Bells and whistles do not equal interactive learning

Most of us are familiar with versions of the Learning Pyramid developed by the National Training Laboratories. You can see an example of it at The key message is – the more we participate in the learning, the more we retain.

You will notice that ‘audio-visual’ is listed as a passive teaching method – it does not, on its own, require participation by the learner. In online learning, we often see the inclusion of YouTube videos and Flash animations or movies. These bells and whistles can make the experience more entertaining, but do they contribute to the learning and the retention of that learning? In many cases, I don’t think so.

Nick Van Dam prepared a version of the Learning Pyramid for the context of e-learning – the Online Learning Continuum. He associates the use of audio and video with a higher degree of retention. To achieve this, however, he also associates it with a higher level of instructional design.

To gain benefit from the bells and whistles, such as audio, video and Flash, the learning needs to be supported by sound instructional design that requires the learner to participate, think, discuss or practice.

To develop online learning, ensure you have an instructional designer in your project team. Instructional designers, like the team at Practical Learning Solutions, can customise your content to take advantage of the bells and whistles, or design low budget, effective learning without them.

– Bronte

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We want eLearning – Now what? Part 6 – Achieving success

This is the final post in a six part series on implementing eLearning.

For your eLearning to be successful and give you value for money, people need to use it.

As with any major change, a good implementation plan and strategy for supporting change is needed. The type and cost of the support needed will be determined by the picture of your organisation and your individual learners.

When I have implemented eLearning, I have found a few things that contributed to its success:

Getting the support of the senior executive right at the beginning

Marketing – The surveys I used at the beginning also formed part of the marketing, because they informed people of the change that is coming. They also gave me information about what the learners wanted to see in elearning and what their greatest challenges to participation would be. Valuable information for planning support strategies.

Starting small. We ran a pilot first to test the system and found out where things are most likely to go wrong. It also gave us experience – for example, how long it took to develop the eLearning – and gave us a chance to build our skills and expertise.

If you are looking for a quick resource to help you develop a strategy for the uptake of eLearning, you could try the one on Change Management from MindTools

Bringing eLearning into your organisation or program can be a major change and, for it to be successful to the point of growing a business and giving you value for money, I have not found any shortcuts. I have found that:

  • I have to create specifications that represent the business by making sure it supports the business’s overall objectives, having a clear picture of the business with regard to training and knowing the learners
  • I need to learn about the eLearning technology
  • There needs to be a business case that demonstrates value for money
  • I need to have the infrastructure, expertise and skills to implement and sustain it
  • I need a strategy for change

This brings me to the end of our series of blogs on ‘We want eLearning – Now what?’

The first, and perhaps most important step, for implementing eLearning has nothing to do with the technology. It is being clear on your business objectives and having a clear picture of your organisation. If you want value for money and benefits for your learners, the eLearning technology that you implement should provide a solution to business and learning needs that have been clearly articulated.

If you need any assistance in implementing the eLearning you need, contact us and we will be happy to provide assistance.

– Bronte

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Integrating work and online learning

I recently attended the annual conference for the Australian Institute of Training and Development. At the conference, Charles Jennings spoke about a learning framework, 70:20:10, that recognised the significance of structured informal learning. He also stated that there is less incentive to take people away from work and put them in a classroom. Roger Collins also challenged us to consider whether or not training and development is losing its relevance.

This presents a great opportunity for online learning – not as a replacement for instructor led training, but as an avenue for integrating work and learning. It can support the blend of experience, practice, conversation and reflection that Jennings identified as the key elements required for learning to occur.

As an organisation, we find it very challenging to control the quality and message of informal learning and to bring it into our existing and mandatory reporting requirements. Again, online learning can provide some measure of control of the message and reporting.

As an eLearning developer, my challenge is to illustrate these benefits to potential clients. People should be offered well designed learning opportunities that give them the kind of learning experience they deserve. Unfortunately, this has not always been the experience of online learning.

I recently met with a client to approve the content we had developed for an online course. The client was very happy with the work and, just as we were finishing our meeting, she remarked that the content did not treat her as an idiot! That had been her previous experience. It was fortunate for us that she was given the opportunity to see that online learning can provide a valuable learning experience.

Do not dismiss online learning because of a poor experience. Consider how it could have been done with a different instructional design and different writing style. Perhaps it can help your organisation to better integrate learning and work.

– Bronte

We want eLearning – now what? Part 5 – Value for money

When implementing eLearning, the goal is to provide an eLearning strategy that delivers an appropriate cost benefit.

What does eLearning cost?

For this, I will refer to a report by the Chapman Alliance – How Long Does it Take to Create Learning?  According to this report, the average internal cost for creating 1 finished hour of Level 2 eLearning is 184 hours or US$18,583. To this, you can add the cost of any applications, training staff and implementing change.

Will eLearning save you money?

eLearning has the potential to save you money if you have a large budget for travel and accommodation to provide training or you significantly reduce classroom or contact time. In most cases, however, I have found that eLearning does not save money, but it opens up opportunities to increase income or prevent additional costs.

To determine at what point it becomes economical, consider:

  • How often will the training be repeated?
    Online training can be developed once and re-used, whereas the number of classroom hours for instructor led continues to increase.
  • Do the learners or instructors need to travel?
    Online learning can reduce travel costs.

The next blog will be the final in this series and will talk about the process of implementing the eLearning strategy.

– Bronte

We want eLearning – now what? Part 4 – Expertise and skills

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

Once you know what you want to implement, the success of the eLearning will depend on having people with the appropriate knowledge and skills

In February 2011, the Flexible Learning Advisory Group published the report – Enabling workforce development – insights from industries using e-learning.  Their research indicated that in-house expertise in eLearning improves the chances of embedding eLearning in workforce development.

What knowledge and skills are needed?

In 2001, the Australian Institute of Training and Development published a special report on eLearning. Although this is an old report, much of the information provided is still correct. The technology since 2001 has changed but the challenges of implementing eLearning are the same.

Part of this report identified the skills needed to implement eLearning. I would like to highlight what I consider to be the most important.

To select and implement the system you need the capacity to – complete a business analysis  to work out the requirements; write and evaluate tenders and contracts; understand some of the technical aspects and manage projects.

To create the eLearning, you need expertise in – instructional design, writing for online, using the eLearning applications, graphic design and, if needed, online communication tools.

All the skills are required but the extent to which you need them will depend on the size and complexity of your organisation and the eLearning strategy. It is very rare that all the skills are held by one person. If you do not have all the expertise in-house, how will you fill the gaps – train staff, hire staff or out-source?

Different organisations approach the provision of expertise and skills in different ways. The Australian Flexible Learning Framework published a document called Practices that sustain eLearningtraining solutions.  In it, they identify four models to support eLearning expertise in an organisation:

  1. Central unit that provides a one-stop-shop for expertise throughout the organisation
  2. Central unit that works with internal champions in units of the organisation. Similar to having users scattered throughout the organisation but with a super user in the central unit for more complex projects, and support.
  3. Decentralised model where each organisational unit manages their eLearning. This can be difficult for quality control but if the amount eLearning is extensive, it could be the preferred model.
  4. Internal and external model, with internal eLearning champions and some eLearning technology, but most of the expertise is provided by external agent.

Regardless of which model you follow, you will need some in-house expertise in eLearning and you will need to build staff capability. The strategy and cost for this becomes part of the business case, along with the cost of the technology.

The next topic in this blog series, therefore, is about the business case and value for money – We want eLearning – now what? Part 5

– Bronte