Tuesday, October 16, 2012

E-Learning Delivery: The Four Steps

We work with many national and international organizations in the delivery of learning.  Learning can take many forms but for the purposes of this discussion I have chosen to focus on E-Learning medium.
The lessons we have learned about E-Learning, and that are reviewed here can be applied to any form of learning.

There are four unique components that must be addressed when considering a new education, awareness or communication initiative.  Such initiatives can include delivering specific knowledge to the general membership of an organizational body, communicating guidelines and protocols to employees of a company or even informing a broad public audience. Regardless of the audience, the four steps of delivery must be observed if the project is to be successful. The four steps in order of implementation are Strategic Planning, Content Development, Implementation and Promotion.   

Strategic planning for E-learning, on the surface appears relatively simple but I would suggest that it is far from it. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, E-Learning is not a layered on delivery medium it is unique, and it combines all previous delivery methods of information and education delivery into one medium, i.e., video, text, images, simulations, interactivity, threshold learning imperatives, etc., and as a result is must be include both a short term and a longer term strategic plan since its implementation demands changes in administration, policies and protocols and responsibilities within the organization responsible. While this may seem daunting it can be implemented in a phased in approach that allows the originating body to learn as it implements and to allow learners to participate in that process. Strategic planning also includes one additional important aspect and that is it helps define what content will be included and what level of expertise is required to help define that level of knowledge.

The next step is fairly simple, content development has utilized the same basic methodology since the industrial revolution.  The body implementing the learning brings together a committee or group of experts that have a broad cross section expertise directly relating to the content as defined by the strategic plan. Usually they represent a fairly academic group depending on the industry and knowledge being delivered.  The one trait most subject matter experts share is a lack of understanding of the medium they are working in -  and a general uneasiness in dealing with instructional designers or those providing the interactive experience that engages learners.  This is often the result of having to allow developers to work with the content where subject matter experts cannot exercise direct control over content.  This is usually overcome once the subject matter experts have an opportunity to view the results of the interactive process.  

The implementation is standard for the most part but as well, however, in the case of E-learning there can be, “a few curves in the road” so to speak. Organizations typically have to grapple with defining an effective way to manage and administer learning in a way that can include a dialogue with learners and include learners input and feedback. This can be difficult with reduced budgets and increased staff responsibilities.  This is where longer term planning has a more direct impact on delivery; and understanding that budgeting and staff responsibilities can be streamlined when E-Learning is implemented as a replacement for traditional learning as to realize better cost management and knowledge retention.

The final step in the delivery process is promotion and I have blogged about this a few times in the past. Promotion is often overlooked and under-appreciated. Most organizations whether we are referring to a membership body or a corporation believe that “if we build it they will come.”  Have faith brothers and sisters – we put it on our web site, we have announced it in the newsletter and we even sent them an e-mail with links.  All must do steps, but these fall far short from inspiring or engaging learners; and it does little to encourage them to buy into the benefit of that very specific information you are providing. If an organization has spent all that time and effort to create information, why is there no plan to promote the value of the content and its benefits to learners above and beyond the standard methods?  Organizations must employ what ad agencies have known forever, an event around the delivery of a valuable product.  Gaining participation in advance from your potential learning audience through events and teasers helps create awareness and anticipation. Using social media forums, contests and rewarding participation creates a buzz around the delivery creating a general groundswell of support for the information and awareness and its underscores the value that the organization places on information.

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