Want to create amazing online training courses? First, you have to ask the right questions!
Instructional Design

Want to create amazing online training courses? First, you have to ask the right questions!

The world of work has changed immeasurably since the rise of the Internet: Now, your employees may literally be a global team, working from locations all around the world, all through the day, 24/7. Chances are that they’ll rarely, if ever, meet. While this new way of working is exciting and liberating, it also raises its own challenges. One of these is how to train your teams to the same excellent standard.

The obvious answer, of course, is to deliver your training online. The advantages are obvious: the materials you need to deliver are available anytime, anywhere, and deliverable at the learner’s own pace.

But there’s more to it than that. The truth is that there are an awful lot of, well, awful or just plain dull online training courses out there: click-to-download pdfs of course manuals, death-by-Powerpoint presentations, a few hastily collated videos. It’s no wonder that some online courses are barely used or have poor outcomes. You need to ensure that your online training is just as engaging and just as exciting as face-to-face sessions, and delivers the best possible outcomes for you and your people.

It comes down to two things: thinking about what you’re trying to achieve, and considering what the user needs to learn to help you achieve it. So, if you want to create an amazing online training course, read on!

Creating awesome online training courses 101

It’s vital that your learning targets and objectives are absolutely clear – and that starts with you. Do you understand what you are trying to achieve?

Here’s a tip: imagine you’re talking with someone who speaks your language fairly well, but not fluently. Imagine you’re explaining your desired training objective to them, saying what it is, why you’re doing it and how it’ll be delivered, and you can only use 100 words.

Not easy, is it?

If you can’t explain your objectives clearly and simply to yourself, then course users just aren’t going to get them either, and that’s a guaranteed way to turn people off your course.

So, here are four questions to ask yourself when you’re creating online training courses:

1.What is the objective?

It may seem ridiculous to ask this to yourself, but trust me on this, it’s important!

You’ll sometimes find that what you think is a fairly straightforward learning target is anything but. In fact, it may turn out that a single objective is actually the culmination of several targets. For example, let’s imagine that we decide that the user is going to learn how to fly a plane. Okay, that’s pretty ambitious, to put it mildly – and also an unwieldy topic for eLearning. How many hours do you want your course to be? How many hours do you think that it takes to learn to be a pilot? What separate skills need to be learned in order to be an air ace?

You can see immediately that in fact this apparently single objective can be broken down into many constituent parts – and each of those is a learning objective. The flying the plane bit, in fact, is the outcome of these targets. So, ensure that your objective has clarity and narrow focus, because if it does, the user is more likely to achieve it successfully.

2.Why is this course necessary?

Again, this may seem a redundant question on the face of it, yet it is well worth asking. Can you answer it clearly and concisely? If you can’t, it could be a sign that you haven’t considered your learning objectives well enough. It’s also important for the learner to recognize the necessity of the course. If they do, they’re more likely to want to engage with it intellectually and emotionally and are more likely to succeed.

3.How is the objective to be achieved?

This is actually a two-part question: first, you have to consider the steps required to achieve the objective. Secondly, you have to think about the methods and content you’ll need in each of these steps.

Break the course into clear, easy-to-follow steps that give the learner a sense of achievement when completing each of them. By breaking it up like this, it also helps you consider your methods and materials for each step. Think variety when it comes to how you present content: use video and audio, animations and podcasts, talking heads and illustrations – and don’t be afraid of using good old, plain reading texts sometimes!

You’ll also need to develop quizzes and tests that provide the learner with a sense of achievement, and you with data about how each user is doing.

4.What should the users learn?

If you’ve considered the three questions above, you’ll find yourself naturally arriving at this one. Yet it’s amazing how many people, start from this, when creating course content! It’s vague and nebulous learning objectives that are the real anathema to great online training course content. All learning is guided to a greater or lesser degree, no more so when the user is involved in self- study. Ask the questions above, and you create a clear path for them to follow.

Get the adoption rate as high as possible.

Self-study and online learning are not necessarily easy options for the learner. It takes discipline to complete a course by yourself, so as the eLearning designer, you need to ensure there are as few obstacles in the way as possible. To create truly engaging online training courses, make sure your course content is:

  • Highly accessible – available on any device, any time
  • Visually and intellectually engaging – if it looks good and the user feels it’s doing them good, they’ll be happier to participate
  • Clear in its objectives – understanding the outcome drives learner motivation
  • Clear about its time frame – users want to know how long they can expect to complete a course in. If it’s too long, it drags down the learner’s interest.

Follow this advice, and you’ll soon find that you’re creating amazing online training courses!

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