35 Tips Toward An e-Learning Plan For Your Organization

I saw this, of all places, on the San Diego City College site under their military education department. It is really, quite a well put together list of tips, things to do, and think about when forging out into the world of online learning and training. Enjoy!

1: First Things First

The “e” in e-Learning stands for education — we too often forget that — it is not about bandwidth, servers, and cables. It is about education – first and foremost.

2: Find Your Roadmap

Do your homework understanding the basics of e-Learning — terminology, types of systems, resources available. The task seems daunting at first, but keep reading, asking questions and recognize that it is a cumulative process.

3: The Times They Are-a-Changing

Training organizations must rethink their mission, redesign their metrics, and retool their staff. From “We deliver classroom training that we think someone might need” to “We work with the entire company organization — senior management to individual learners — to provide whatever is needed at each stage of the learning life-cycle”; From “butts in seats” (or even “happy butts in seats”) to “discovered gaps addressed and met effectively as shown by multiple levels of assessment”; From “stand-up trainer” to “multi-modal consultant” (or from “a cadre of stand-up trainers” to “a team of learning specialists: analysts, assessors, designers, builders, and deliverers.”)

4: There is a Place and a Time For Everything

Be assured that e-Learning is not a silver bullet. Refrain yourself from using e-Learning for every training/learning opportunity. There is a place for e-Learning, but it is not appropriate in every circumstance.

5: Know & Respect

Know your team/role expectations and then communicate effectively with the entire team. I suggest brainstorming with the team to determine the most effective way and including IT resources. Respect all team members.

6: Start Small, Grow Later

If you’re just starting out with e-Learning, target a course that is small but high visibility for your organization. After it is deployed successfully, developing future courses will become more easily acceptable.

7: Learning Is Learning Is Learning

e-Learning is just a media, a small “e” in front of learning. Thus, everything fundamental about learning applies as well.

8: e-Learning = Learning

Be sure to wrap the e-Learning experience with pre-work and/or communication (motivation and preparation), real-time support (either on-line or a point of contact), and post-learning transfer activities (further coaching from manager, follow up communications, post-learning reading and activities, etc.) Just because it’s e-Learning doesn’t mean we should forget all the things we know about adult learning, moving new skills to performance, and enhancing memory.

9: The e-Learner’s Pledge

Recognize the skills that serve e-Learners well: Self Advocacy : “I need to learn”; Self Sufficiency: “I am responsible for my learning”; Self Confidence : “I can Learn”; Learning Process: “I know how I learn” and Self Evaluation: “I know whether I am learning.” Without this recognition, e-Learning is at best acknowledged as difficult.

10: Put Your Toe Slowly In The Water

Be slow with the ‘e’ in e-Learning. It’s always about learning first.

11: Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken

Sometimes the classroom is the best solution. Keep an open mind and don’t create e-Learning just for the sake of having e-Learning.

12: The Rules Of The Game

Focus on people, then on corporate needs, then on technology.

13: Those That Can, DO

For e-Learning to be effective in business, it has to support “doing,” not only learning. Go back to a fundamental concept in education: behavioral objectives. After an e-Learning session, the student must be able to DO something, not just know something. If you can’t state a behavior that the student can do after the e-Learning session, you may have used the e-Learning tool as a hose to spray a thirsty student instead of as a glass.

14: Unite, Don’t Divide Your students

Before introducing e-Learning, find out more about the basic skills of the students. What proportion use a PC at work? What proportion have the required PC skills? What proportion are able to undertake e-Learning in the working day without prior clearance with a boss? The answers to these questions are critical in designing the overall strategy (and especially important at implementation time). If ignored, there is a possibility of creating or accentuating a digital divide in the students.

15: Show Me The Way

If the main reason you want to implement e-Learning is to save money … stop and ask for directions.

16: Do You e-Learn?

Make sure you experience being an e-Learner yourself before you attempt to deliver a course online.

17: Become an e-Learner

Experience e-Learning first hand to understand the student’s point of view in an e-Learning situation. What are the frustrations? What becomes easy? What do I, as the student, need to do differently? Do I have enough access to my instructor? Do I have access to the other learners? Do I feel connected to the class? Shut out and lonely? By putting oneself in this situation, trainers can begin to understand what they need to build into their design to assist the learners, who are also making the transition to e-Learning.

18: The “Hard Stuff’ Is The “Soft Stuff’

What’s hardest about e-Learning isn’t really the design, development, and technology. What’s hardest about e-Learning is getting learners motivated and organizations energized. Spending time on the “people-side” of e-Learning will pay great dividends.

19: Bottom Line

E-Learning is like any other benefit – staff will not use it if they (a) don’t know about it, (b) don’t understand it, or (c) don’t get it free.

20: First Time?

Consider blending e-Learning with classroom learning as a short mandatory component. This may help people to become comfortable with e-Learning if they haven’t tried it before.

21: Fill The Gap, Don’t Patch It

Do yourself, your organization, and/or your clients the favor of doing the preliminary footwork necessary to honestly determine whether the targeted reason for the proposed training will actually be affected by training. For example, is the “gap” something that can be narrowed via training, or does the underlying reason for the gap lie elsewhere (internal communication, company culture, management, tools, etc.)? Often times large efforts and budgets are expended building solutions to the wrong problems. Take a little time and money up front to properly analyze what should be done and why – it’s a step that will undoubtedly pay for itself several times over (either by preventing unnecessary training from being developed, or by focusing the purpose of the training that is needed).

