2018, so far, has been a year of great promise in the eLearning industry—as well as a year with some challenging roadblocks that can potentially derail even the best-laid design plans.
Making the decision to move to an online format for your conventional face-to-face delivered curricular material should always be done with some degree of thought after carefully weighing the pros and cons of such a decision. It is easy to get wrapped up with all of the hype and “cheerleading” that may exist from the eLearning world (especially from companies like ours!); however, maintaining a skeptical and well-balanced approach as you research the industry will ensure that, in the end, you make the best and most informed decision you possibly can—one that suits both your organization’s needs, and is in the best interest of your learning audience.
The following are the top five challenges that you may face in moving from a traditional to eLearning approach for the adult professional learner in 2018.
Today’s learner is more technologically savvy and sophisticated than learners of the past. Even less than a decade ago, one would hear reports from the industry that student understanding of how to use a computer was a real roadblock to putting courses online. Furthermore, no longer do barriers to access include simply having access to a computer. Almost everyone, young and old, now has at least a cell phone from which they can take an entire learning program online. So in 2018, the focus changes to: Can your content engage your learner and motivate them to learn? This brings us to the second challenge.
What I have found most with today’s learner is frustration with anything developed that impedes the rapid need to learn content. The professional who happens to find him or herself in the role of learner for whatever reason (be it pressure for continuing education credits at work or the need to re-career) has very particular requirements of any eLearning program. Deep learning of material is not as important as getting through content so that the test can be taken. If your material is feature-rich and requires multiple interactivity expectations from the user, some learners (especially those who may not have a great deal of time or who are impatient) may become easily frustrated with these “roadblocks” to their movement through the course. As a developer, be mindful of today’s learner and, for example, reduce the number of mindless clickables just for the sake of having them. They may be cute or interesting to you as the designer, but some learners may have other choice words in mind!
Expanding on point #2, the learner in 2018 expects the Instagram and Facebook model of reviewing content. The infinite scroll mentality and hesitation to click on anything that takes a learner somewhere else is actually why we decided to change our website this year. When designing a new program especially for the adult learner, consider having content laid out in a format people are becoming accustomed to. A section of content does not need to be divided into small chunks as was the case many years ago. Neo-eLearning design is moving towards more scrolling so students can receive content with less clicking around.
In order to succeed, every course needs to be designed so all learners can access the material fully in a mobile environment. What this means is that your content needs to be deployable on the smallest screen to the largest desktop. A responsive design is essential, but above that, you need to ensure that interactivities are able to work well across all devices. This is easier than it sounds and may require you to rethink some of the more ambitious graphic intensive clickables. Since Flash™ is close to being killed, it is time to reinvent the way we present content to the learner in 2018. We are not limited by the slide show format as was the case in year’s past.
How do you ensure the learner who is signed up for the online course is really the learner who is taking the training and, more importantly, the one who completes the final examination/certification? There are a few viable options to authenticate learners in 2018, but one of the most promising areas of development is around facial recognition and other biometric assessment protocols being researched (at the time of this blog’s publication). Deciding which one is right for your organization requires a proper needs assessment by an eLearning professional and careful weighing of your budget and other organizational resources. But there is hope for a more streamline solution as technology continues to evolve around this important subject matter.
Overcoming these barriers is about the proper design and the need to stay on top of the field. Being one step ahead of the learner is key to the successful development and deployment of any eLearning program.