This is an overview of everything you will need to think about prior to creating your first eLearning. Knowing about these topics will save you a lot of time, money, wasted effort and mistakes.
The 14 must know topics before creating eLearning are:
- Training Outcomes
- Training Pedagogy
- Training Budget, Planning and Resources
- Delivery Methods
- Content Types
- Content Packaging
- Student Assessment
- Training Feedback
- Maintaining Content
- Student Support
- Staff Training and Skills
- Technical Support
- Making Money
Now that you know the basic topics lets dig into them a little deeper
Before deciding on eLearning you must first know your Audience.
- What is their learning style?
- How much physical hands on knowledge is required?
- How much support will they need?
- What is their current knowledge and skills?
- Will you need to assess this prior to the training?
- What are their current Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) skills?
The answers to these questions will then shape how you plan, design and implement your E-Learning.
As an Instructional Designer, the name for the person that creates training material. Or as a eLearning Developer, the person that digitises the training content for delivery online.
The first question you always ask yourself before you make your plan is what is the intended outcome of the training? Is it to inform, educate or develop skills or one of the many other reasons? And how will I assess that the student has learned this or are able to show proficiency in the skill? We will talk more about assessment in the section on Student Assessment below.
So to understand what trainging we are going to create we need to know the end goal. This step requires you to right down preferrably as bullet points the goals of the training.
A training pedagogy describes the method in which we learn and the interactions between the teacher and the student. While it is an important topic to know about most of you will use an Adult Learning Pedagogy for all age groups and that is the simple building block style training.
Some others may use a Blended or Flipped Classroom approach. While there is really no Online Classroom approach as yet it will come soon.
The only other thing you need to know is that with online learning the training can be very Student Centric which means each student can have a unique experience and learn when and how they want too.
Instead of the Teacher Centric training styles we have had in the past that are more based on the teacher due to how many teachers we have compared to the amount of students in a class.
Training Budget, Resources and Planning
When you are considering your budget, resources and how to plan for your E-Learning you should review the rest of this article. Then when you know your audience, timeframe amount of interactivity and advanced techniques you will be using this will be main determining factor. These factors will determine the cost, time and effort required.
If you are using your own website you can also load an off the shelf project management plugin to help you with your planning like OpenProject.org, MS Project (Paid Windows) or ProjectLibre (Open Source Cross Platform).
From a resources point of view you will either need to upskill an existing staff member or yourself or hire an E-Learning developer with Instructional Design skills. We discuss more about what exact skills they will need below.
There are many Delivery Methods you can use once you create your content and they will determin the Content Types you create as well. You will also need to decide whether you want to delivery your content via a website, phone app or alternative method or a combination of them.
Some of the delivery methods are
- Streaming Video – Youtube, Vimeo ect
- Streaming Audio – SoundCloud, Podcasts
- Third Party Training Websites – Udemy, Skillshare, Pluralsight ect
- Your Own Learning Management System(LMS)
- Paid LMS – Setup and Maintained by a third party
- Opensource (free) – Setup and maintained by you
- Custom Website – Coded from scratch by you or a third party
- Selling your content as a package to a third party
- Creating a phone application
- A container for your phone version of your website
- A custom application written from scratch (Android or iOS)
The websites can all be public to the world or on your own internal company network depending on who your audience is. Once you select a delivery method this will determin whether you are creating packaged content (SCORM), only videos, only audio, text with graphics or one of the many other Content Types.
There is a hug array of Content Types that you can use for your eLearning but they basically fall into these categories and I have listed some examples of each type in the boxes below.
|Text Web page eBooks / ePubs Articles Statistics or poll results White Papers / Case Studies How to Guides Help Documentation||Graphics Photos Info Graphics Charts Word Clouds Instructions Maps Plans & Designs Screen Shots||Audio Interviews Instructional Books Podcasts Internet Radio Sound Effects Environment Conversations|
|Video Demonstrations Screencasts Animations TV Shows Movies||Interactive / Advanced Games Gamification Leader boards Points Systems Real Rewards Simulators Quizes||Offline Team Projects Assignments Exploritory Excursions Research Tasks Applying a Skill Third Party Testing Industry Meetup Groups|
For a more detailed understanding of the items above please check out this article.
