Monday, 6 April 2009

My top ten tips for getting started with eLearning:

The eLearning Guild is putting together a list with top tips for starting with eLearning. Anyone who wants to contribute can send their tips to the eZine, maybe our tips will get quoted and published.

It ain’t always easy to dive into eLearning. It always looks much easier than it ease. Although everyone learns most from their mistakes, it does save a lot of money if you keep some tips in the back of your mind.

If you are indeed considering to start with an eLearning project, you might want to demystify some eLearning myths... just read this short list of eLearning myths to get your mind focused before leaping into any project.

Here is my top ten list of things you need to consider when you start with an eLearning project.

1. Try it for yourself and learn: if you have never developed an eLearning course: follow at least one full online course and if possible with a renowned institution or company. There is no substitute for real life experience if it comes to eLearning. While following an online course, keep track of your thoughts, ideas and learning processes. You can start your Personal Learning Environment if you feel up to it. Keeping track of your knowledge at all times will facilitate retrieving your knowledge later on. This will come in handy once you start developing your own courses.

2. Clearly indicate your learning objectives: learning objectives are at the core of the activities of your eLearning course. Any content can be stripped down to its learning objectives. Analyzing your learning objectives will also increase your understanding of what it is you want your learners to achieve. This in its turn will allow you to decide which type of eLearning activity should be developed (educational games for simulations, quizzes to check information assimilation, discussion forums for looking at in-depth understanding or group work…)

3. Develop your own content: try to limit the amount of content that is outsourced. Most of the time content needs to be updated regularly; you will pay too much if you need to ask outsiders to update it for you. If you develop your own course, you will be able to keep it updated. If you do outsource it, ask the outside developers to make the course generic so you can adjust it to your need and possibly reuse it in other courses.

4. Interactivity is crucial: do not limit your project to (multiple choice) quizzes, but see if you can fit in interactions between peers and peer-to-tutor: discussion forums, letting the learner build part of a course, providing knowledge not only information.

5. Use social media: use social media as a means to increase the peer-to-peer and peer-to-tutor interactivity. In this day and age you should implement social media in your new eLearning projects. If you are not accustomed with social media (or web2.0) enroll in a couple of social media applications (Flickr, Friendfeed, blog, twitter…) to feel what it can add to a course. Social media will allow your learners to learn in an informal way, thus adding to there lifelong learning skills as well.

6. Address different learner skills: use text, pictures, video, and audio in your provided eLearning content. By diversifying the content you address different learner types which will increase your learner’s satisfaction.

7. Bite size content for easy updating: in this rapidly evolving era, it is essential that you can keep your content easily updated at all times. Especially if your content is specialized or provides just-in-time learning. Use software that makes it possible to quickly put in new information.

8. Bite size content to keep your learners focused: try to limit scrolling down webpages or multimedia courses that extend 20 minutes in total. Keep your content bits small, this will keep the learner motivated to go on and give them a sense of speed. It is much better to have ten chapters that each take up to 15 minutes to learn than to serve your learners one lengthy 150 minutes piece of content. You want to keep your learners focused, so give them time to breath.

9. Take low resource learners into account: not all learners have access to high speed broadband connectivity. If the technical reality of your learners is very diverse, it is good practice to provide your learners with a CDRom containing the eLearning content and basic plug-in’s needed to open your eLearning content.

10. Test everything in a pilot course: first you test your course on a small group of people you know, than you gather a pilot group of learners that are part of your learner target group. This pilot group of learners will allow you to learn, see if your learning objectives are indeed reached, adjust your material were needed, see whether the student investment time you had in the back of your mind is indeed realistic and … start the real course with the knowledge that it will be a rock solid eLearning course.

Yes, eLearning thrives on creativity and organizational capacities. Looking forward to reading your tips!

(image from http://lals.la.psu.edu/ling001/myths/intro/index.php)