How to design and develop good elearning

Well, if that isn’t the six million dollar question, I don’t know what is!

For me, it’s important to recognise that elearning is not the panacea to cure all training needs. Some things are just better done by a practical, although the theory and watching somebody else doing it could be provided by elearning, e.g giving someone CPR.

Elearning also isn’t really viable where the subject matter could be subject to continual changes – simply from the expense point of view.

That said, there is a myriad of ways where elearning is ideal, but what makes it good?

First, it’s down to the relationship you need to build with your client and in particular, the SME, and establish a collaborative approach in which the respect flows both ways. In the SME’s direction because they know the content and in yours, because you know how to turn it into elearning. You just cannot take everything an SME gives you per se, and put it into your course. If the SME insists on this, they are harbouring a serious vanity/ego issue which you will need to break down if you are to succeed in creating good elearning.

Then you need a good and robust process in which the client reviews what you have done for correctness and accuracy, allowing them to make changes BEFORE the content gets built. First, do an outline design to ensure the agreed content is covered. Then, from this, move onto designing a detailed design. They need to understand the ‘one bite at the cherry’ principle otherwise, you’re on a slippery slope and the client will be getting you to change and change and change, and this is simply not on! They need to sign off both designs before you move on to development. Sometimes SMEs struggle to see the relationship between what you’re showing them on paper (the storyboard) with the finished product – it pays enormous dividends to build a quick mock up so they can see how the storyboard becomes the finished product. Agree the graphic style you’re going to employ. In short, get their buy-in and don’t present them with surprises.

You need another robust process for internal QA, so content is carefully and painstakingly checked for errors – a simple typo can undermine credibility like you wouldn’t believe. All links need to be checked. All questions and scorings too.

So, onto the design itself, which must be based on good pedagogy – always bear in mind that the technology is merely the messenger; never the message. I like to use life-like scenarios wherever I can – get the learner to think, and always remember you’re dealing with an adult audience (unless you’re not). In the main, in training, in my experience adults like to go straight to the hub of the matter to find out what they need to know and don’t like to feel they’re being patronised.

Which brings me on to my next point – never ask a question where either the correct or incorrect answers stick out like sore thumbs. I might be in a minority here – because I hear time and time again that an interaction is required every few screens – but I think it’s better not to have an interaction just for the sake of having one. What I want to achieve is learning which is straight to the point and enjoyable.

There is so much bad elearning out there because it doesn’t engage; it could be full of too many facts and figures that are instantly forgettable, it could be for any one (or more) of a great number of reasons, such as poor use of audio, dreadful screen design, ghastly graphics and non-intuitive navigation – all must be considered – too much for one blog, so I’ll save it for another time. Watch this space!