Instructional Design

eLearning Content Development: 6 Steps to Create a Learning Problem Statement

Creating an optimized eLearning Content Development Process

eLearning content development is serious business! In fact, without authentic content, you are unlikely to have a worthwhile eLearning course.

Remember, adult learners only spend time, effort and money on learning experiences that have a direct impact in their real lives. Before plunging into an eLearning content development process with your team, spend some time developing a formal problem statement.

We assure you, with this research-based technique we are sharing in this article, you will be ready to impress both your organization and your clients. Let’s determine the research-worthiness of a problem and the steps to create a clear learning problem statement.

eLearning Content Development Process: A Short Guide

Before the content is developed, you need to determine whether the learning problem on hand is really worthy of being researched and developed into a course. Often, successful eLearning organizations or companies with in-house eLearning departments face the looming challenge of “what should the next eLearning course be about?”. Many companies seek eLearning solutions for the sole purpose of knowledge management and knowledge development.

When course mentors facilitate large volumes of knowledge sharing, they feel they can filter out content for the next course. Without doubt, the online discussion forum in your learning management system is a perfect place to identify learning problems.

But, are those problems worth researching and developing into complete courses? How do you determine the research worthiness of a problem? What are the steps that lead to this decision? In this article, we answer these questions and help you create a new course from a learning problem or a learning gap.

Creating eLearning Content From A Learning Problem

No statement in the learning environment can be accurate or valid without the support of extant research. Indeed, the development of eLearning content requires careful collection of current and valid facts with the SME.

What if you do not have the content available in the form of a PDF, Power Point or Word document? How will you proceed with the lms content development based on a learning gap or a performance problem identified by managers in your organization?

Levy & Levy (2008) in their paper Framework of problem-based research: A guide for novice researchers on the development of a research-worthy problem describe a four step process that will aid in finalizing a research-worthy problem. These four steps will help you determine if research for complete content for a new eLearning course is needed or not.

The 4 Steps Of The Problem-based eLearning Content Development Process

1) Look: As mentioned above, learning gaps and performance problems are identified through common comments in the LMS and common complaints from managers. Personal interests expressed by members of learning communities, an expert’s knowledge that needs to be “tamed in the form of eLearning” and even gut feelings are great ways to identify learning gaps.

Basically, when the current situation is far from the ideal situation, a learning problem is formulated. Use this step as your starting point.

2) Read: A common error when developing eLearning courses is reinventing the wheel. We do not need new courses that are simply restated from a new angle! Once you determine that a particular course content cannot be retrieved from previously created courses, you can be assured that your learning problem deserves further investigation.

Get access to scholarly journals in your areas of interest (for example business and technology journals or health care peer-reviewed magazines) and read about the learning problem. Perform countless keyword searches for the identified problem to collect research done in the past. Create topics and collect content for the topics under the problem area.

Does the existing body of knowledge tell you what is not known about the problem area? If yes, then involve experts to determine customized solutions for the problem. This even offers fertile grounds for conducting action research to solve a problem and then yield an eLearning course.

3) Synthesize: In this step, you combine insights from several scholarly pieces of research and apply them. This step is all about customizing the research to provide solutions for your organization. Integrate work from leading researchers in your course content.

Compose a generalization based on several examples of similar situations. This is a perfect step to identify the storyline for your eLearning course. State the problem and solve it with solutions offered through the research.

4) Consult or Seek Feedback: In this step, you involve the managers, senior managers, stakeholders and even talented employees to receive feedback on your researched material.

Ask them if your efforts uncovered all areas. Is there anything left out? What material could be left out? The goal here is to create new knowledge for your organization in a synthetic manner. After confirming with all stakeholders that your content is complete, you can begin developing your eLearning course with confidence.

Did the above exercise yield substantial background literature and supporting research to confirm that a problem really exists in terms of learning and performance? If you do not have enough supporting research, you do not need to explore the problem further. Some problems like developing a knowledge management system that encourages members to share valuable information is not a research worthy problem.

On the other hand, determining the desirable features of a knowledge management system that promotes valuable knowledge sharing between members is a viable research worthy problem. The outcome of this research should lead to the development of strong content that can be disseminated using an eLearning course. The next step is to define the problem statement clearly.

A problem statement definition is the first step towards achieving a green light for developing an eLearning course. The first document that you share with a client seeking eLearning services is a proposal. This proposal needs to have a clearly defined problem statement.

After a meeting with the client (or the stakeholders of your organization) you need to create a clear problem statement in which you describe who is involved in the performance and who is effected; where does the problem occur and how can it be solved.

Use the following strategy discovered by leading educators to define the learning gap or a performance problem addressed in your eLearning course:

1) What: What is the problem addressed by the future eLearning course? Describe it with two sentences. A learning problem is something that leads to a performance issue.

2) Who: List at least three current, peer-reviewed items of research that support the presence of this problem. Does the current literature indicate that such a problem is commonplace?

3) How, Where and When: Precisely, in no more than two sentences, explain how people are being impacted by the problem. What are the negative influences of the problem? When and where are people being effected by this problem?

4) Who: Now go back to literature research again. Find three peer-reviewed references that support the impact of the problem in similar situations. Describe the nature of the literature support.

5) Why: Now jot down the conceptual basis of the problem – why, according to the published research is the problem occurring?

6) Who: Again, list three peer-reviewed works that support the conceptual basis of the problem and describe the nature of the support.

Refer to the study to view an example of a viable problem statement, or address to a professional eLearning content developer to help you create useful eLearning content.

This 6-step strategy to formulate a correct problem statement has many advantages. For starters, you earn the trust and credibility for your scientific research. Stakeholders know that they will be implementing best practices through your eLearning course.

Secondly, the statement will help you identify valuable learning objectives and content for your eLearning course. It will also direct you to extra resources that can be shared with your learners. Any gaps in research can be fulfilled by the R&D team for further knowledge development.

A strong problem statement is akin to developing a solid justification for the need to research for viable content and develop a complete eLearning course. Preparing a logical argument for a problem statement is a challenge when a solution is not needed!

Problem Statement And The eLearning Content Development: The Gist

Answering the above six questions will be a lot easier if the problem is worth exploring and needs an eLearning course to solve it. Once you have a clear learning problem statement and it is approved by stakeholders, you can create an eLearning course with greater comfort and confidence. And who knows? You might then want to dive more into investing in custom eLearning course development.