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Learning & Development Blog

Don’t Disturb The Beast: Three eLearning Pet Peeves

In recent days, perhaps because this seems to be the winter-that-will-never-end, I’ve been a grouchy, semi-hibernating bear who is scaring my colleagues. Observing the third person tiptoe quickly past my office door, I decided maybe I should attempt to put all my negative energy to good use. So, for your reading pleasure, here are three of my eLearning pet peeves, along with some thoughts on avoiding them. Don’t wake the beast.

Exhibit A. Joe in Management (or Legal, or Accounting) says staff needs training to comply with various federal, state, or company mandates. And suddenly you find yourself staring glassy-eyed at a screen as you tab through an hour of eLearning on the busiest, most deadline-ridden day of the year. All so your company can check you off the list as “trained.”

I proclaim: Enough is enough! Below are some thoughts on how NOT to drive your employees insane with bad eLearning.

Consider whether you even NEED an eLearning module.

Is eLearning really the best solution to your problem?

Example: I once had to take a series of new hire onboarding eLearning modules even though I was only contracting with the company for a few months. That was 10 hours of time that the company paid for but for which it received no benefit. Why not put the key points into the contract (e.g., “Don’t bribe the employees.” “Don’t accept gifts from clients.”), have me sign it, and get me started immediately on the project work? You can demonstrate during the audit that I agreed to comply with the rules, and you can fire me if I fail to abide by them.

Sometimes a sheet of instructions, a well-placed email, a contract rider, or an online documentation system will provide everything your employees need, without spending time and money on eLearning development.

Stop over-informing your audience.

I understand the tendency. You’ve decided to fund an eLearning module and you want to get the most bang for your buck by putting EVERYTHING in it. This is where budgetary concerns clash with good eLearning design. Did you know that the average learner will only retain, at most, three ideas that you’re presenting? Therefore, overwhelming her with everything there is to know (everything YOU know) is a waste of time. Focus on no more than three items that you need the audience to learn.

Case in point: Just this week I reviewed an eLearning module destined for medical school educators. Although the topic of the course was how to position oneself to get a promotion, the first “objective” of the course was, (and I’ll save my “what is an objective” rant for another day) to review “the history of medicine and medical education.” Really?! That’s valuable “brain space” now spent considering content that does not directly impact the learner’s behavior or actions. Narrow the focus to what is relevant to the needs of the learner and your business.

Focus on behavior, not knowledge.

Most eLearning can be improved if you approach it with the question “What do the learners need to DO?” (Active) rather than “What do they need to know?” (Passive). How do you want your workforce to change? What should they do differently? How should they behave?

Check in with Cathy Moore to learn about Action Mapping, her streamlined approach to eLearning design. She outlines four basic steps to focus on observable, measurable behaviors, and not on knowledge.

The process focuses on observable, measurable behaviors, not knowledge, and it assumes that you have people currently doing the job who you can talk to and observe.

They are:

  1. Identify the business goal
  2. Identify what people need to do.
  3. Design practice activities.
  4. Identify what people (really, really) need to know.

Because what’s the point of sitting through hours of eLearning if you’re not going to put any new knowledge to use? Nothing! There’s no point, I tell you!

And back to my cave. Just consider these three things. I promise that you will both create more targeted and effective eLearning and will be less likely to disturb the hibernating bears in your own organization.

Is eLearning right for my project