Thursday, 9 June 2016

How to Plan Your ELearning Program

E-Learning is becoming increasingly popular today. Almost 50% of the global fortune 500 companies are using eLearning for training and development of their workforce via custom eLearning, game based learning, simulation based learning etc. Even in institutions, schools and colleges the shift of learning is moving from traditional classroom to virtual learning. It is essential to create, design and develop eLearning courses that will help learners engage themselves and achieve their learning goals. 

Here are few strategies to create, design and develop effective, immersive and successful custom eLearning program:
  1. Know your audience: Before actually starting the eLearning designing process, it is important to know your audience. Your eLearning approach will differ as per your audience. For young online learners there will be a different approach while on the other hand if your audience is experienced, senior professionals then your methodology would be different.
  2. Content should be concise, clear and engaging: Content is the heart and soul of any eLearning course because content adds a lot of value to it. For custom eLearning it is necessary that content should be effective and relevant as per the needs of learners. It should include real time examples about the subject they are trained for.
  3. Accountability Standards: Instructors should be well trained to follow best practices and should be from a range of backgrounds to complement the course.
  4. A Good learning management system: To make eLearning course engaging and interactive, you need to keep up with the trends of new technologies. A good learning management system can give audience different learning methods to better understand the coursework. Learning management system can also help set a platform for bookkeeping issues such as assessments, quizzes, grades, homework etc.
In addition to these strategies, end results of the eLearning program should also be highlighted. What learners should learn, what certificate they will get on completion of the course and how they can implement the knowledge in their day to day work, improve their performance and achieve their goals. Although there is a lot of effort and cost included in designing an eLearning course, all of these strategies have the authority to produce meaningful and memorable eLearning experiences.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

How To Make Online Learning Courses Effective For Learners

In recent years, most of the companies prefer online learning for their organizational trainings. One may wonder the reason behind its growing popularity.
There are numerous reasons but the foremost is the fact that online learning courses give flexibility to learners to study and learn on “my time”. Though this flexibility might result in the deviation of learners from the learning process leading to poor performance, a key factor to the student success is “self-direction”.

Learners can become self-directed if they are motivated and have a sense of confidence. Here are few tips for online learners to make their online learning course more effective:
  1. Know what all to study: Modules or content is a critical resource of any training. You must know the modules you need to study in order to successfully complete your online learning course within a time frame. You also need to be organized. So it is important to have a list of assignments, assessments or discussions to be taken during the course in your calendar with their due dates so that you do not miss them. A great idea would be to review instructions of the assignments and discuss with your mentor for any constraints. In case you think you will not be able to complete any of the assignments as per the due date then inform your instructor about the same.
  2. Create a schedule: You must have a predictable schedule to allocate time for your online learning course. Pace yourself so that you don’t procrastinate. Plan a study time for each week allotting fixed number of hours.
  3. Connect with your fellow learners: Be a part of the learning community and be an active part of discussion forums – in addition to completing the e-course. Use social platforms to connect with your fellow learners. You can have discussions with them on assignments and share documents with each other. Enjoy learning by teaching others what you're learning.  You'll retain the most important topics. This helps learners to learn from each other during the discussions and build up relationships with fellow learners.
  4. Ask as many questions as possible: The more you ask, the more you will learn. Successful learners ask more questions during the classroom sessions which may follow, or any other platform of communication with the instructor. Be clear about your question, communicate it to the instructor properly and get clarification on all your doubts about the course concepts.
Organizations have an equal contribution to making online learning effective for their learners. Below are few tips for the organizations to increase the success rate of their learners:

  1. Organizations should clearly state its expectations for learners from the online learning course. This will create a sense of responsibility in learners and they will be able to perform better.
  2. Instructors should respond to student’s queries promptly. This will encourage them to ask more and more questions and make them understand the modules properly.
  3. There may be cases when learners do not know how to be self-directed.  Give them understanding on the resources that supports them in developing self-direction.
I conclude by saying that making online learning effective is a challenge for both learners and organizations. However, if both overcome these challenges by following these simple steps using the available resources appropriately, then online learning is a reward for both learners and instructors. Like Donna J. Abernathy says, "Online learning is not the next big thing; it is the now big thing.”

