Learning Design

This is another post in the continuing series on what I believe buyers of eLearning often get wrong. As a “survivor” in the online learning industry for last 20 years, I’ve noticed some recurring trends and misconceptions that I would like to share some insights on, from a “vendor’s” perspective.


Tip #2: “Remember the real end product”

Like other vendors, we are often sent requests for proposals (RFP) or are contacted by prospective clients who tell us they need an eLearning course. Often, they contact several vendors, giving all of us the same requirements: they need a course that’s a virtual office environment, like Second Life, where learners choose avatars and explore different environments… oh yes, and the course needs to be on marketing.

Often, vendors will take this information and scramble to respond, by pitching virtual worlds of “lip synching” avatars and full fidelity simulations. Not surprisingly, when the client evaluates these proposals, they get sticker shock when they see the high price tag. As a result, the client may lose enthusiasm and put the project on indefinite hold. Or, the client may select the lowest bidder, move into production, only to discover six months and countless dollars later that they can’t measure a return on the investment (ROI).


Begin with the end in mind

One of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” states that we should “begin with the end in mind.” For any type of learning design, it’s critical to remember that the true “end product” is not a virtual world, talking avatars or even an eLearning course at all. It’s a learner who knows or can do something they couldn’t do before the experience — something that directly aligns with a business need or objective that can be measured.

In this hypothetical example, the end product should have been a successful marketing manager. The experience needed to make sure the learner understands and can follow the process of market analysis, aligning with finance and creating test market plans. All of this might be best accomplished through a simulation, but perhaps not. Without fully understanding the learning gap and the problems within the organization, a vendor might just create the virtual world the client asked for, only to miss the mark on the real end product. A lose-lose.

If clients would invite vendors in to help determine what the problem is, then propose the recommended solution, this misalignment would happen less often.


Case Study — “Do It” Learning

At Digitec, we had a client who wanted an online course to teach search engine optimization (SEO). Instead of proposing a solution, right off, we met with the client several times to find out what the true end product needed to be. The “final product” was a business owner or marketer who understood SEO and could perform web site analysis related to their industry in order to create an effective SEO Web Strategy Document.

Other factors? The budget was tight and the content was very prone to frequent change. Knowing this, our solution was to use Knowledge Direct to create a series of PowerPoint modules that served as the tutorials. These short modules included animations, audio narration and embedded videos.

Using Knowledge Direct, we developed a constructivist learning approach. We uploaded the PowerPoint .pptx files into the built-in rapid content authoring tool within Knowledge Direct. Then we used the “Do It!” doc features within Knowledge Direct to enable learners to create their own SEO Web Strategy Document while they are learning. Do It! is a cloud-based “workbook-style” document creation tool. The feature enables a Knowledge Direct administrator to create document frameworks, then choose where to insert specific prompts within a module. Learners then respond to these prompts while they take the course content, to create their own final product.

Within a module — Demystifying SEO, for example, the learner used the embedded Do It! doc to answer questions and help them formulate their strategy by creating and researching their own search terms.


Learning Design

Throughout the course, the responses were redisplayed, so the learner could revise and refine their approach. Ultimately, at the end of the course, learners had completed their own SEO Web Strategy Document which they could export to Word, .pdf, email or access online. For the client, the end product was an easy-to-update course which enabled them to view detailed reporting, as well as view and comment on the learner’s actual web optimization strategy.


Why this worked…

In this example, the final product was not extremely flashy or expensive. The modules did not include virtual worlds, and there were no lip-synched avatars. But the project was produced well under the client’s budget, is simple for the client to update in-house using PowerPoint, and enables a coach to measure the effectiveness by accessing the learner’s actual Web Strategy Document — the true end product.

Let me know if you’d like to learn more about Do It learning.

If you’d like to learn about custom eLearning course creation from Digitec Interactive, visit our eLearning page.

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