This month’s Big Question at the Learning Circuits blog is “How do you make e-learning fun?”
Before listing my ideas regarding e-learning fun, I do want to note that just because it’s fun does not necessarily mean learning objectives are being met, that it is relevant to participants’ learning needs, that it will motivate learners, etc. However, incorporating elements that are fun will keep the learner’s attention, make it an enjoyable experience and hopefully get people talking the course up to others. For me, one of the greatest compliments is when people say, “the course was fun and I learned a lot too.” FYI: If you are looking for a good way to engage and motive learners, in addition to making them fun, take a look at the ARCS Model and Gagne’s Nine Events of Learning.
Back to the Big Question, here is how I make e-learning fun:
- Add humor. When appropriate of course and never, ever offensive.
- Add fun characters. I like to use numerous characters to break up any monotony, add conversations and even increase attention by creating tension between characters.
- Incorporate games into courses or make the entire course a game itself.
- Silliness is a great way to get the audience’s attention and focus on specific content you want to be memorable.
- Incorporate interaction between audience members. Perhaps pose fun questions or topics they can discuss and make sure they know it is OK to have a fun, lighthearted discussion. Incorporating social media can help make this happen.
In regards to when to make e-learning fun, I try my best to make it fun whenever I can pull it off. Some topics do not easily lend themselves to being fun and if it is something emotionally sensitive then I keep it serious as not to offend. The same goes for topics that the audience and/or stakeholders take very, very seriously and do not want misinterpreted as something to be taken lightly.
Before the month of May ends I want to add one more thing to my response to the May Big Question -#LCBQ.
If you read my last post you may remember I am currently in a situation where training must be provided on very short notice and I listed how I am attempting to get this done. Something I touched upon was communication, but because communication and marketing training is very important in this type of situation I wanted to expand a bit more on the topic. I have written about marketing courses before, but the last minute nature of on-demand situations makes marketing even more crucial for the audience to know it’s available in addition to generating interest and motivation.
So, in an “on-demand” scenario also be prepared to:
- Get the e-mail blasts ready with direct links to the learning resources you are offering – make it easy for them to access immediately.
- Announce the course, job aids, blog etc. on the LMS and/or intranet – again providing direct links.
- Give the heads up to supervisors to gain their support and get a buzz going. In fact, getting announcements in their meetings is big plus. Getting face time in their meetings yourself is good too. Encourage SMEs and stakeholders to talk it up also.
Remember, always include a good description of what is being offered and the benefits of participating – if it is relevant, they will attend.
In my prior post, The Other Stakeholder Wants It Now Too, I had focused on the learners’ need for “on-demand” learning. This month’s Big Question at Learning Circuits is “How do we need to change in what we do in order to address learning/performance needs that are on-demand?”
At this moment I happen to be in a situation where a major software system upgrade is going to occur in a matter of weeks. Staff do not have the luxury of waiting for me to design, develop and implement a thorough set of learning events. Here is one real life example of what is done in an “on demand” situation.
- An immediate sit down with the SMEs to identify the audience and the changes to the system (luckily, I have worked with this audience and system before) and to gain access to the new system.
- Use the new system myself to further identify learning needs and challenges the audience may encounter, while grabbing screenshots and creating job aids for the tasks the audience will need to learn in the upgraded system. If you are a fan of the ADDIE model, this would be like trying one’s best to lump the analysis, design and development phases together into a very, very short period of time… It is not pretty, but it is what happens in an “on-demand” situation.
- Get a blog on the Intranet where I can provide ongoing support, additional learning materials, tips and tricks and a place for staff to share their knowledge of using the new system.
- Communicate details about the upgrade including its features, benefits and motivate learners to master the new system. Oh yeah, get them the job aids they need.
- If time allows, I will build some impromptu simulations in addition to the job aids.
None of this is pretty, but this is what I have had to scratch together to address on-demand learning needs in this particular situation. Luckily, job aids and on-going support via the blog should get the learners up to speed for this upgrade… Wish me luck.
FYI: This post may not directly address the question of how we need to change but rather be an example of what is done in one particular “on-demand” scenario. I will say we cannot completely skip analysis and design phases, but need to be able to think on our feet and do our best to conduct very quick, informal analyses and design on the fly in these situations.
I recently posted my response to the Learning Circuits Big Question (LCBQ). It occurred to me there is another stakeholder who may also demand, “I want it now.” They probably have a more legitimate reason for making this demand simply because they are the people that actually use the knowledge and/or skills the training teaches… They are the audience. In my opinion, the most important stakeholder. They do not ask for low quality, quickly developed training. They want quality, effective courses when and where they needed it, but I am sure they also want the instructional designers to be given the time needed to design and develop such a thing.
So, as the “other stakeholder,” what do they mean when they say “I want it now!”
- No short notice (time to take training on their schedule and time to review, if necessary).
- Ease of access (e.g., mobile, social media, off the LMS (at least painless access to what resides on the LMS), etc.)
