What is talent? Is it inborn? Or can it be cultivated over time? Now, more than ever, business owners are answering in the affirmative, and they’re using e-learning (such as training courses) to prove it. Did you know that 77% of US companies used online learning in 2017? In fact, the e-learning industry is predicted to reach nearly $375 billion in annual revenues by 2026.
It’s not difficult to understand why. In the face of an increasingly globalized marketplace and technologies emerging and advancing at breakneck speed, continuous innovation is more important than ever to a business’s survival. However, companies’ need to consistently evolve in order to remain competitive creates significant employee skill gaps, and business leaders are turning to e-learning to fill that void. But not all e-learning approaches are created equal.
While well-designed training courses enrich and empower employees, poorly crafted ones are not only frustrating for e-learners, but they’re also ultimately a waste of company time and resources. If you are a training provider, those disappointing learning outcomes can wreak havoc on your bottom line. So, what can be done to optimize course design and delivery? How can you ensure that your online courses achieve the vast potential of e-learning at its finest?
In the end, effective e-learning courses have certain characteristics in common, regardless of the specific learning content or development goals. All effective online courses are relevant, timely, user-friendly, and actionable. Attaining such attributes means using course design strategies that emphasize customization, intuitiveness, modifiability, utility, and functionality.
1. Design for Efficiency and Relevance
One of your most important responsibilities when developing or delivering an online course is to understand and prioritize the unique needs of your target learners. When designing for adult learners and working professionals, you must accommodate both the constraints under which your learners operate and the goals that they bring to their training processes.
For instance, studies show that e-learners typically spend only 1.6 hours per week on their online courses. This is not a matter of learner apathy; it’s a matter of pragmatics. Your learners are tasked with managing a host of personal and professional responsibilities in addition to their training and development activities. Between work obligations and home responsibilities, your learners have only so much time, energy, and focus left to dedicate to your online course.
That requires you to be strict in your course design and delivery. Every choice made in regard to curriculum must be driven by questions of relevance and utility. It’s essential for you to understand why your learners need to know the information that you’re providing, and your learners must understand this as well. Research into adult learning theory affirms time and again that adult learner success depends on content that is relevant to the learners’ unique needs. If your content is not clearly tailored to your target learners’ goals, they simply won’t engage.
Similarly, if your content is not relevant and timely, tied to the specific needs and characteristics of the industry for which your training courses are designed, then clients will see little, if any, return on investment for their businesses.
This speaks to the necessity of strategic design and course customization capabilities. E-learning needs will vary widely from organization to organization, learner to learner, and event to event. Relying on a one-size-fits-all approach to e-learning invites inefficiency and all but guarantees waste and inefficacy, both for the organization and for learners. Thus, every element of course design should clearly align with and support tangible learning goals.
2. Focus on Function and Adaptability in E-learning Platforms and Technologies
If you have ever designed or taught an online course, you know that the status quo is the enemy of true learning, the antithesis of continuous development. As Amit Nagpal, ATD Master Trainer, notes, “Learning is essential to our existence. Just like food nourishes our bodies, information and continued learning nourishes our minds. Lifelong learning is an indispensable tool for every career and organization.”
E-learning courses must be designed to grow and evolve both with the learner and the organization. After all, the survival of any enterprise depends on its ability to accommodate to and thrive in ever-evolving business environments. A company’s workforce must be equally agile. A responsive training and development strategy is crucial for cultivating such workforce agility. So, you must be flexible in your curriculum design and course delivery strategy. You also need e-learning technologies that are similarly flexible and easily modifiable to accommodate the evolving needs of employees and enterprises, including the ability to add content to existing training courses or to integrate with your clients’ own LMS.
The ability to integrate with another LMS enables you to host and control content on your own system and gives your clients the flexibility to deliver that content to their learners through their own legacy LMS platform. This leverages the capabilities of new and legacy systems without the cost, time, and effort of a full-scale systems migration.
Choosing tools that enable you to customize, modify, and integrate systems will ensure that your e-learning platforms can scale and develop with you, your employees, and your business. If you’re not designing for your own business, but rather for your clients’ companies, such system agility will ensure that your customers are receiving the ultimate in service and value. They won’t need to scrap existing platforms to install new e-learning systems or complete future upgrades and adjustments.
Function and adaptability are about more than just designing strategically and choosing technologies that allow for integration and customization. Now, e-learners need choices in their learning modalities. Learners want—and need—to be able to access course content not only on their computers but also through a range of devices, from smartphones to tablets and from Apple to Android. The omnichannel experience has been strongly associated with e-learner engagement and overall learner success. Your design and delivery strategies must include content and technology optimized for mobile devices, including social learning opportunities.
3. Promote Sales and Support
When you’re designing and delivering your online course, you need to focus on the curriculum and the e-learning technologies required to deliver it most effectively. Your business, learners, and clients will not only appreciate but also likely expect bonus functionalities that will enhance the e-learning experience.
For example, studies show that e-learners benefit greatly from access to high-quality technical support. This is also fundamental to the success of training providers. After all, whether you are a learner, teacher, or course developer, the odds are that technology is advancing faster than you can keep pace. The ability to access consistent, knowledgeable support with your e-learning technologies is of paramount importance for stakeholders, regardless of their particular technical skill levels or familiarity with e-learning systems.
Another valuable resource that business leaders and e-learners alike are looking for is the ability to easily purchase and access their desired courses. Integrating your online courses with a platform such as Shopify is a terrific strategy for supporting sales by driving customer awareness and facilitating course access. Clients can use Shopify to purchase access to their courses and be immediately redirected to the LMS. Moreover, customers can purchase multiple seats to a course and easily assign them directly to designated learners.
The Time Is Now
In an environment in which more employers are pursuing online professional development opportunities for their workforce, the time has perhaps never been better to drive your organization’s competitive positioning and grow your company’s share in an industry poised for explosive growth in the coming years.
The e-learning industry is vast and rapidly growing. That’s not surprising, given the enormous potential of online training to spur employee productivity, efficiency, and performance. However, developing and delivering an effective e-learning course is about more than simply translating learning content into digital format. It requires strategy and precision and a focus on customization, adaptability, mobility, support, and superior functionality.
Here at Firmwater, we don’t just sell an LMS for training providers. We partner with our clients, giving them the tools and insights they need to implement the best practices in e-learning course development, growth, and delivery. We care too much about our customers’ businesses to have them wade through forums and chatbots for help.
Ready to use an LMS that’s designed for the way YOU work, with a team dedicated to YOUR needs? Book a no-obligation consultation directly with our team today!