How to make eLearning that captivates

How to make eLearning that captivates?!

That’s certainly an ambitious goal! But I need to make this my aim for the most successful eLearning.
I will describe the pros and cons of eLearning when compared with classroom learning. I will also discuss what I see as the characteristics of good eLearning.
Finally, if you like what you hear, sign up to the waiting list for my use case modeling course at the bottom of this post


Is eLearning the poor cousin of classroom teaching?

The characteristics of good eLearning were discussed in a previous article by ESI International.

I’d like to share my findings on what makes eLearning that really excels.

There are some significant advantages of eLearning over classroom teaching:

  • Convenience – access to a computer and internet is all that is required

  • Flexibility – take the course at a time, place and speed that suits you

  • Student focus – the teacher doesn’t deliver all the training material so she/he can focus on the student needs instead of course delivery

  • Cheaper – the student can take the course outside of work time so there is no loss to your employer. Of course, this puts the emphasis on you putting in more hours so it’s a mixed blessing!

  • Relevance – eLearning tends to run at a slower pace over an extended period
    (e.g. 3 hours per week over 8 weeks rather than 3 full days).
    This gives the student the opportunity to discuss the course with work colleagues and bring real world experience into the course.


Some disadvantages

Some of the disadvantages of eLearning compared to classroom teaching are:

  • Commitment – by it’s nature, the student has committed time already and will be dedicated to training for an agreed time

  • Motivation – the student must be self-motivated in eLearning. Also, it’s more challenging to engage someone you can’t see!

  • Feedback – face to face feedback is easier to pick up for a teacher in the same room


Can these disadvantages be overcome?

The disadvantages are very real but are really a feature of poor course design for eLearning. They can all be overcome with good course design.

Good course design is about the course material but also the learning environment and the tools you give the students and teacher.

Take motivation, for example. Picture the scene – you are listening to a webinar but, at the same time, you can’t resist quickly checking your email or look at your friend’s holiday photos on Facebook.

The question I would pose is – doesn’t the same challenge exist for classroom learning? It is equally possible to be disengaged when you are in a classroom.
Boring or irrelevant material will always fail with students regardless of whether they are in the same room or in a different country.

The best courses make students want to learn, you can’t force students to learn. This is especially true for adult learners.

This is why you need to provide eLearning that really captivates!!

Motivation is related to good course design that attracts the student. It also requires the teacher to spend more time directly with the students to ensure their needs are met.

Feedback is not a problem if the right tools are made available from the start of the course. It is possible to capture feedback in many different ways through eLearning:

  • Webinar Q&A

  • Online forums

  • Online chat

  • Student-teacher one to one


The best elearning …

Is student-centered, not course or teacher-centred
it understands the student needs and provides a solution to their problems.

Is flexible
Allows the student to choose when, where and how to consume the course material

Allows feedback
Supports different mechanisms for feedback

Supports students
Proactively monitors student progress and intervenes to resolve issues

Supports different learning styles
includes group activities for those who learn best interacting with others
provides training material in varying styles – text, audio and visual

Is underpinned by a real world case study
Includes activities that mirror challenges students would face in the ‘real world’

These are the lessons I have learnt in creating effective eLearning. I am putting this into practice in my course under development – Mastering Use Cases. This is due to be launched in April 2010.

If you would like to get on the waiting list for this course (there will be a limited number of places), please provide your details below:

If you would like to comment on any of this or would like to ask more questions, please add a comment below.

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About Alex Papworth

2 Responses to “How to make eLearning that captivates”

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  1. Linda Erzah says:

    Great article Alex!
    I couldn't agree more about this article. e-Learning is a tough cookie, so you have to really work harder to facilitate all types of learning. My current CBAP Exam Prep is a lot in line with your findings. That makes me smile! Thanks for the reinforcement!

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