Content Creation Tools
Now that you understand some of the Content Types it is important to understand how you can create the types in each of the categories above. You can create all the content for free or use paid software products to speed up the process.
In some cases the free tools are just as good at the paid tools and on this website I will go through and review them for you and let you know what I think. So lets look at the content categories one at a time to give you an example of some of the tools you can use.
- Notepad / Wordpad / Ms Word (Windows)
- TextEdit (Mac)
- Vi (Linux
- Open Office (Cross Platform)
- HTML WYSIWYG (What you see if what you get)
- Dreamweaver (Paid)
- NetObjects Fusion (Paid)
- Notepad++ (Free)
- PHP Storm (Paid)
- Single Sourcing Tools
- Madcap Flare
When we talk about creating graphics we are generally looking to explain a complex topic with a simple informational graphic. For example the use of a chart allows us show large amounts of information in a simple way.
There are many ways of creating your graphics and we will talk about whether you are creating them from scratch or using a third party piece of software like charting tools.
When you are creating graphics from scratch here are some of the free or Open Source tools you can use ar
The paid tools you can use are
These are the most popular two but there is a huge range of other paid tools. There are also packages you can use for word clouds, charting and more that we will get use.
When creating audio on its own that is not part of a video or screencast you will generally be using it for a podcast or internet radio. Generally you will just be recording your own voice. For this you can start with a simple microphone headset and then buy a more expensive professional one when you are ready.
Some of the good quality brands are Blue Yeti, Rhode and Logitec that you can look at their low end offers or any other basic headset. The hardest thing to get used to is recording and listening to your own voice so just giving it a go and getting used to it is the most important first step.
There are heaps of types of software you can use for this but the open source Audacity is all you will need to get started.
We will talk about microphones and software in the article.
There are heaps of types of video you can create and ways to do it. The tool you use depends on the type of video you want to create. Some of these types are: Animations, Screencasts, People, Demonstrations, Instructional.
With people or demonstrations and even to blend together your videos there are heaps of Video editing packages like OpenShot as opensource and paid ones being Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro X, Corel Video Studio and many others.
Adding interactivity to your training can boost its engagement and there are some simple ways to do that without making custom software or games. Some of those ways can be done with quizes or simple games that most E-Learning Package software does for you. For simulation software you can get students to solve a more complex problem and the software is specific to the industry you are part of.
There are always new tools to use and I keep a list of them for easy access here on my resources page that I keep up to date for you.
When we talk about content packaging we are generally talking about making our eLearnining into a single file that can be uploaded to any Learning Management System. This is generally done in two formats. SCORM is the general type of zipped file and TINCAN is the newer version of bundling up your E-Learning.
The two most used tools on the market at the moment are Articulate Storyline 2 or 360 and Active Presenter. Active Presenter is the up and comer and while not yet as feature rich as Articulate Storyline it is a great alternative for those starting out on a budget.
They both allow you to bring in all the content types above and bundle them into a SCORM package for you or to many other formats like Video or as a HTML5 webpage.
If you have completed any formal courses on training delivery whether for online teaching or in the classroom, the most important topic is how to assess the competency of your students.
This is because if you are a government recognized training organisation, private business, K-12 or University the most important thing everyone looks at is did the student learn what you were teaching.
All the bells and whistles in the world does not make up for completion rates, verified understanding or being able to do the skill you were teaching.
So what are some methods you can use when teaching online
- Exam System
- Live Webex with Student
- Assessment submission system
- Live Video Chat
- Simulation Completion
- Quizzes in Training
Some of these types of assessment can be built in to your Learning Management System as a simple plug in and you can also have them as independent tools.
One of the most overlooked items when teaching online is real genuine feedback. Everyone understands the need for some form of feedback but very few people take it seriously or do anything with the data they collect.
This information is a gold mine of insights to what you are doing and what the students really care about.
