Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Factors to Consider When Planning to Use E-learning

I am currently attending a program from The University of Victoria. One of the assignments asked the participants to think about factors to consider when planning to use an e-learning approach.

Here are some factors that I would consider when deciding whether to use an e-learning approach:

  1. What is the reason for choosing e-learning (as opposed to classroom training or other learning modalities)? 

    E-learning can be more expensive to develop than traditional classroom training but it is cheaper to deliver to a geographically disperse audience over a longer period of time. When choosing to develop e-learning, am I capitalizing on the strengths of the learning modality?

  2. What is the key learning outcome? What kind of skills do the learners need to develop? 

    E-learning is generally suited for cognitive skills. So knowledge, comprehension, application of procedures and processes are good candidates for e-learning. Soft skills like communication, sales, negotiation, etc. cannot rely on e-learning as the only learning modality. Similarly, hands-on skills such as singing, learning to play golf or flying an aircraft are poor choices for e-learning.

  3. What is the learners'/facilitators' motivation and attitude towards e-learning? 

    Are the learners ready for self-paced learning? Do they have the technical skills and learning maturity to stay motivated and engaged within the e-learning environment?
    Are the facilitators ready for e-learning? Do they have the skills to deliver learning online and leverage specific instructional strategies and tools?

  4. What is the existing technology infrastructure and what kind of tools can be used to develop e-learning? 

    E-learning requires specific equipment, software and hardware infrastructure both for development and delivery. Tools for synchronous delivery are very different from asynchronous delivery of e-learning. Technology decisions need to be made on the basis of the learners’ level of technical expertise, learning environment, interactivity, budgets, timelines, required technical support, etc.

  5. Who will develop the e-learning? 

    Creating e-learning requires collaborative work within many different areas/departments including Instructional Design, Course Administration, Course Facilitation, Graphic and Media design, User Interface Design, Project Management, Quality Assurance, etc. If a skilled team does not exist in-house then e-learning development needs to be outsourced. That poses several other questions that need to be answered.

  6. What will make the e-learning effective? 

    The nature of content, desired learning outcome, technology infrastructure and available budget will guide the types of activities and the level of interactivity in the e-learning. The content needs to be interesting and matched to the entry profile of the learners. The course duration and structure must address the learner’s availability (in terms of time and effort required). E-learning must provide opportunities for practice, feedback, assessment and evaluation.

  7. What will be the maintenance plan for e-learning?

    As compared to classroom training, updating and maintaining e-learning can be costly both in terms of time and money. E-learning tools and technology will frequently require content updates, system updates, version upgrades and general online site maintenance. All of this will need an e-learning maintenance plan that ensures regular updates so that content remains relevant and easily accessible for learners on an ongoing basis. The need for maintenance and updates may also have an impact on some of the instructional design decisions.

    What did I miss? What are some factors that you would consider when deciding to use an e-learning approach?