An Effective E-Learning Course – Design Elements for An Instructional Strategy

E-Learning
Learning Managers are needed to understand their specific learning problems and corresponding requirement so that they select right vendor company to develop and deliver the most effective e-learning solution.

Learning or Instructional Strategy is not something which can be demanded or instructed to learning developer to adopt; it is devised based on certain elements or parameters. In this discussion we will be analyzing only design related parameters. The other parameters are commercials, development tool, delivery platform technology etc.

The design based parameters to decide learning or instructional strategy are:

  • Learner – All about learner profile; academic, cultural, personal etc. all which can affect his/her learning abilities
  • Objectives – Enabling objectives; specific abilities to be developed after course completion
  • Content – Type of content; process, procedures, principles, facts or concepts

The above elements are the three pillars for an Instructional Designer to decide about course instructional strategy.

Among these three, Learner and Objectives are defined by learning problem; you won’t get much room to change or modify them. Content is a depended variable, you can chunk or modify it in-accordance with the Learner profile and the Objectives.

Let’s Understand Objectives and Learner in brief:

  • Objectives –Objectives can be considered as 100% independent variable; once objectives are decided, then everything in instructional strategy has to fall in accordance to it. Objectives are derived values from your learning need or problem. Your learning need is your problem and objectives are the desired change or required solution to solve those problems. In most of the cases you won’t get alternative learning solutions; for example, if learner is to acquire ‘Apply’ skill, then he/she has to have corresponding cognitive ability; if learner is to acquire ‘Drive’ (a physical activity), then he/she has to have corresponding psychomotor ability.

    For several issues, always the learning environment won’t be conducive enough to achieve set specific abilities; in that case you can target to achieve a skill higher than to it. For example, if it is difficult for you to achieve ‘list’, then try to acquire ‘describe’ which is a higher skill to ‘list’. This target or objective shift will cost you more.

  • Learner – In general, learners are also considered as 100% independent variable. While developing a course you may face few challenges or constraints that makes difficult to develop or convert the content which suits learner’s learning style. For example, it is very difficult to convert theoretical subjects into pictorial forms; in this case, you can prepare or train learner to learn in other than his/her style. It is difficult to bring significant change in learning style but you can succeed to an extent.

Conclusion:

We understood that, Content is a dependent variable and Learner and Objectives are independent variables. It is an excellence of a learning developer or an e-learning company which can bring little change or modify Learner and Objectives and deliver an effective e-learning course. So the final suggestion for learning manager is to identify right learning need and required learning solution, then select the most dependable learning developer to deliver you the most suitable learning solution.

To make things simple, below table helps you to map learning objectives, learner style and corresponding content type.
Elearning

Note: If required, you can add more number of problems.

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E-Learning and Blended Learning

Blended Learning It is difficult to find one simple solutions for a complex issues. The expectations with regards to performance at work place or at home are complex; we need a blend of various learning solutions to resolve these complex issues. In such a scenario, Blended learning offers a greater chance of success.

Blended learning is not new concepts. In fact, it is an age-old concept that existed for several centuries. In ancient India, the pupil leave with their teacher or guru for years in Ashrams. The pupil was imparted theoretical knowledge, in the presence of the guru, sitting under the tree. The requisite physical training took place in open places. The pupil would also help the guru in the preparation of food. And, many such areas of learning were available under a single roof under the aegis of a single teacher. Blended Learning is akin to the form of pedagogical practice such as the Gurukul where there exists a blend of various training or learning strategies.

Today, the needs and challenges of learning have changed. Enlisted below are a few such challenges:

  • Time constraint
  • Total number of students that can be reached
  • Learners being distributed at far different places
  • Complexity of tasks to perform
  • Complexity of content
  • Forms of content (Audio, Video, Text etc.)
  • Infrastructure
  • Cost

All these factors necessitate a unique learning strategy; a strategy that constructs a learning environment that has the following features.

  • Ease of access of content to remote learners
  • Platforms to deliver various types of content anywhere and anytime.
  • A learner-centric Learning Module/Design.
  • Easy tracking
  • Multiple delivery of learning content
  • Regulatory or supervisory control over content, trainer performance and learner’s understanding.

The above learning environment is a blend of technology and traditional learning strategies.

E-Learning and Blended Learning:

Technology helps create most effective blend of learning solutions. E-learning, itself, is a technology-enabled blended learning concept. It can be mixed with traditional learning solutions like instructor-led training programs, books, field trips, etc.

