5 Rapid Development Tips for Effective Online Course Deployment
By Quinn Rom Ang, Instructional Designer
Contrary to what many people think, the concept of e-learning isn’t new. Schools have been delivering courses online since the ’90s, while companies have been using e-learning to train employees for almost 20 years. It is just that the recent pandemic has accelerated the shift that involves encouraging organizations to adopt the method to deliver learning, keep employees engaged, and, of course, stay operational.
As a result, developing and deploying e-learning quickly has become essential to stay competitive. Here are a few practical rapid development tips you can apply to deploy courses quickly and drastically cut costs:
- Plan and Follow-Through
The cornerstone of any project implementation is proper planning. The same applies to e-learning development. Start by defining the most important learning and performance objectives. Attach goals to measurable KPIs aligned with organizational objectives. Create an outline of topics that helps employees attain these objectives. In addition, development intensive activities such as videos, games, simulations, and assessments should be devoted to these learning objects.
Practical Tip: When creating an online course to teach employees on processing payments, identify options that customers use 90% of the time, then develop content, scenarios, and reminders for these methods. Just because you can cover two dozen payment options, it doesn’t mean you should. Nor does it mean your learners will be able to absorb them.
- More People, More Problems
Another factor to consider is to identify and limit key stakeholders: As more people are involved, the project becomes more likely to snowball into a mess. Recognize that stakeholders have competing priorities and it is important to remind them of the goals. More stakeholders also mean more revisions. After a certain point, revisions become less about creating usable courses and more about stakeholders not being able to make up their minds.
Practical Tip: When developing manager training on financial reports, leaders will want to introduce concepts relevant only to their department. It is important to make these stakeholders aware of the course parameters and working with them separately to provide them with unique learning solutions.
- Design and Duplicate
As you develop more courses, you will learn that many of these screens repeat themselves. Whether for consistency or the nature of the subject, it’s important to plan around repetitive screens during content review and instructional design.
Begin by planning the layout. Incorporate animations, use sound effects and background music, introduce characters, add graphics, and layer interactions. Once the screen is finalized, duplicate and swap out the elements.
Practical Tip: To develop a course on chemical groups, determine where to place images, labels, and descriptions. Add screen transitions and entrance, as well as emphasis and exit animations for the graphics. Review and revise with stakeholders, and then start duplicating and customizing the layers for each element once the design is approved.
- Leverage Expertise
Another effective way to approach e-learning is by considering the level of effort (development hours). The best strategy to control hours is by using the right people with the right expertise. Work with the process owner to refine the talking points, assign projects to developers with the right skillset, as well as organize assets, graphics, and templates into a library so these can be reused.
Practical Tip: When creating onboarding courses that involve videos and interactions, assign video development to a dedicated marketing team or an employee engagement personnel adept at corporate events. Use experienced developers for activities involving lengthy timelines, numerous triggers, and complex variables. Then regroup to put the course together, conduct testing, and perform revisions.
- Trust Your Learners
Perhaps the most important strategy is to trust and know your audience. Not everything has to be explained. Although countless frameworks explain how people learn (e.g., Miller’s Law, Cognitive Load Theory, 70-20-10 Model, etc.), most courses still attempt to overexplain things. Adding more content doesn’t always improve retention or understanding, but it always increases cost and development time. So, teach your learners enough and allow them to discover more on their own.
Practical Tip: Instead of creating a complicated course with dozens of screens, represent the purchasing process on one screen and allow learners to uncover essential information on simple, focused layers. Create two scenarios to show variations and offer links to additional resources to provide learners the opportunity to deepen their knowledge, if desired, and reward them with points or badges.
There are a dozen more ways to develop e-learning courses rapidly including combining different modalities, utilizing existing online videos, creating micro-learning courses, focusing on static content, and rebranding pre-made templates. The key thing to remember is that learning should neither be perfect nor a catch-all, but a practical means to encourage learning and promote discovery.
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