What is elearning best practice?
The modern learner has around 20 minutes a week for learning at work (Bersin & Forbes). That’s a mere 1% of their working week. This might not even be 20 minutes in one go or one place. So, a really crucial aspect of what makes effective elearning is that it respects its audience and makes good use of this time. After all, elearning effectiveness is measured on whether it makes a difference to a person’s behavior or performance habits. It needs to drive change!
“In order to engage with your learners, you need to meet them where they are. If they want short and sweet learning, then offer them that. And critically, it needs to be timely and relevant – learners need to access learning at the point of need.” Towards Maturity
Effective elearning design takes into account modern learner trends and dives into the needs and habits of its end users. Long haul, click-through, interactive elearning? No thanks. Elearning effectiveness comes from solutions that are engaging, relevant and personalized.
How to design elearning: Get to know your learners
Engaging elearning hones in on the audience’s particular needs and performance context. So, it’s vital you always research your end users as part of your elearning development process. This will drive the particular “ingredients” your elearning design should include.
But it should also take into account the habits of modern learners, which indicate where things are going. We highlight some habits of modern learners below.
5 essential ingredients of effective elearning:
👍 Solutions that overtly meet the specific performance needs of individuals in their context
👎 Taking a one-size-fits-all or a “top down” approach to learning
Modern workplace learners want personalized, quality elearning content. The average person gives content around 7 seconds to decide if a page of content is for them or not, and 70% of users will leave if it’s not optimized for them and their needs. (Profile of a Modern Learner)
To capture your audience’s attention and drive a change in performance or behaviors, your elearning needs to be overtly relevant and personalized.
Successful elearning hones in on specific help and actions individuals need to take to improve. It provides specific help in moments of need, and/or provides a targeted learning experience fit for the audience and their profiles.
👍 Content and experiences that connect with audiences and motivate them to do something
👎 Online manuals, technical jargon, passive experiences, indirect communications, click-through content
Is engaging elearning the same as interactive elearning?
For learning to take place and for people to form new habits, it’s vital they are engaged. But what does this mean?
Engagement can come from…
- Being really useful – the mere fact that something is really useful to someone gives them intrinsic motivation to use it.
- Emotional connection – having an emotional connection with content through immersive learning experiences, great storytelling and so on, that connect hearts as well as heads.
- Participation – reflecting, trying, practicing, failing, discussing, doing. Active learning and practice are the building blocks of effective or “sticky” learning. They engage by involvement.
Engagement is not the same as clicking or interacting with a screen.
3. Available on demand
👍 Content and help available when users want it, wherever they are, and that’s easy to find
👎 Content that’s hidden in long courses, behind complex menus or systems, with obscure names
Modern workplace learners learn anytime, anywhere, on any device
Great elearning is super easy to use on any device
Over half of workplace learning happens at the point of need, and a third of employees learn on their commute via mobile devices. Effective elearning is sympathetic to this, and doesn’t force lengthy, hard-to-use courses on people using mobiles. Rather, it provides short form, responsive content. There’s a guide to creating mobile-friendly elearning below.
4. Integrates with workflow
👍 Content and help that can be easily looked up and referred to while applying it
👎 Content that is designed for people who have an imaginary two hours to sit and learn
The vast majority of workplace learners prefer learning on the job.
This means learning through doing, trying, observing and discussing. But it also means that any additional learning – e.g., answers to questions someone might have about a process or what tactics to use – should be easily available and helpful in those moments of need.
Effective elearning shouldn’t take one form, but open itself up to be job aids, resources, videos, and content that promotes and encourages action, collaboration and discussion in various “moments” of time.
Engaging elearning needs to be usable and helpful in the flow of work.
👍 Uses people’s time wisely, is no longer than it needs to be, allows people to do something in-between
👎 A splatter gun of disconnected pieces; just “info” without any support
There’s been a big shift toward developing shorter topics, “resources not courses” and microlearning in the last ten or so years. This is in part because of the shift to people learning on mobile devices, often on the fly, but also because elearning is now competing against all kinds of “quick answer” solutions available on Google and social networks.
Rather than sitting through a two hour-long course and forgetting most of it a few weeks later, the benefit of breaking learning into short chunks means there’s an opportunity for users to do something with that learning in-between, and to build up their competence and confidence incrementally.
Since practice, contextualization, and conversations are crucial for learning to stick, elearning best practice is when it’s designed for shorter sittings, but with pointers to tasks or actions in-between.
“Content does not become more useful simply by virtue of breaking it into smaller pieces. To create useful content we would actually have to talk to the people we are creating it for.” Nick Shackleton-Jones, 15 elearning industry experts on future of L&D
But effective elearning isn’t just short for the sake of it; for elearning best practice, go for solutions that deliver real value and make good use of learners’ time – whether that’s in 2 minutes, 10 minutes or longer.