At a recent networking event we came across a range of potential clients who were interested in e-learning and learning management systems (LMS). At the same time, they were concerned that they didn’t have anyone skilled in creating the actual e-learning content, nor did their organisation have a big budget to fill this skill gap.
Having spent a lot of time talking to these individuals about what they might be able to achieve, we decided to put a few notes together to demonstrate that whilst it’s great to have a big budget and a perfect skill set, you can still achieve great things from small beginnings – if you know where and how to start!
These are some ideas and tools that might help you get started and make eLearning more viable for you and your organisation. The following 6 sections talk through key points to consider when taking the dive into eLearning. If you are already doing them, these may help you improve or introduce you to ideas and tools you weren’t previously familiar with.
1. Recycle, re-engineer and repurpose
As an organisation, you will already be providing training to your employee’s or customers in one way or another. That means that you will already have a tonne of training material just lying around. These can easily be reused in a digital learning environment.
Let’s assume that you already have access to an online learning platform such as a Learning Management System (LMS). You’ll use the LMS to upload your training materials and then deliver those materials online to your employees or customers. You’ll also monitor user activity, run reports, issue certificates and much more via your LMS. (If you want to learn more about LMS’s then there’s an article here)
Basic level PDF and quizzes
Most organisations have PowerPoint (PPT) presentations, PDF manuals or ‘how to’ guides around the office. These are actually not a bad place to start when working on your first e-learning projects.
PowerPoints by themselves don’t usually deliver the essential information to your audience. That comes from the trainer who delivers the presentation narrative while using the PowerPoint as a backdrop or memory aid. But, if you could add the narrative as a voiceover to the presentation then you might be getting somewhere!
In fact, using PowerPoint you’re able to record a voiceover directly to the presentation, you can achieve a high quality animated instructor led video presentation with nothing but your computer, slides and a low-cost microphone.
Depending on your PowerPoint proficiency there is now a wide variety of additional features you can use to create eLearning material. To learn about these features try searching for ‘How to make eLearning in PowerPoint’ on YouTube. You may be surprised how easy it is.
As well as PDFs and PowerPoints, you may find that your organisation already has video content which could be repurposed to help produce eLearning. Video’s can be uploaded into an LMS ‘as is’, or using a variety of tools you can add them into your content. For example, you could embed your video into a PowerPoint presentation.
Learning materials with videos of your own staff often bring organisations closer together, and you may be surprised how many of your staff would like to feature in them if you give them the opportunity.
2. Use publicly available content
Very often, other organisations or individuals will have created content and resources for delivering similar or identical information to their customers or employees. The resources you need may already be out there, you just need to find them.
As long as you’re careful about copyright, YouTube is your best friend and you can download videos, use them as is, embed them into your content, or link to them from your LMS.
To avoid being in breach of any copyright, be smart about where you source content. For example, if you need to train staff on HR processes then look at the ACAS website where you will find lots of video content. It can't be sold on, but it is freely available to be used for the training of internal staff. Another safety measure is to ensure you are crediting all sources of content.
By taking advantage of these resources you will get access to free and often extremely high-quality content created by subject matter experts. What’s more, if the content isn’t quite right, you can chop and change it as you see fit. If you don’t know how to do that, you can probably find a video on YouTube that tells you how!
3. What’s the value?
We often want to upskill staff for a number of different reasons - improving morale, retaining staff and closing skills gaps, especially when it’s difficult to recruit specific roles. Whatever content you are going to spend time on, it needs to be worthwhile. There are many things to consider BEFORE creating content. Here are some questions you should be able to answer before you start the eLearning journey. Ask yourself:
- Where has the requirement to create eLearning come from? Is it from one of your line managers looking to solve a team specific issue? Perhaps a new regulation which you need to update every employee on?
- How many people will access the eLearning? You can then easily work out the cost per head.
- How long is it going to be valid for? Will it be replaced tomorrow or next year? This should be taken into account when allocating resources for content creation.
