learners are in noisy environments with a lot of distractions, you may not be able to rely on audio and you should provide many points at which the learner can exit and re-enter the training. Other things to consider are firewalls, particularly if the learner is in the workplace, access to computers and the internet, and the type of computer and applications they might be using. Whether you outsource the development of eLearning or create it yourself, without this knowledge, you can create eLearning that some or many of your students cannot use. If you cannot meet all the students’ needs, you can at least be aware to them and offer alternatives.

The third key consideration is the technical environment and equipment. My career has been in education not computers, but I have learned that I must at least know the following: any limits on bandwidth and files sizes; if integration with other applications is required; what is available to back up the eLearning; security. When I go shopping for an eLearning application, I know what I have to look for so that it might work, and, because I am not a computer expert, I get technical advice.

The fourth area to complete the picture is the specific training requirements with regard to recording and reporting, and the type of training the organisation delivers. Part 2 of this blog series will talk more about completing this picture.


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