Monday, 11 April 2016

Creating Interactive E-Learning with Rapid Authoring Tools

To keep up with the increasing demands of the training and learning vertical, organizations often get bogged. Continuous e-Learning development as a process takes considerable effort and time. To save up on costs as well as time, developers now use Rapid authoring tools to develop custom e-learning solutions. As a trend, this has been for many years now. Most developers depend on popular e-learning authoring tools like Articulate Storyline and Lectora. These tools have evolved over the past few years to different types of e-learning platforms – including the mobile platform as well.
There are many benefits of using rapid authoring tools – for developers as well as users.

  • The biggest advantage of using rapid authoring tools is that you save time, effort and training budget. E-Learning solutions can be developed for multiple platforms and cross-platform functionalities work for all popular delivery devices – desktops, pc, smartphones and tablets. For users it provides the opportunity to access learning as per their convenience, anytime, anywhere. For developers, it saves a lot of time, effort and moneys. So, it’s a win-win for everyone!

  • The e-learning courses created with rapid authoring tools are ready for Web delivery. They can also be accessed on popular mobile browsers for learners who prefer to access learning on the go. Rapid authoring tools now also support HTML5 – to have greater interactivity and appeal for the learners

  • With rapid authoring tool, custom e-learning courses automatically fit as per the the screen size and resolutions of the user device. Navigation Buttons, Seek bar, Menu, Volume On/Off and other Shell features are supported with no additional changes or coding required.

  • E-courses developed with rapid authoring tools are also very lightweight. Thus they take up very little space and bandwidth at the learners’ device.

  • Many interactivities can be easily built in the courses, without any extra efforts. Existing material like content, images and graphics can be used as-is. The positions can be assigned and the courses are rendered accordingly – as per the specifications of the user device. The interactivities include simple ones like transitions, illustrations, scrolling panels and so on. Higher level interactivities like Drag and Drop, Surveys and Text/Data entry fields can also be created as per the needs of the client and users.

  • The courses can also be made downloadable so that the learners can take up courses when internet connectivity is not available or even take print outs to carry when needed.

  • The courses created with Rapid Authoring tools are compliant to industry standards - SCORM and AICC. This ensures that user progress can be easily tracked on the LMS where the e-courses reside.

  • Even if the user accesses the e-courses through multiple devices, the progress is tracked synchronously.  Thus the learner can access the course through multiple channels of delivery – online, offline or mobile. This does not affect the final progress report that is generated for each user

There are many other benefits of utilizing rapid authoring tools for e-learning development. With the entry of more tools with a wider array of features, this is fast becoming the chosen way for most developers to create impactful custom content for technology-aided delivery.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Mobile Learning For Modern Learners

Mobile devices are now extensively for learning, in addition to the traditional use of making voice-calls. With internet connectivity, mobile learning provides modern users with access to learning – anywhere and anytime. These devices can connect with each other and allow learners learn collaboratively in groups. There are various ways that mobile learning is being utilized – and one of the most common is by creating mobile-based learning game.

Here are a few ways that games can be an effective tool for mobile learning:

• The focus of mobile learning games has to be the knowledge or skill it imparts. Corporate learners prefer games which have a clear learning focus and provide multiple opportunities to learn new things within the environment. Learning games can teach new skills, enhance knowledge, provide opportunities for practice and provide feedback on performance as well. This checks all the boxes in the list of expectations that most corporate learners have from workplace learning opportunities.

• While games are very appropriate for the mobile platform and most learners are used to playing popular games on their devices, designing games for mobile devices should take into considerations the screen size and mobile specific capabilities like touch screens Many developers are not very enthusiastic about mobile learning games being touch-screen enabled, due to the simple reason that they want the games to be accessible to the learners on laptops and computers as well – most of which do not have touch screen feature. But this apprehension is beginning to fade as most learners are clearly showing their preferences for mobile learning games – especially the ones that are designed to perform best on mobile devices.

• The biggest benefit of mobile learning is that it provides learning opportunities anywhere and anytime. This benefit is enhanced further for learning games as most learners are willing to try out the game even in their free time, making use of non-productive times like travelling or waiting between jobs and so on. Mobile platform provides an unobtrusive way of learning through games – even when there is no or limited internet access.

