Custom eLearning solutions will surely give your training an edge over others. But it does need careful planning, a dedicated initial budget, and some time for development. This guide to the best practices for creating custom eLearning solutions breaks down how to choose the right solution to fit your needs and ensure that your finished product has the highest possible chance of success in terms of employee adoption and retention rates.
A new trend in employee training and development is in-depth custom eLearning solutions. This provides a level of customization that can’t be matched by other learning technologies. But there are some caveats.
First, it’s important to understand that custom eLearning is still new and has its challenges. There is no one-size-fits-all solution because all organizations have different objectives, workflows, knowledge requirements, and data systems.
The organization’s willingness to adopt changes or stay with tradition should also be considered when developing an initiative such as this one.
Survey Existing Training Materials
When starting out, it is a good idea to see what training materials already exist. This will give you a sense of what your options are, what issues your employees might have, and how much material you might need.
The first step would be for HR to do an inventory of existing training materials available in your organization. Is there relevant material? What format does it come in? What’s the volume and how often is it used? This will help you determine if you need new materials or additional copies of existing materials.
Keep in mind that delivering videos as stand-alone content is not an effective learning strategy; successful organizations develop video training programs that are coordinated with other tools such as discussion forums, assessments, mentorships, etc.
Research Company Needs
Here are three main approaches to creating a custom eLearning course: using an off-the-shelf approach; using a learning management system such as Moodle or Blackboard; or building from scratch. The latter requires ample research on your company’s training needs. Regardless of which one you go with, here are some of the factors you should consider:
- What is your budget? Are you looking for a quick turnaround or something more elaborate? Who will be responsible for writing and updating course content?
- Do your company’s learners have access to laptops or tablets that can be used with web-based courses? Or do they rely on desktops with company machines that might not provide internet connectivity at all times?
- How much training time per learner is available?
Develop Design & Layout Concepts
It is important to consider who your customer is before starting this stage. For example, if you want more information about how colors affect moods and emotions, you can talk with people that work in the creative industry.
You will also need someone knowledgeable about colors so that they can be specific about what type of color would best suit your business. Once you have your style, it will be easier to design a template and apply text, images, or sounds in certain areas, such as buttons, tiles, or other important items.
Make sure there are not too many font styles so that people don’t get confused by different fonts being used in your course material.
The storyboard outlines the entire course, from start to finish. It is created by providing a visual map of how corporate learners should move through your content and answering questions like:
‘What does this section need?’ or ‘Where do I put important messages?’
The best way to make an effective storyboard is by presenting your slides in thumbnail form on large sheets of paper. You will then have a clear picture of what you need for each slide and where it should go in your training course.
You can make adjustments and organize as needed before placing your images into PowerPoint or Keynote. As you build out your storyboard, break up your modules with engaging graphics and brief animations so that they look visually appealing while reinforcing the message.
Outline Instructional Objectives
At this stage, you need to establish specific instructional objectives based on what you want your learners to accomplish. Here are some questions that may be relevant to making sure that learners will be able to do just that:
- What skills should my employees learn?
- What knowledge should my employees possess?
- How will training affect their attitude towards safety and our company culture?
- What behavior should my employees exhibit as a result of the training?
Planning your content before scripting helps you stay on track and ensures that you cover all of your key points. Spend time planning so that when you start scripting, you’ll have a map of what needs to be said.
Consider adding storyboards or sketches for visuals; this will not only serve as a reminder of your planned training content but will also communicate important training objectives and messaging with employees.
Technical Considerations (Platforms, Development Tools)
There are a wide variety of platforms that one can choose from when developing a custom learning solution. If you already have a content management system or an LMS in place, it is possible to integrate those into your learning solution as well. (By the way, here’s a really great article on “What Is An LMS?”)
Make sure that any plug-ins or extensions used with either system are compatible with each other and make use of existing features if at all possible. This can not only save time but also make for a more seamless user experience.
Publishing & Testing
There are many publishing and testing phases, so be sure to plan accordingly. You can outsource this step, but it’s good practice if you’re doing all or most of the development work yourself.
For each build you have completed, test both your ability to export content in clean formats (e.g., PDF) and that the HTML5 content will load in several browsers. If you need help testing new developments, speak with your developer or consider using beta testers at appropriate points in your timeline.
You are now ready to start your journey with custom eLearning solutions. These best practices will help you design the best-suited, most optimal, and most successful custom eLearning solutions for your employees.