After selecting a learning management system (LMS), the next logical step for an association is to begin creating your course catalog. But for many associations, creating online learning courses is uncharted territory, especially if this is a brand new course. To be successful, a course should help the learner acquire the skills and knowledge they truly need. This post will offer some tips for creating more engaging and more effective eLearning by following the simple Current Situation – Ideal Situation model.
What is the Skills Gap?
Nothing kills engagement quicker than a course that isn’t focused on what the learner really needs to know. Setting clear pre-requisites can help you start out with a better understanding of what the learner already knows. Another way to fine-tune your learning is to perform what’s called a Skills Gap Analysis. By starting with some assumptions about the learner’s pre-requisite knowledge, a Skills Gap Analysis will help you determine what your learners need to know so you can zero-in on the desired outcomes for the course. This approach will also help you decide how to organize your course, as well.
So how do you do a skills gap analysis? First, decide what your typical learner already knows. This is your Current Situation. Then identify what the learner needs to know to achieve the Ideal Situation. The space between those two points is the “gap” you are going to create your course content to fill. The gap should help you pinpoint a set of clear, measurable learning objectives.
For example, your Current Situation may be that your learners do not know how to use a new accounting model. Your target audience already knows how to use a more traditional accounting model. As you imagine the Ideal Situation, you decide that the learner needs to be able to understand how the new model is different from the more traditional accounting model, how to analyze the data and how to identify issues, based on this new model.
Developing the Learning Objectives
Once you have identified the gap, the hard part is done. Now, you need to identify all the specific learning objectives the course needs to cover to bridge the gap between the Current Situation and the Ideal Situation. For example, our learning objectives for the situation we described earlier might be:
Upon successful completion of this course, participants will be able to:
• Prepare profit/loss statements
• Generate quarterly sales reports
• Identify budget overages and track its origins
• Develop a template for client invoices
Technically, a learning objective should have a measurable action, standard and condition. The more specific your objectives, the easier it will be to design your assessments for your course. An assessment could be a test item, activity, etc that measures the learner’s achievement. So, the content needs to cover only the content that supports that objective, as measured by the assessment. For example, to support the “Identify…” objective, the content would describe the statement areas and what these items mean, and the assessment might provide a sample Profit and Loss statement that would require the learner to identify where a specific overage is. If they cannot do that, the content may need to be reworked to ensure the learner has adequate knowledge in order to complete the objective.
The learning objective is extremely important, because it sets clear expectations for the learner – and for you, the developer, to build to. Remember to make your learning objectives measurable and supported by an assessment that can determine if that objective has been achieved. It’s more difficult to assess learning gains for general objectives, so develop very specific, measurable learning objectives.
Do they REALLY need to know that?
Often, while you are designing the course, you will be working with Subject Matter Experts (SME), who will probably be tempted to include too much information!, A tip to avoid this is to gain mutual agreement on the Current Situation and the Ideal Situation, as well as the specific learning objectives. This way, when an SME suggests more content, simply ask them: “Do they really NEED to know that to achieve the objectives?” If so, then go back and review the Ideal Situation, and then revise the learning objectives and your outline. Chances are, though, the answer will be no. If the SME is passionate about the content, perhaps you can suggest including it as a reference outside the course, or as a resource or in a “Nice to Know” section learners can explore on their own.
By keeping your course development focused and targeted, you will have a better chance of achieving that “Ideal Condition” which will make your SMEs happy, and your learners extremely grateful.
Be sure to check back next month, when we’ll share tips for identifying your target audience!
If you’d like to learn about custom eLearning course creation from Digitec Interactive, visit our eLearning page.