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THE CHALLENGE OF E-LEARNING CONTENT DESIGN

eLearning

When talking about internal training in e-Learning format, companies and organizations often need to adapt and update their face-to-face content to a new online language. It is not always easy, and they know that the success or failure of their project depends on this adaptation.

The need to inform and train

Many companies and organizations have internal training programs for the continuous improvement of their staff. For this purpose, they usually organize face-to-face sessions with different formats and durations in which internal or external experts collaborate as teachers, organizing and giving them.

Others, aware of the necessity to start the digital transformation process as soon as possible in order to compete with advantage, already have digital platforms (LMS) through which they distribute their programs. These platforms may also be used as an archive for all the extra material to face-to-face training.

Thus, many of them have been forced to adapt their old content to a new online format. Given that situation, more than one has faced a serious problem: When their experts have faced the transformation of an information that they perfectly know and manage in the physical classroom, to a new language of distance training (which many do not know, and towards which they have sometimes been reluctant) they have not been able to find a suitable solution and the project has failed.

It is true that when it was about cross-cutting issues, some of them have solved the problem by purchasing standard courses, created and packaged by e-Learning catalog providers. However, most of the times, this solution has not quite adjusted to the needs and characteristics of their businesses and services.

In other cases, companies and organizations already have courses adapted to the new digital formats, but the environment changes so fast that most of them have become obsolete.

Be that as it may, the maintenance and improvement of these internal training programs is undoubtedly the main concern of all of them. Having properly structured and updated information is essential for the effectiveness of this resource, and also essential to obtain the desired quality and the success of the training process for the different teams.

Transmit, interest and convince

When we speak about training, we speak about the transmission of knowledge, about an action that always implies the need to get in tune with an audience. So, based on the fact that this knowledge is always handled by the expert, whether or not they have a teaching profile, the goal is to ensure that it reaches the target group.

To do so, traditional face-to-face training has usually, and often exclusively, made use of a very popular resource: To combine the knowledge and experience of the teacher with their ability to generate empathy and assertiveness with the students.

We all have met those "star teachers" capable of capturing attention thanks to a well-made speech, constructed alongside science and anecdotes, polished over the years, class after class. An exciting staging based, essentially, on the so-called "magic of live".  

But we have probably also met that expert who is unable to pass on all their knowledge, which for sure it is a lot, hidden behind a dull and complex speech, full of technical terms and unable to generate the right emotion to attract our attention.

Therefore, it is not just about having the knowledge: having it is as important as knowing how to pass it on. When we want to teach something, we must be able to make the information close and understandable to all those who are listening. Or, in other words, these contents must be clearly transmitted, interest with emotion and persuade the audience with convincing and unforgettable arguments. We are talking about communication, and these are its fundamental principles.

From the face-to-face to a new online language

When we face the transformation of a face-to-face content to a new e-Learning format, one of the greatest challenges is to transfer the emotion and magic of live classes to the screen.

For this, an essential element is the management of narrative time and tone of the speech. With very little doubt, we can assume that the abovementioned “star teacher” knows a thing or two about this element. But he or she improvises on the fly; he or she knows the script by heart and reinterprets it over and over again in each “performance”. Undoubtedly, this model is wonderful for a masterclass, or for one of those talks that we have been invited to at a congress, or at our professional college, or at TED, etc. wherever the content to be exposed is usually informative, and not so much formative.

The question is… is this model useful to create a complete teaching program? As shown below, the answer is “no”, it is not enough. When it comes to teaching content, be it technical, scientific or humanistic, content that includes concrete learning objectives, something more is needed. It is needed to develop a so-called instructional design.

In the case of e-Learning, based on the knowledge of the technological infrastructure that will be used, we need to identify and define the profile of the student/user, the most appropriate educational methodology to apply in each case, learning goals, length and workload of each course, formats applied to each content (videos, testimonies, interviews, role plays, etc.), tools (interactives, infographics, questionnaires and feedbacks, chats, etc.) and the extra resources (readings, websites, enquiries videos, etc.) which allow us to successfully achieve the knowledge transfer.

It is all about organizing all the information we have and doing it in a properly way, based on predefined teaching structures, sequencing it appropriately to keep the attention of the student/user at any time.

Furthermore, it is very important not to lose sight that the essential objective of e-Learning is to achieve the success of the training process based on the dialogue generated among the digitized content, the teacher and the students.

The renewed and essential role of the expert

Today, new educational paradigms open up perspectives in which the teacher becomes more of a selector/presenter of information and a coach/entertainer than an exclusive transmitter of a knowledge that only he or she has and handles with dexterity. This new situation forces many of these professionals to redefine their role.

We are not talking about impersonating the expert, or telling them what to teach. Absolutely not. It is about their knowledge to be effectively incorporated into this new space of digital transformation. A new role beyond the faithful repeater of master classes, which are now resolved with new online content.

We are talking, for example, of assuming from the direction of the digital classroom the figure of the dynamic teacher of the learning process, guiding and leading the participation of the students, solving doubts and giving feedback on the proposed exercises and activities, organizing debates or investigating and sharing new findings, both their own and those of any of the community members.

Furthermore, their on-screen presence in this new e-Learning format is extremely valuable. For example, it provides credibility and authenticity in introductory audiovisual capsules to the different modules of a course, in testimonial videos and in micro-learning formats (didactic content fragmented into small videos for the acquisition of specific skills). This presence is obviously essential in webinars (online live classes via videoconference).

These professionals are carriers of knowledge. They are possessors of the “what”, so we must remember that, in this process, it is essential to have their knowledge and experience to define and adjust the new structure and final writing of the speech. And also because we need them to continue searching, selecting and managing new content to spread.

Therefore, it is essential to encourage them to enthusiastically join this stage of change and transformation.

Instructional design, innovation and Design Thinking

As shown, when we talk about an online training project, we not only talk about the choice of the best tool on which to support and distribute the information; we also talk about the adaptation and translation of its contents to a new digital model, an essential chapter in the e-Learning needs of any company or organization.

That is why now, and with the help of instructional design, we must develop new educational experiences focused on specific professional environments. Working side by side with the client (the company or organization and its users), hand in hand with innovation and the practice of new project models, such as Design Thinking, iterating through each of its stages (discovery and understanding of needs, definition, creation, elaboration and verification of proposals), we will achieve our fundamental goal: the correct transmission and definitive acquisition of knowledge.

Conclusions

Companies and organizations use to generate a lot of documentation around their offer of products and services, and they need to organize, adapt and communicate it so that their staff knows it perfectly and adequately. These companies and organizations know that the success or failure of their project depends on it.

So, if you are in a process of digital transformation, in which you want to inform and train, you must remember these four key points that will help you achieve your goal:

  1. Apply the principles of instructional design in your training plans
  2. Use direct, clear and renewed language in your e-Learning content
  3. Involve your experts and re-educate them towards a new role of Community Manager
  4. Develop your content iteratively with Design Thinking, in order to achieve a better adaptation

Magí del Campo

Es coordinador de formación, formador, diseñador y productor audiovisual. Es socio y responsable del área de formación de Futura Training & Consulting, empresa de contenidos docentes de Opentrends. Además, trabaja en proyectos para la transformación y adecuación de contenidos corporativos, técnicos y tecnológicos a un lenguaje atractivo, fácil y directo para el usuario.