Monday, February 6, 2017

Building an eLearning Strategy

Develop strategies that deal
with contractors, unionized
workers and salaried staff.
Over the past several years, eLearning has gradually been integrated into the knowledge transfer process of industry and government.  Unfortunately, the creation of most eLearning is usually based on a mix of existing internal programs originally developed as print, web and video; or they simply buy an available eLearning program from the open marketplace. Organizations simply take an existing program and, more often than not with some minor alterations, upload the content to an Learning Management System (LMS) with short term planning goals and budgetary restraints. In many cases they spend more time and money on selecting an LMS than they do on the actual content. Understanding how to build responsive and effective content is important when you consider asking employees to do some if not most of their training on personal time.

Additional resources, pre-testing, test quizzes; access to mentoring, cohort knowledge sharing, program feedback and a commitment to link outcomes to performance are all issues that typically are not addressed. These eLearning considerations and learning program strategies affect the learner’s ability to change behaviors or to incorporate knowledge into their practices and planning processes.

To be fair, budgets, union bargaining, lack of long term strategies, lack of experience and unsupported eLearning implementation provide some context for explaining why organizations simply choose the path of least resistance. For example an organization might upload PDFs with text and images; or existing PowerPoint presentations; or even use an interactive web site. There are many solutions out there that can meet "budgeted" learning demands of an organization but getting results requires more serious planning before eLearning content gets produced and implemented, even when content already exists. Don’t get me wrong, content that exists is important and a valuable asset that can be leveraged to reduce overall development costs and support comprehension.

The best way to address these and other considerations in eLearning planning and implementation is to develop a two pronged strategy before you ever consider content. First develop a long term plan (3 years) that seeks to integrate unionized employees (where applicable), contractors, regular hourly employees and salaried staff into the eLearning program incrementally.  Three years to integrate unionized staff is ambitious, when you consider the need to address concerns by their bargaining unit. And second, create incentives in the program to reward performance. This can be measured through peer review and annual performance reviews that track and document the comprehension and application of knowledge in day to day tasks.   These two considerations are challenging to implement, because they require all levels of management and employees or even contractors to be invested in the process.  

Once you have that plan documented and supported, next comes the production of content that is linked to comprehension and changes in behavior. Laying the planning foundation ensures you have the tools to more effectively implement eLearning within your organization.  Without it, we are simply spending a lot of money to provide yet another way for learners to forget or ignore what they have learned.

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