22: One Step At A Time

First step: think about Learning. Second step: think about e-Learning.

23: Begin By Connecting The Dots

Always always always start with the business need the e-Learning is intended to meet. If you can’t draw a straight line from the course or Performance Support you are proposing to a bottom-line business result, then don’t do it. The only valid way to “make a business case” for e-Learning is to start with the needs of the business.

24: Training Is For Life

If you believe that your training is finished, you may be trained but you are finished.

25: Just Getting Started?

Making It Required May Lead To Success

Often an e-Learning course is successful because it is required. Associating a test with the completion of the e-Learning effort could lead to success especially in an environment new to this method of learning.

26: So Well Said!

On the road to e-Learning, make sure that Learning is in the driving seat, and Technology is in the passenger seat with the map. Learning decides the destination, Technology helps you get there.

27: Start From Square One

Analyze if/when online learning makes sense in your organization. Perform a needs analysis. Is there management buy-in? Do learners have access to the right equipment and software? Analyze which e-Learning delivery method is best: Blended/Hybrid Courses (part classroom, part online); Synchronous (online course, with instruction taking place in real-time via the Internet); Asynchronous (courses taken independently with minimal instructor support).

28: Don’t Get Myopic About e-Learning

E-Learning is only one of the many, many resources available to you to meet your organization’s learning needs. Use it appropriately. I got caught up in the hype until I was forced to step back and gain perspective about all the available tools and resources. As a result, my toolbox is now equipped to handle each job in a more effective and efficient manner.

29: e-Learning = Change

Treat e-Learning as a “Change Initiative,” not just another training program. E-Learning will represent a behavior change for most employees so you and your trainers need to act as “change agents.” If your organization has a Change Management discipline, use some of the techniques to guide you as you implement.

30: Look For Grants In All The Right Places

For associations and other non-profits, look for grants and other funding sources to get started in distance learning. We identified three curriculum development projects of key importance to the conservation profession and I was able to find funding for at least portions of all three, including assistance for our initial venture into distance learning. Once we gain experience, expertise, a body of courses, and (happy) learners, we anticipate that future projects will be more time and cost-effective.

31: Practice Safe e-Learning

For your first attempt to launch e-Learning in a slightly skeptical organization which has accepted the Business Case but is awaiting the outcome with interest, select a topic of enterprise wide significance which is needed by as many employees as possible and has to be delivered in a very short time. The message is to focus on an operational problem/challenge, see it as an opportunity to “‘sell” the e-Learning, produce something good but simple and practical, and go for it. Don’t begin with management development topics where the immediate gain may prove more difficult to specify to everyone’s satisfaction. Be safe, but effective.

32: Use e-Learning To Solve Specific “Pain Points”

Don’t go for an all-out Napoleonic attack with e-Learning, it might just result in your Waterloo. Rather, focus on a few pain points that can be best solved with e-Learning and just go after these.

33: Use e-Learning To “Info-Include”

e-Learning is a very good way to allow people to acquaint themselves with computers and the Internet. If you have “info-excluded” people that you want to involve and gain exposure to IT, try e-Learning with any content that helps this person to develop their competency on the job.

34: The Grandma Rule

If you are just starting out with e-Learning in your company, assume that your people know as much about computers as your grandmother. Then you won’t be too off base as you work towards changing their paradigms.

35: First Impressions Stick

Make sure a learner’s first experience of e-Learning is a good one or else they won’t try again.

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4 thoughts on “35 Tips Toward An e-Learning Plan For Your Organization

  1. I think I understand what you are trying to say in point #1 however I think how it is said confuses people. Yes, learning is about people and e-Learning is still about people. Education and Learning should NOT be about the mode by which it is delivered. I don’t think many will argue that.

    But the “e” in e-learning is NOT education. We already have the words education and learning and their meanings are solid. e-Learning is most certainly about electronic means of delivering learning content. Ask Jay Cross, the man who coined the termed, and I’m certain he did not mean for the “e” to stand for education.

    We try very hard to not complicate the vocabulary associated with our industry of e-Learning and #1 in this list is not helpful in clearing up much of the confusion. If the “e” really does mean education then there is no need for the term e-Learning and we are all just wasting our time…right? I think the term is valid in defining the technology that has come to define our culture and significantly differentiates new media learning modes from the old school teaching models.

  2. Hey Brent,

    You are commended in raising this valid point. Yet, I believe the writer of this article was stressing “education” because many that are new to e-Learning get caught up in the glitz, glamor, bells, and whistles of online media. We never want to lose sight of educating the learner. Good Instructional Designers should not get caught up in the latest Flash plug-in or PhotoShop filter but in the learning objective for the lesson or course being designed. It’s the old “substance over sizzle” conversation that has been going on for quite a while.

    Keep it engaging, keep it relevant, and keep it fun!
    Thanks for the comment.
    -eb

  3. Wow very thought out list. Another point would be to explore current course management systems and student collaborative software out there to facilitate eLearning. If your looking for a customized version take bits and pieces of those you like best.

    If your looking for an existing course management system you can use an opensource software like Moodle.

    For student to student interaction check out a site a co-founded last year called http://www.GroupTable.com

    GroupTable is a tool that allows student groups to share their notes/files, assign tasks, and continue their academic interactions amongst each other. It can be a great supplement to any current course management system or elearning tool you choose.

    Great Post!

  4. Pingback: team net

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