• Furthermore gaming is a powerful medium of collaborative learning. Learners can connect with other learners through the game by posting scores or achievements on a ‘leaders’ board’ or sharing tips on a discussion board. Slow learners can ask for help and get it from achievers who have been performing exceptionally. Not only can this boost the morale of the learner’s group but also boost the spirit for a healthy competition. Collaborative tools built within the games like a comments section can be the collaborative ground for discussions and learning. It can also give helpful tips to developers who want to understand what works best for learners and align learning content as per the preferences of the learners.

Mobile devices and games make a great combination, not just for entertainment but for learning too. With the evolution of gaming technology and better mobile devices, the experience of game-based learning is becoming more impactful than ever.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

How Can Different e-Learning Companies Contribute To The Cause of Corporate Learning?

Over the last few decades, information and communication technologies are increasingly used for training and learning purposes. In addition, the widespread use of network technologies has also caused e-learning practices to evolve significantly. This enabled many IT companies to specialize in the field of technology-aided learning. There are various types of e-learning companies that provide one or myriads of e-learning services to cater to the training needs of organizations, whether big or small. Listed below are a few prominent types of e-learning companies that exist in the industry today.
  • Content specialists: These types of e-learning companies have access to the services of Subject-Matter Experts (SMEs) from different industries. They create stringent processes of SME interactions and extract the pertinent knowledge to create the required e-course. They also empower SMEs to provide information in a manner that hastens the delivery of the final output through popular e-learning templates. Once the SME information has been gathered, the team prepares to present it in an impactful manner with the help of relevant instructional strategies. The quality of the content is checked, and all the technical elements are put to the test through a stringent process. The final output is an e-course aligned to the e-learning standards and easily made available on any Learning Management System the organization chooses to implement. Content specialists create custom e-courses for specific or individual needs of learners within the organizations. Most of them also have a ready library of off-the-shelf courses for common learning needs of organizations.

  • LMS providers: In modern times, the LMS manages the entire training function of an organization, including assigning e-courses, managing classroom training or blended learning, populating useful and regular reports, and assessing learners to lay their future learning paths. Many e-learning companies building specialize in Learning Management Solutions and align them to the needs of the modern learners. LMLS providers create a learning platform that has the following properties:
    • Easy to navigate
    • Easily integrated with the existing systems
    • Searchable catalogue making content accessible
    • Mobile compatible to enable just-in-time learning through multiple devices

  • VCR vendors: Virtual classrooms have emerged as a bridge between classroom-based trainings and self-paced e-learning—bringing together the accessibility and effectiveness of classroom-based trainings, and the ease of use of e-learning. Many e-learning companies specialize in creating VCR-based learning solutions. 
For some time, the virtual classroom remained a luxury available only to large organizations, thanks to the high-tech infrastructure this technology required. Now, with the availability of broadband Internet and the new-age conferencing tools, conducting virtual training sessions is commercially feasible and, therefore, becoming more popular. Modern VCRs have the capability of file sharing, whiteboard, live chat for collaborative learning.

  • One-stop shop for all training needs: Moreover, there are many e-learning companies that develop content, provide the technology platform, implement the LMS, and market the training initiatives of the organization. They also provide mentors and administrators to manage the technology-aided learning within the organization, ensuring the IT team is not responsible for the maintenance of the learning management system and is free to carry on with their other duties. This also makes a sense to the companies that do not have a separate team to manage the LMS.

The benefits of e-learning are many. The growth of a number of organizations in the industry assures that any and every organization can now reap the benefits of technology-aided learning.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Effective e-Learning - Converting Existing Resources To Online Courses

Learning and Development managers and e-learning developers often utilize rapid authoring tools to online learning courses to suit the increasing need of the corporate learners and make it available through online learning management systems. This saves time, moneys and most importantly - effort.
It is important that we realize that knowledge resides within the organization – we need to extract it quickly and convert it to technology-enabled format. PowerPoint Presentations can be transformed into online learning courses – with very little effort with the help of rapid authoring tools. Microsoft PowerPoint as a learning tool is very popular and almost everyone is familiar with it. Knowledge managers or SubjectMatter Experts (SME) can provide the base content using PowerPoint and this can then be quickly transformed into e-content for corporate online learning management systems.

