Design Trends to Enhance Your eLearning

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According to Learning and Development (L&D) experts, the major trends in eLearning this year were (in no particular order):

  • Microlearning
  • Video
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Augmented reality (AR)
  • Mobile learning
  • Virtual reality
  • Subscription tools and learning
  • Science-based learning
  • Personalized learning
  • Performance support
  • Social learning

That’s quite the list! Wondering how you are ever going to be able to incorporate all these “trends” and keep your training cutting edge? Well, if you’ve read any of my other articles on eLearning/L&D trends you already know that I loathe that word because it implies that a) it’s new, which isn’t always the case, and b) that for a learning program to be successful it needs to be adopted. Trend articles can fool you into thinking that learners will only participate in training or give it a thumbs up if it incorporates these trends, but that simply isn’t the case.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying that these L&D approaches shouldn’t be considered (in fact, it’s exciting to see the industry evolve), rather, there are other factors such as learner need, time invested and budget (i.e., what was determined during your training needs analysis) that need to be considered before you think about the likes of virtual reality or artificial intelligence. Let’s take a look at some design approaches that you can use to enhance your eLearning based on your training need.

Design Trends to Enhance Your eLearning

Challenge #1: Small Training/Learning Budget

Design Approach: Repurpose Current Content

Unless you are a large company with an extensive training budget, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to invest in the newest, flashiest technologies that allow you to deliver virtual-based training or high-end courseware. One of the most common pieces of advice I give to clients is that there is no need to start from scratch. By simply repurposing what you already have, you can create something that looks new to your employees and is equally effective. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Invert your training design – take the approaches you currently use and change the order in which they are delivered without changing the content. For example, rather than structuring learning so that you’re describing something and then having learners practice what you’ve taught, you instead have them experiment or practice a skill and then engage them in a discussion about what they just experienced. This way, the “lecture” or “discussion” helps people make sense of the experience they just engaged in.
  • Implement case studies – using your current content, provide a problem or situation that requires learners to work through a challenge.
  • Incorporate coaching and mentoring or bring in guest speakers – this approach is relatively simple to incorporate into your training and it doesn’t have to break the bank.
  • Update how you recognize successful completion of learning – there are many ways to recognize an employee without spending a lot of money or changing your existing content, including announcements, special events with colleagues or senior management, and certificates.

These approaches do not come with a high price tag. For more information about what has been discussed, click here.

Challenge #2: Accessibility Needs

Design Approach: KISS – Keep It Simple!

“Accessibility” means many things. Can employees access their training anywhere, anytime? Can employees located outside of urban centers and with spotty internet access their training? Can very busy employees access and complete training? And, more important today than ever, can employees with hearing, visual and cognitive impairments access their training?

In order to meet the needs of every type of learner, it’s important that you provide them with options. Online learning is generally the easiest way to ensure everyone can access their learning, but it’s important to ensure that even people with limited internet access can download the information that they need. For example, online courses built in Articulate Storyline or Articulate 360 allow for offline viewing.

Research has shown that individuals have different learning preferences, which means that your content has to be malleable. Basic online courses won’t work for all learners, let alone trendier approaches such as virtual reality. Someone with a visual impairment, for example, needs to be able to use a screen reader (keyboard functions only) to comprehend online content. When was the last time you tried to navigate an online course without a mouse? It’s not that easy! In these cases, the simpler the delivery method the better. I have found that simple videos are the easiest solution. A visually impaired learner can listen to the video and a hearing impaired learner can be provided a transcript of the text.

Challenge #3: Solving Specific Performance Problems

Design Approach: Microlearning

Okay, okay, I know I said not to take trends too seriously, but this is one I can get behind, and I don’t think it’s really a trend anymore, but rather a standard delivery approach in any instructional designer’s toolbox. However, the first thing you need to do is ensure that the solution to the performance problem is training. Training isn’t always the solution! Before you embark on training, consider conducting an analysis using the Six-Box Method or something similar.

Microlearning is a way of delivering content to learners in short and focused learning segments. It helps you address specific problems or training needs while ensuring your learners aren’t spending hours on training. You can personalize your content based on your learners’ preferences and provide different options such as short videos (my favorite), interactive videos, PDFs, eLearning courses, etc. Just remember that the content needs to be targeted to one learning objective or performance problem and that the delivery time is only a few minutes.

Also, keep in mind that microlearning is not a one-and-done solution if your learners need to transfer that information back into their day-to-day work activities, or retain that information for a long period of time. It usually needs to be blended with mentoring and/or on-the-job tools.

So, what will eLearning look like next year?

From a learners’ perspective I predict that it will look a lot like what people are already doing now: reading content and watching short videos on their tablets and mobile devices. Collaboration and sharing content will continue to be important and so will recognition. Do any of these things sound new to you? Ryan Eudy, CEO of ej4 put it best “New developments are not going to come about just because a new technology is announced. The true innovation will come in designing programs to meet business needs”. Most people fear that if they don’t adopt the newest trends that they’ll fall behind. In reality, what we are doing now works well and there is no need to completely revamp what’s already working. If you have the means to try out new technologies, then yes, incorporate these into your training programs. Just be sure they actually meet your training needs.

Conclusion

This article identified three common challenges that you might face when it comes to delivering training: limited budget, accessibility and solving specific performance issues. We then looked at a simple, yet effective design approach for each challenge, and showed that incorporating trends doesn’t always have to be the answer – sometimes the most common or simple approach is enough to deliver something that is highly effective.

Are you facing any of the challenges identified in this article? Feel free to reach out to one of our Learning Experts. We’re happy to work with you to find your training solution today!

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Sarah Flesher

Sarah is an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp Learning Systems and is currently completing a PhD in Educational Technology. Her research focuses on implementing competency-based learning systems in all types of organizations. When she doesn't have her nose in a book you can find her at the gym, on the ice, on the ski hill, drinking wine or in a coffee shop … with her nose in a book.

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