- Quality courses that keeps their attention, focuses on their learning needs and is relevant to their job.
- Ongoing access to the course and it still is relevant when they take it a year later even when job or skills have changed. In other words, appropriately updated content.
- Ongoing support. Social media, blogs, etc. are good in many cases to provide ongoing support for the course’s audience.
So, let’s not forget the learner is also a stakeholder and they want training when needed, but do not want hastily made courses that do not address their learning needs. Please feel free to use the comments section to add what I may have missed in regards to what our audience mean when they say “I want it now.” Also feel free to add your comments in Twitter with the #LCBQ hash tag.
A Priest, A Rabbi and an Instructional Designer Are in a Bar and Identify a Training Need: A response to the #LCBQ
The Learning Circuits Big Question is how do we address the “I want it now” demand from stakeholders. Of course stakeholders come to training departments all the time demanding training and we need to look at the problem first as Jay Cross was quick to point out. So, assuming a training need actually does exist, how do we approach the I want it now demands?
It is important to note that I am writing from the perspective of an e-learning designer in a corporate training department. This is important because we typically have numerous advantages in dealing with stakeholders that consultants do not always have:
- Corporate training departments have a greater ability of push-back on projects. For the most part our stakeholders are internal customers and we do not have the same risks of losing contracts when we push-back.
- We have had the time to “condition” the stakeholders over time to bring us to the table as early as possible. We have also educated them on the design and development process, and the time required, within the organization.
- We more likely have the experience of working with the stakeholder, audience, SMEs, the organization’s LMS, specific applications or technology, etc. so we can hit the ground running.
Now with all that out of the way, if the stakeholder has the “I want it now” attitude here are some tips to delivering a course sooner than later (never with out risk to the quality of the training):
- Shorten the process – Here is an outline of the e-Learning Process from Inception to Evaluation, which I used for a team presentation back in 2005. If you follow the ADDIE model it is still pertinent and as you can see there are corners to be cut that will shorten the timeline required. I make it a point to inform stakeholders of the process involved, provide a timeline and project management form that helps give them an idea of when deliverables occur and what their roles and responsibilities are in the process. Note: My first cuts in the timeline are to their deliverables. Plenty of time can be shaved off by reducing their review time alone. I still expect thorough reviews, but to be done in only several days not weeks. Other shortcuts may include the needs analysis, which may have to be very informal, less investment in testing, etc. Remember, risks come with these shortcuts.
- Reduce the amount of interactivity and/or media use. Usually audio is off the table first, which I always add last anyway and do not see it as adding much instructional value to most courses anyway. It is as we say “a nice to do.”
And if they still insist with “I want it now” here are some more things that can be done even if reluctantly.
- Up front “just in time” training materials (e.g., job aids, guides, manuals) until you can provide a course. FYI: There are occasions where these actually may be more effective than a course, but that is usually identified during the design phase.
- Captivate demos, Screenr videos, podcasts, webinars, and/or other quick to develop online materials. Note: Although they may be quick to develop, invest as much time into design as you are afforded even if a minimal amount.
- Learning labs – not necessarily a classroom training, but as a facilitator (maybe bring in the SMEs too) have an informal introduction to the subject, or if it is systems training provide a chance to use the system and experiment with what it will/can do.
- Provide a course that has EVEN less interactive elements, media use, fewer graphics with revisions and more instructionally sound content to be added at later time. However, be very careful not to make this the norm and get stuck in the “rapid e-learning” rut of producing dreck and calling it training.
- Be sure to provide an addendum to any course design plan that outlines what will be done within the limited timeline requested and the consequences of cutting corners. This does not solve the problem, but reiterates the need for a more effective development timeline and approach. A bit of C.Y.A. too.
It is important to note that if you do manage to develop something in a unreasonably short period of time, but sacrifice quality it will have negative consequences to learning in your organization and to your department’s reputation.
There will be no shortage of stakeholders demanding training on very short notice. It is something we need to reduce by managing expectations and being brought to the table as early as possible. If you do need to make big compromises, remember those same stakeholders that say they want it now may also be quick to come back at you with something like, “Your training was ineffective. What happened?”
Oh, the priest, rabbi and instructional designer identified a training need, collaborated on designing an effective learning program which was not implemented until it was damn well ready to be implemented.
I have been honored to be a involved in the revitalization of the Learning Circuits’ Big Question. For several years now I have been responding to the Big Question and have over and over been inspired by the questions posed, not to mention by the many fantastic responses and comments. It has also been a great opportunity to interact with other e-learning bloggers. I am looking forward to being involved and also very excited to be working with Tony Karrer, Glenn Hansen, Thomas Edgarton, and Holly MacDonald on this venture. I hope in the coming months to see the Big Question grow even more in contributors and perspectives.
I hope that you will be visiting and participating in the discussions. We will also be tweeting posts, responses and all things Big Question using the #LCBQ hash tag. So, keep your eyes out for the next BIG QUESTION!