Steps for converting a PowerPoint presentation into an online learning course:

  • Segregate sections from the presentation to create ‘chapters’ for the e- learning course
  • Do not create a course with too many chapters. If the course is too lengthy, it is better to create multiple courses. Creating a lengthy course with a rapid authoring tool defeats the purpose of quickly creating e-content. It also fails to make appropriate impact on the learners.
  • Each chapter of the e-course should then be constructed appropriately – with text as well as graphics.
  • Keeping the e-format in mind, phrases or one-word descriptions should not be used. Since e-courses are mostly self-paced, complete sentences need to be used to describe concepts well.
  • External links, resources or additional study material can be given in the ‘notes’ section at the bottom of the PPT slide. The same can be made interactive with rapid authoring tools, using effects like ‘click to reveal’ or ‘drop-downs’. Not only do they make the courses interactive, they also help reduce on-screen text and learners get to choose and access as per their need.
  • Tools within PowerPoint can be utilized to create impactful Graphics. Graphs, Tables and Images can be used to make the content more powerful as well as reduce on-screen text. Rapid authoring tools can automatically pick up graphics and place them as per the design of the e-learning course.
  • In addition to building interactivities as well as graphics, Rapid authoring tools can also be utilized to create tests and evaluations quickly. SMEs can create questions in the form of multiple–choice or true-false exercises in the notes section of the PowerPoint presentation. From here, the e-learning developers can take up the questions and convert them into e-format by utilizing rapid authoring tools.
Thus the online learning courses created are graphically rich, interactive and also help the learning managers evaluate the learners. Out of the Rapid Authoring Tools thatare popular in the learning industry, many of them can help e-learning developers to convert PowerPoint Presentations into E-Learning Courses – including Adobe Presenter, Lectora Integrator and Presenter 09.

Friday, 4 December 2015

How Effective Is Your Online Training Software

Learning through online training software in an organization is a constant activity. However, it is important to implement training as well as assess it on a continuous basis. There are many ways to ascertain how effective online training software is across an organization. With the right kind of LMS and various interactivities incorporated within the content, there is a lot that can be measured.
  • A good and effective LMS has the online training software that should be able to track user data and give inputs on the courses started, finished or left mid-way. Modern LMSs are also equipped to ascertain the learners’ activity within a course and point out sections in the course where the learner spent more time or skipped altogether. This provides a guide to the learners’ preferred learning styles and can help chart a more personalized learning plan for him or her to increase the effectiveness of training. 
  • Informal assessments like quizzes and short tests are commonly used within an e-course to ascertain its effectiveness and also e-courses help learners monitor their own progress. Mostly, the results are given instantly and this helps re-enforce learning. Most online training software allow multiple attempts of a particular test or quiz. By assessing the results of a learner’s scores, his or her progress can surely be measured effectively. If the scores are low and the difference between initial scores and final scores is not much, it could be an indicator that the training is not making its due impact and a different learning path might be best for the learner. 
  • Most e-courses are designed to deliver pertinent knowledge to a learner-group. To make sure that the knowledge transfer has been successful, formal tests are conducted that constitute multiple-choice questions, true/false and cognitive assessments. Formal assessments are also an eye-opener to the effectiveness of leaning within a group of learners. Comparing scores of different learners with online training software can point to the need gaps of training for certain kind of learners within the group. 
  • Finally, we can also use the age-old mechanism of measuring the impact of learning – by asking the learners themselves. Going by Donald Kirpatrick’s popular training evaluation model, we can gather data on four levels – 
    • Reaction: How do learners respond to the course?
    • Learning: What did they learn?
    • Transfer: What changes will they make while back on the job?
    • ‘Result’: What are the business outcomes that are seen resulting from the learners’ performance? 
Questionnaires can be created to ascertain effectiveness of the online training software. Most modern online training software can successfully conduct surveys or polls and can quickly analyze them to provide a suitable measure of effectiveness of an online training.

Assessing effectiveness of the online training software not only helps to ascertain if the training objectives have been achieved but also helps create better learning resources for the organization.