Organizations today are searching for the silver bullet, magic pill, or other miraculous way to dispense knowledge and skills in the shortest time possible. And eLearning appears to be among those strategies.
But, before purchasing or participating in eLearning, make sure it possesses these five key qualities of effective eLearning. That way you can assure it's a good use of even a short period of time.
1. Alignment with organizational goals and strategies
Learning only moves the needle when what's taught supports what the organization is trying to accomplish.
Too frequently, employees attend training that's completely disconnected from the business... and we wonder why the smile sheets don't translate to results.
Effective training professionals start with the end in mind. They begin with a clear focus on the organizational goals and strategies, then work back into what employees need to know or be able to do to contribute to them.
When you can build a breadcrumb trail from the eLearning to employee performance to business goals, you likely have a solution that's aligned and more capable of affecting the desired change.
2. Intuitive user interface
Technology and our use of it has evolved to the point where typical users need little or no instruction to make hardware and software do what they want.
The same should apply to eLearning. But, unfortunately, many programs are complex, over-engineered and highly user-unfriendly. They require tutorials and extensive "getting started" sessions.
Keep in mind that any time employees spend learning how to use the system is time they aren't spending learning new skills.
3. Engaging interactions
The true value of eLearning is its ability to draw on multimedia resources, create an immersive environment, and replicate the real challenges employees face and the real decisions they must make on the job.
Yet, too frequently eLearning looks like a glorified workbook in which the user's greatest engagement involves turning the page by clicking "Next".
Effective eLearning uses graphics, color, photographs, video, audio, simulations, and/or frequently user-driven interactions. If a course doesn't, it may not be making the most of the medium - and it may not be the best eLearning investment.
eLearning is a particularly attractive training solution because of its ability to fit better into the cadence of work. Participants don't need to fly to seminars or even leave their cubicles to build new skills.
But the structure of many eLearning programs parallels their live workshop cousins, creating sequential learning experiences that require a dedicated block of uninterrupted time to complete them from start to finish.
Look instead for solutions that offer 5-, 10-, or 15-minute non-linear elements that users can access, digest, and begin using just-in-time or immediately. That's the kind of flexibility employees need to make learning work at the speed of business.
5. A focus on action
Any learning - whether virtual or live - is only as good as the action it inspires. And the challenges associated with this can be greater without the human connection of a traditional workshop facilitator.
eLearning must draw employees out of the computer and into their real lives. It must offer the opportunity for reflection, goal setting, and commitment planning. It must include the ability to create reminders as well as customized job aids and performance support tools.
Ideally it should also offer a "lifeline" - some sort of real-life support - to employees. This might be accomplished through targeted management support training and follow up. "Ask the expert", coaching partners, and online communities also humanize the technology-based experience - and help employees bridge the knowing/doing gap.
Make sure eLearning is a powerful development tool
Effective eLearning is a powerful tool for driving personal growth, professional transformation, and organizational outcomes. But, not all eLearning is created equal. Superior eLearning delivers a measurable difference; and you'll know it's superior when it reflects these five key qualities.