Introducing eLearning in your company
Everything you need to do at a glance
The pandemic recently demonstrated the importance of having digital work tools that can be used in any location. But how do you successfully deliver a huge project like the introduction of eLearning? This article is aimed at all HR managers who are currently facing the challenge of understanding the eLearning process as a whole and implementing it in their own company. Instead of lots of detail, it provides an overview of all the relevant steps and issues with regard to eLearning project management, from identifying training needs to arguments to convince senior management and works councils through eLearning software and course creation to evaluation. At each step it provides links to more detailed articles dealing with the respective topics in more detail.
The main steps before you introduce eLearning
Before even choosing the right eLearning software and creating online courses, you will need to do some planning; fortunately, this is very similar to planning for other projects. Like any project, eLearning projects need clear objectives and an overview of actual training needs. What challenges are facing the company and what training do your individual departments need? Where can online courses replace analogue training, saving you time and money?
You probably also know from experience that changes do not always meet with a positive response—especially if they involve financial investment. So it’s important to get everyone on board—employees, works council and management—as early as possible, with convincing arguments and transparent communication on introducing eLearning in your company.
Choosing the right eLearning software
If you want to introduce eLearning in your company, you will be faced with many questions: What eLearning software is available? Which of these tools do I need to successfully implement my eLearning project and make it sustainable in the long term? Can the software also be used by laypeople? The good news is that there are easy answers to all these questions. Each professional eLearning project can usually be delivered by means of three different software products:
The learning-content management system
(“LCMS” for short, also known as the authoring tool) is used to create eLearning content. In the same way as other content management systems, it primarily provides templates and a library of specific eLearning features. So you can design your own online courses in the integrated editor without even needing any knowledge of programming.
The learning management system
(“LMS” for short, also known as the learning platform): is used to distribute eLearning content to learners and, can be used like a social network for discussions on training-related issues and for hosting events. It allows employees and trainers to communicate with each other, ask questions, and share knowledge. The LMS can also be used to evaluate learning outcomes.
What good is the best information if it isn’t presented in a way that is varied, interesting, and appropriate to the content? Gamification apps provide playful interactivity, making learning even more effective and increasing motivation. They enable you to supplement online courses with flashcards, interactive behavioral training or quizzes, for example.
Decision: Buy online courses or create them yourself?
Deciding whether to create course content is usually a matter of resources. On the one hand, you need the appropriate specialist knowledge; on the other, the materials have to be prepared with the appropriate expertise. You need to decide whether the content can be created in-house or whether you can outsource it partially or completely to eLearning agencies. At the end of the day, there are basically four options available to you. Depending on your circumstances, you can decide which of these variants to choose.
Purchase off-the-peg online courses (standard content)
There are now a range of companies offering ready-made online courses for you to download and simply upload to your learning management system—provided the files are created in the universal and compatible SCORM file format. So if you’re looking for data protection or occupational safety training, for example, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a suitable ready-made course. However, the more specific the knowledge you want to impart—and the more closely you want content to align with your company practices—the fewer ready-made courses you’ll be able to find.
Purchase off-the-peg online courses (standard content) and customize them
The biggest disadvantage of off-the-peg courses is that they are not designed to fit your corporate design and do not contain information tailored to your company or sector. This is why companies—especially large companies—usually have content customized to them. This enables them to adapt it to their corporate design, and also customize texts and images and add in company-specific elements.
Have an eLearning agency create your online courses
eLearning content needs to be prepared by specialists, and can differ greatly from the principles educators may have learned with regard to face-to-face teaching. If you have expertise in your company but don’t have staff with teacher training, you have the option of having content prepared by an external organization. This would mean passing your specialist knowledge to an agency such as chemmedia AG, who would then turn it into the appropriate eLearning course. Combining your specialist knowledge with the educational expertise of the eLearning experts ensures you will have online courses with high‑quality teaching techniques and approaches, and which guarantee the best learning outcomes.
Creating your own online courses
Of course, you can also just create your own eLearning courses. State-of-the-art authoring software such as Knowledgeworker Create provides you with a user interface where you can use drag-and-drop to organize your expertise into professional eLearning courses on the basis of templates. This variant offers you a great deal of freedom, but at the same time it means you are responsible for keeping content up to date. You should also bear in mind that converting specialist knowledge into educational materials requires a certain amount of expertise. Without this, learning outcomes cannot be guaranteed.
Creating eLearning courses yourself
It goes without saying that the goal of eLearning is to impart knowledge. But even if eLearning has exactly the same goal as good old face-to-face teaching in school, it works differently. So when we are creating eLearning courses, we have to deploy different teaching techniques from the ones we ourselves experienced in school or during our later studies. These approaches ensure that learners are motivated and are able to absorb and process knowledge in the most effective way.
But don’t worry. We’re not giving you this information because we think it’s impossible for you to create online courses yourself; we just want to make you aware of the specific requirements of eLearning. Of course, it’s useful if you already have staff in your company who are qualified teachers and are able to prepare online courses. But if you make the effort, it’s also possible to acquire the necessary knowledge of eLearning formats and methods, and educational workflows, and put them into practice yourself.
Professional authoring tools support you with an intuitive interface, drag-&-drop editors, and a variety of preprepared templates and elements.
If we compare the seminars of the past with today’s eLearning, the greatest challenge remains the perceived lack of relevance to learners. Whereas seminar leaders know their participants and can respond to their individual needs, eLearning is often not aware of learners’ requirements and learning environments. The solution is individualization. As has long been known from other digital sectors, digital content can also be adapted automatically or manually to individual users on the basis of user data and behavior, thereby generating an individual learning experience. This is what is known as adaptive learning.
The benefits are obvious: The more individual a learning experience, the better the motivation. There are many customization options. It is not only learners who benefit – you also benefit as a company, too.
Here’s an example: Instead of presenting all learners with the same courses regardless of their previous knowledge, individual employees can skip individual sections or entire courses based on their previous knowledge. Avoiding redundancy in this way promotes learner motivation and also saves valuable time.
Evaluate learning outcomes
When exactly can an online course be said to have been successful? It is essential to answer this question in order to determine what kind of return you’re getting on your investment—after all, eLearning must first and foremost be cost-effective and move your company forward, regardless of any more idealistic motives. At the same time, eLearning projects will only be economically successful if they add sufficient value for learners. The challenge for evaluation is therefore to take into account the perspectives of all the stakeholders concerned. Surveys, tests, and so-called learning analytics are available for evaluation purposes. Learning analytics provide detailed information about user behavior, to enable existing courses to be precisely optimized.
The bottom line
Introducing eLearning in a company is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to invest time and effort to get from defining your goals to a successful learning process. The results, however, speak for themselves: With a good concept, the right software, and an appropriate strategy, you can bring your training measures to a whole new level in terms of quality. Take a strategic approach and follow the guidance in the steps set out above to avoid unnecessarily long launch phases and quickly deliver on your eLearning goals.
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