In a more Student Centric training world online it is very important to build feedback in everywhere and act on the results. The one that everyone does is a course completion survey using a tool like Survey Monkey.
But few people build a small feedback quiz in each module of their training. Another helpful feedback is a simple button on every page of content like what tech firms do with help articles to ask two simple questions. Was the content useful? And. Does this content have errors or need updating?
As well as asking for feedback you should be running reports on the data that your Content Delivery system provides you and bring them to your weekly or monthly management meetings.
If you are not a large firm then to use them for yourself to make you better at what you do. The quicker you find a problem and fix it the happier your students will be.
Just as important as creating your content for eLearning is making sure you keep it up to date. The more complex the method you use to create the content the more time it generally take to update the content.
As an example if your content is text it is simple and generally done directly on the LMS or in a simple file or eLearning Package tool. If it is in a video you will need to change the audio, text and maybe an animation as well. Then you would need to republish and package it as well as upload it.
I have found it very useful to keep website links for example in separate resource pages as I do on my website so that you only need to change it in one location. This page can be simple text for easy maintenance.
Whether review your course content only when someone complains, when you get training feedback like how we mentioned above or at regular intervals it is important to build into your training plan.
This really comes down to how complicated your eLearning is and how passive you would like the training to be. If you are giving the training away for free your students will understand there being limited support.
If you are charging a lot of money for your training you may wish to consider multiple support paths as well as a student community and for students to use a social learning approach as well.
As a Student taking training online can be very isolating and the speed of response from a teacher when stuck can be a lot longer. It also depends on how easy your training material is to use.
If you are creating training for internal use at a business or for a University or for K-12 then you should already have a contactable teacher or trainer. People think that E-Learning is a passive training path but don’t forget that the outcome is for the student to learn and all students learn differently. Depending on your audience you may have to provide more support.
Here are some of the methods of providing students with support:
- Online Chat
- Audio Conference
- Video Conference
- Web Conferences
- Remote Desktop Software
- Online Forums
To learn more about these student support methods you can look at the article.
Article : Understanding Live Student Support
Staff Training and Skills
If I was hiring an eLearning Developer with Instructional Design skills these are some of the skills I would expect them to have. While you can hire people with less skills, or train someone from scratch to meet this skill set, that is generally a business decision depending on salary and business type.
Expected Basic Skills or Training required
- Basic Graphics Editing
- Basic Animation Skills
- Basic Audio Editing
- Basic Video Editing
- Understand SCORM and/or TINCAN
- Basic Web Page Design
- Content Packaging Software Tool
- Have Used Multiple Learning Management Systems and Plugins
- Understand Remote Control Software
- Understand Web Conference Software
- Instruction Design Skills
For a more in depth look at what skills you need for an E-Learning Developer look at this article.
Where can you go for technical support when creating your eLearning? This is a very important subject as it directly relates to how productive you or your staff become and even whether you can complete your work at all. It is the exact reason that for profit businesses choose paid software with support contracts.
So here are some of the places you can get support as you are developing your content.
- Paid Software Support
- Paid Technical Consultants
- Online Forums
- Meet Up Groups
- LinkedIn Network
- Social Media
- Facebook Groups
- Industry Groups and Websites
Remember that if you are not paying for the support then you don’t have a guaranteed Service Level Agreement (SLA) which just basically means there is no guarantee of the response time or the quality of the response or even if it gets resolved at all.
For more information on where to find technical support read this article.
If you are making training that is not going to be monetized then you can skip this section. If however you are creating your eLearning to make a profit here are some of the ways you can monetize it.
For a Paid Course
- Pay Per Course
- Monthly Subscriptions
- Pay Per View
- Pay Per User
For a Free Course
- Banner or Text Ads
- Affiliate Links
- Upgrades or Add Ons
For Free or Paid Courses
- Consulting Services
- Support Contracts
- Micro Transactions (Apps and Games)
- Corporate and Site Memberships
This list of methods of monetizing your course should get your started when looking at how to make money from your eLearning.