What to look for with online learning

Oct 07 2003 by Dan Bobinski Print This Article

Whether your organization is large or small, having employees learn what they need to know via the computer can save you plenty of time and money.

Research at one large high-tech institution revealed that classroom training cost the company, on average, ď$100 per hour per person.Ē Conversely, online learning cost the company only $35 per hour per person.

If your company could save 65% on some of its training, wouldnít that be worth looking into?

In addition to the cost savings, online learning usually allows learners to access the material at a time thatís convenient to them Ė and thatís a great benefit. But several key points need to be made regarding online learning:

  • It has to be user friendly
  • It is best used for knowledge and understanding Ė not for application.

Having both designed and taught as well as taken E-classes, Iíd like to pass along what I believe are some key factors to consider when implementing E-learning. These tips should apply whether youíre purchasing an online training course, or building one from scratch.

1. At the outset, make sure the learning objectives are clear. The same goes for any assignments the learner must complete. Course requirements and assignments should be listed in one central place so that the learner can access them easily at anytime. If learners know where theyíre at in the training process, theyíre sure to feel more confident of their learning.

Also, remember that learners usually donít have ready access to an instructor for clarification, so make sure that instructions and information are clear and easy to understand.

2. Avoid fancy, frilly, moving graphics that do nothing to enhance the learning. Although some think itís cool to include icons or images spinning around the screen, if it doesnít aid in student learning, donít use it. The only thing unnecessary graphics do is slow download time, which frustrates learners.

3. Although frilly, unnecessary graphics usually distract from learning, pertinent graphics that explain concepts in picture form are excellent to use. Therefore, as a general rule, whatever you can put in graphic form, do so.

The human mind learns well when it can ďseeĒ what itís supposed to learn. As the axiom goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. The key is to use graphics that take up as few kilobytes as possible.

4. Make assignments (if any) easy to turn in. Although Microsoft has the monopoly on operating systems and virtually all programs are written to work within Microsoftís framework, Microsoft systems are not the most stable in the world. As such, what works well on one computer may not work well on others (but thatís fodder for another column). Therefore, assignment submission needs to occur in a format that accommodates the lowest common denominator. Some courses use ďcapture formsĒ for assignments, others want assignments submitted via email. Whatever your choice, make sure itís user-friendly.

5. Before you roll out with a new program, read through the material with fresh eyes. That is, go through the material with the mindset of being someone whoís never seen it before. See if it makes sense. Then beta test your coursework on a control group to see if it makes sense to them. When all seems okay, thatís when itís okay to "go live."

Bottom line: You can save money using online learning, but it has to work for the learners or they wonít want to use it. If that happens, they learn nothing at all and you havenít saved a thing. In fact, youíd lose money by spinning your wheels and wasting resources on an ineffective program.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Daniel Bobinski teaches teams and individuals how to use emotional intelligence and how to create high impact training. Heís also a best-selling author, a popular speaker, and he loves helping teams and individuals achieve workplace excellence