Transitioning from instructor-led to eLearning instructional design may be daunting because it appears to require a new mindset. But, while the technology provides new options not available in an ILT (instructor-led training) class, many of the instructional design principles remain the same.
The Six ‘Rules of the Road’
1. Know your audience and what they will be doing with the learning following the course. Consider what’s “nice to know” and what’s “essential to know” and the duration of the learning event. This will guide your learning objectives and high-level design that should be signed off by key subject matter experts and stakeholders before you get into the development of the course itself.
2. Chunk your content into sizeable and logical components (we call them modules and within them are lessons). Once the course design is completed, lay it out in sequence and ensure it flows logically, and that there are varied activities (see more about potential activities below). We suggest an activity every 5-7 minutes for ILT programs and every 1-2 minutes for elearning.
3. Provide “milestones” that learners must pass before they advance to more-difficult content. This may include self-assessments, demonstrations or role-play activities, all of which can be done in either venue. As the content gets more complex, continue to roll-up the information into a visual depiction and summarize before completing the course.
4. Provide reinforcement or “high-touch” ideally by the managers of the participants before the learning event (to ensure readiness for the learning and an understanding of the context for the learning or WIIFM) and following the event (to ensure application to the workplace and motivation for continuous learning).
5. Vary activities by considering such possibilities as:
- Role Plays/Skill Practices – can be done in both elearning and ILT, this proven activity provides a workplace scenario and offers the opportunity to practice a set of skills or concepts before trying it out on a customer, client or direct report.
- Video – recognizing that this is a “passive” technology, it can be made more active through post-viewing debriefing, testing, etc. The more customized, the more interesting to the viewer (both in the classroom and on the screen) but can be tough on the budget.
- Tutorials – in elearning, students click through the content at their own pace, listening, viewing, and interacting with self-assessments to check understanding. SCORM-compliant tutorials can interface with your preferred learning management system to record and report student progress. SCORM content also can be moved to new delivery systems as your needs and infrastructure evolve. In classroom training, these are the content presentations interspersed with activities (every 5-7 minutes) to ensure active involvement.
- Simulations – both in elearning and in the classroom, simulations advance the level of learner involvement because they change the conversation; decisions made by individuals and teams change the narration and the course of the simulation. The development of a computer-based simulation integrated in elearning is optimum but expensive. For classroom training, purchasing generic computer-based packages is less expensive than building custom ones. Building “low-tech” simulations can be a cost-effective and a highly effective alternative for classroom training, especially to demonstrate topics such as enterprise-wide systems (SAP), teambuilding, etc.
6. Always remember that learners prefer to be in control of their own learning, so opening up the environment to provide choices or paths that are not always linear can be more engaging and fun. Adult learners bring with them so much experience – regardless of age – that we can provide a truly memorable path for continuous learning when we give them an opportunity for choices whenever possible and regardless of the venue.