5 suggestions for ordering online courses

You have important knowledge in your organisation, but no cost-effective way to get it to people. You've got people who need to know, but they don't want to just read it in a document or wait 3 months for the next in-house training. These problems are familiar to any HR and training manager who has tried to inform their staff about, for example, health and safety, IT security, customer service policies or onboarding.
Of course, face-to-face training can and does take place, but it is expensive, requires a group of a certain size and a trainer who not only knows the content but also has good teaching skills. You can have an in-house trainer make a video of the lecture and then require all employees to watch the video, but how will the employer know whether the video was actually watched or whether they were nodding off in front of the screen. You can write all the content into a document, but blessed is the employer whose people can read through a 25-page manual twice a year.

Online learning is a way of delivering quality content in a format that is engaging for the learner while keeping costs under control. An e-learning course is a form of online learning that can be completed independently on an IT device (smartphone, tablet, computer), with less text and more audio files, moving graphics, photo albums, video clips, interactive exercises and tests. The investment is a one-off - a learning designer has to be commissioned to produce the e-learning course on the basis of existing knowledge in the company. An unlimited number of employees can then learn at no additional cost. Each learner chooses their own learning time, which means that, for example in a production company, the whole shift does not have to be sent to a training at once. The HR manager can then monitor how much of the new knowledge has been acquired by means of tests.

The task of the learning designer is to take the existing high-quality content from the heads of experienced people in the company or from existing internal documents and manuals and transfer it into an e-learning format for the adult learner in such a way as to maximise uptake. If you've decided to replace a slightly boring internal web document with an e-course, here’s 5 suggestions on how to best work with your learning designer.

1. Define a clear target audience and expectations

All design is user-centric, and so is learning design. Of course, anybody can eventually take the e-course, but it's smoothest if you describe the target audience and your expectations as clearly as possible. If you don't have a very clear definition of your own, you can certainly consult with the learning designer about both the definition of the target audience and the learning outcomes, but these should be clearly agreed before the course is created. Whether the e-course is for beginners or advanced learners, whether it should be a one-off or a regular course, how long it might take the average participant to complete the course are examples of issues that should be agreed upon between the client and the learning designer. For example, when we designed the Äripäev e-course ABC of Sales Talk, it was very helpful that our client set a clear expectation for a highly interactive course from the outset.

2. Leave the choice of tools to the learning designer

When it comes to designing a social media campaign or an advertising banner, no sensible client will prescribe which graphics software is to be used for the task. Likewise, when creating an e-course, the choice of tools should be left to the designer. We have reviewed a dozen different e-course creation software suites and have used and tested several of them. To date the Articulate suite of tools is one of the best (modern, simple, functional). However, things can change quickly in the software market and it is not wise to tie your learning designer’s hands behind their back.

3. Work from structure to content to learning design.

Once the expectations, desired learning outcomes and target audience are set, the next step is to create the course structure. The structural plan of the course is like the blueprint of a building, indicating what topics the course will cover, what material will be presented as text, as graphical or interactive elements, how many exercises will it contain etc. Both the client and the content expert should be involved in the creation of the structure, and led by the learning designer. Based on the plan it will be possible to estimate the time that both the expert and the course designer will need to create the course. The expert can then start creating the content (texts, exercises). Once that is mostly in place, the learning designer can start designing it into an e-course.

4. Give the learning designer access to existing multimedia.

It is always possible to use photos from a photo bank, but the e-course will feel much more familiar if the course designer has access to the company's own photos, design files, CVI documents, video and audio material. The perceived relevance of the course content plays an important role in content uptake. The more familiar the course feels, the more relevant it is perceived to be by employees.

5. Test

Once a draft version of the course is ready, it should be given to representatives of the target group (e.g. a new employee) for testing. Learning designer is not a clairvoyant who can accurately predict all the nuances. If an actual test learner takes the course, they may have questions or encounter obstacles in an exercise where course designers thought everything made sense. It should be borne in mind that if the test is given to the wrong target group (e.g. a manager testing a course created for new employees), the test result may not be adequate. Based on the comments of the testers both the content expert as well as the learning designer can give their final touches to the e-course.

Here’s an example that we have prepared, showing an online course demonstrating the technical possibilities of Articulate Rise as well as a possible structure and interactive elements of an e-course. Previously, the same content had been presented on a corporate intraweb in the form of various text documents. The e-course format improves both learning effectiveness and speed multiple times. Following the suggestions above, you can seamlessly work with a learning designer in order turn your valuable in-house knowledge into effective online courses.

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