Blended learning is the latest product in the arsenal of e-learning. Companies that develop Learning solutions help organizations build a blend of learning solutions suitable to their requirement and resources. Technology enabled Blended Learning includes all the advantages of e-learning and more; It offers more time and variety of platforms to deliver content.

Blended Learning solution does increase the cost of learning but the benefits, in terms of the significant impact on business goals, mitigate its costs. Blended Learning helps bring a very real and desired change in employee performance which in turn boosts the organization’s performance.

Learning managers or Officers face the challenge of application of Blended Learning. It is indeed a challenge because they are the premiere points of contact with an overview of various processes and have the requisite expertise to identify the areas of improvement. And so, they must lead the process of incorporating a suitable Blended Learning technique in the learning environments of their company by understanding the specific needs of the organization and employees, and developing a suitable strategy to combat the same.

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Why E-Learning? – A simple analysis

Elearning

E-Learning industry is witnessing tremendous growth in terms of revenue and application. It has become a synonym for many of the learning requirements in corporates, academics and government institutions. To provide most suitable learning solutions, industry experts exploring and inventing creative methods and approaches such as Custom Learning Solutions, Rapid Learning Solutions, Gamifications, Instructor Led Training programs and blend of these methods and approaches.

There are people who still want to get convinced with e-learning as an effective learning delivery platform or methodology. Let’s have an elaborative explanation of relevant factors and self-analysis of different learning platforms.

Before we start, one thing we must know that, e-learning is not the only method and as like as any other thing it is not 100% perfect. There are many other methodologies with different level of effectiveness but e-learning can be taken as better alternative considering current challenges and available means.

Let’s understand why e-learning is a current trend under following two headings:

I – Current Learning Demands

At macro level, we receive demand for learning solutions from following three areas:

  1. Academics – Inquiry is a driving factor in this sector, it drives academicians, teachers and students to understand the known world of knowledge and explore the unknown. To make this simple and move at advance stages of learning experiences, people look for different effective methodologies and platforms.
  2. Small and Large Businesses – Competition is a driving factor of this sector; to yield higher profits,companies look for effective training and learning avenues which help to serve better and produce at an optimum level.
  3. Households – Leading better life is a driving factor for households – People want to learn to take right decisions in areas like finance, health, relationships etc.

Note: Members of Academics, Businesses and Households are same but they demand learning solutions as per the expectations of the role they play in above described areas. There is an enormous increase of volume and complexities in learning content and its applications; people need help to make it simple in less time and cost.

II – Available Technology

When the wheel invented, it was an advance technology of that time and it enabled people to move things and people with easy. Today’s advance technology has affected human life in following three major areas:

  1. Time – The common benefit of using advance technology is ‘time’. Technology has reduced time significantly compare to do the same thing before.
  2. Cost – Most often technology is proved as a tool or technique to reduce cost of an activity comparing the same in past.
  3. Accessibility – Technology has increased human reach/access to more places, more people, more things and more knowledge.

Comparative Analysis of Different Learning Methodologies

We gained some idea about current demand of learning and available technology. This understanding helps us to assess different delivery platforms of learning.

There are following three major delivery platforms for learning:

  1. Informal – In this platform you won’t find any structured method to educate people/resources to achieve any desired change or outcome.
  2. Classroom – This platform is one of the oldest methods of education. It is about bringing learners and trainer under one roof and adopting all possible tools and techniques such as chalk boards, projectors, computers, books, field trips, lab sessions etc.Classrooms provide opportunity to blend several tools, techniques and methods to create an effective learning experience. Under this platform you schedule specific instructors and learners to come at one place on specified time. The two greatest advantages of this platform is human emotions/touch and learner engagement; teacher/trainer can use his facial expressions, hands and other bodily movements to make his teaching effective and learners can engage more.
  3. E-Learning – This is about delivering learning through various electronic platforms. With the advent of internet and mobile devices, these platform scan be used to deliver content any-where and any time. The technology allows learner to interact with learning content and receive feedback accordingly. The platform gives opportunity to blend different types of learning strategies effectively. Even the greatest advantages of classroom teaching i.e. human emotions (through classroom recordings sessions, webinars etc.,) and learner engagement (through assessments and other interactions with learning content) can be achieved effectively.

Analysis- Below chart allows you to assess each platform against key items of considerations or factors:

Elearning

Instructions: Rate each platform as Below Average, Average and Above Average using 1, 2, 3. Sum-up all the ratings to find the most effective platform. You can add more factors (key items) specific to your need.

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