- What is the outcome of providing the training? Will the business be able to sell a new service? Will it reduce complaints? Will it increase productivity?
These questions are all worth asking and together they should help you come to a conclusion as to how much resource you want to put in to an eLearning project. These answers may also highlight the need is not great enough to warrant creating the training resources in the first place.
4. Make a plan
We aren't talking about a full-on project plan designed and beautifully laid-out in MS Project, but you need to get involvement from the key stakeholders, especially if you need a technical expert to provide the content, or a manager to do the voice over!
The key is to have a timescale on when key project steps need to be completed. So for example, you should know when the technical expert needs to come in, when you will have a rough storyboard set-up and if there a critical date when the content needs to be out to staff. Think GDPR - did we all get our staff training completed before May 25th?
Keep everyone involved up to date. Get someone to check the content when you have finished, and get a sign-off date.
5. Research what tools you’ll need
If you can imagine it, then it’s probably out there somewhere already! You just need to know what it is that you’re searching for.
Once you have made the plan and scoped out the project, ask yourself if you need any extra tools to deliver your objectives? This may be pieces of tech, software or expert guidance and assistance.
There are many free and extremely cost-effective software products online to help you create video and interactive e-learning content.
- As we have already said, you can convert your PowerPoint into Video but there are many other tools such as TechSmith Camtasia (A video editing suite with tools for interactive eLearning) or TechSmith Snagit (a reduced but much cheaper version of the Camtasia software)
- I-Spring is a tool for creating eLearning within PowerPoint. This makes it easier to learn how to use and you can also download a free version
- Vyond is tool which enables you to create your own animations
- Crazy Talk enables you to create custom animated avatars
Alternatively you can use more complex and complete authoring tools such as:
- Adobe Captivate and eLearning authoring tool
- Articulate which aims to simply eLearning course authoring
- IsEazy which allow you to create SCORM compliant eLearning and quizzing modules to test user understanding. (If you aren’t familiar with the term SCORM, find out more)
Most of us have a high definition mobile phone camera which can record video of a sufficient quality to support learning online. You could go take things a step further though:
- Add a tripod for stability
- Use a clip on lens for improved focus and video quality
- Plug in an external mic for better audio
These tricks will give you the equivalent of an SLR camera for less than £100.
If you go on Amazon or eBay you can purchase audio booths, specialist lighting, green screens and all sorts… before you know it, you can have a full filming studio to produce endless learning resources for years to come.
The tools you use to create your content will define the look and feel of it. Many are suited for different audiences and different learning styles, so it is critical to think about your learning objectives and outcomes when picking the best tools to deliver them. To illustrate, animated fruits floating as talking heads may not be appropriate for teaching people how to handle bereavement in a customer service environment.
6. Kiss - Keep it Short and Simple
Creating e-learning is no different from putting together a normal training session. You still need to have aims, objectives and be engaging. Unlike normal training, you lose the face to face interaction. This means e-learning modules must strive to be doubly engaging. Typically they are also delivered in bitesize smaller chunks, often only 3-5 minutes. Sometimes learners can disengage and the outcomes will not be achieved if your content is too long, or fails to capture learner’s attention or imagination.
If you have a longer topic to cover, break it down into a number of small bite-sized chunks which employees can work through. If loaded onto an LMS, it will track where they have got to and take them back to where they left off, without the training team having to do anything.
So, KISS (Keep it short and simple) and start with just one topic. See what you can create. Once you start, the easier and easier it becomes. As long as the content delivers the necessary learning outcomes, it not that important how fancy or interactive it is or what the employee had to do to achieve them. They may have read a document or watched a video, maybe even taken a quiz. Will your content, whatever it is, get the message across and achieve the learning outcomes? If so, that’s good enough.
eLearning is designed to deliver information to employees or customers and should benefit everyone in an organisation. There are countless eLearning benefits, at organisational and individual level. It all starts by recognising your need for eLearning and asking for help to deliver it for your organisation.
If you would like any help or advice with integrating e-learning into your existing L&D function, please contact us.