Since the internet was invented, people have been coming up with countless creative ways to utilize our connected world. From websites to eCommerce to elearning courses, it’s clear that we’re moving towards a more online world in every way.
While the concept of learning online or on a computer isn’t exactly new by today’s standards, the way in which we interact with each other and the types of technologies we can use to facilitate elarning change all the time— meaning that businesses and organizations alike have more options than ever before for elearning.
Your mind might be wandering with thoughts about the newest elearning technologies, like virtual reality (VR), gamification, and mobile, or you might be super confused and wondering what on earth we’re even talking about. So before we get too carried away, let’s take a step back and discuss the different components of elearning, including what elearning is, its advantages, and how elearning courses can be applied in a business setting.
Once you’ve got that down, then we can get into how to create elearning courses for your business.
Alright, let’s get started!
Introduction to eLearning
When we talk about elearning, we’re talking about learning efficiency: meaning delivering content to as many people as possible (or as necessary) through the use of the internet or on a digital platform.
Not every company can afford to gather all their employees in one place and conduct training. And with companies becoming more and more distributed, the need for effective digital and online training solutions has only increased.
But we’ll get into the advantages of elearning courses a bit later. First, let’s define what elearning actually means.
What is eLearning?
Contrary to popular belief, online learning and elearning (sometimes you’ll see it written as elearning as well) are not actually the same thing. Online learning refers to learning content through the internet, but while elearning can be online, it can also be offline Computer-Based Training (CBT).
In other words, any type of digital learning, including taking fully-fledged elearning courses online with videos and interactive components, to accessing offline course content using a computer, are all considered elearning.
Whether you’re tuning in at a specific time to listen to a lecture in real-time over the internet, or you’re logging into a program offline on your work computer to complete some courses, both of those are elearning.
What Are the Advantages of eLearning?
When we compare traditional classroom-based learning with elearning courses, there are several key advantages. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the advantages that apply to businesses and professional organizations.
Here’s a quick list of the advantages of elearning courses when compared to in-person classes, from the learner’s perspective:
- Accessibility. If your organization allows it, courses can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and can be taken multiple times if needed.
- Learn on any device. From smartphones to tablets, most elearning courses can be accessed on any device.
- Content updates. Course material can always be kept fresh with the use of a Learning Management System (LMS) that allows you to easily update existing content in real-time, meaning learners will be able to see the new content immediately.
- Flexible learning. elearning courses offer the flexibility that learners need to balance the responsibilities of work with learning requirements. In addition, learners can take advantage of microlearning, meaning they learn small bits of content in bite-size chunks, rather than committing to hours of learning per day.
- Immediate feedback. If a learner passes or fails a quiz or assessment, immediate feedback can be given, allowing the learner to either try again immediately or zero in on the areas they need to study before retaking the test.
- Interactive content. Some people learn better if they are physically doing the task rather than listening to instructions and then trying it out. With elearning courses, interactive options are often available so the learner can perform tasks in a software demo environment that mimic what they would be doing in a real-world scenario.
Here are some more advantages, but this time from more of a logistical and cost-saving perspective:
- No travel costs. Whereas in-person learning would have you paying to gather all staff together in one place, the costs associated with travel are eliminated with elearning courses.
- Save on course materials. Forget about printing out pieces of paper or needing to update physical materials; elearning courses can be updated electronically as needed, meaning that learners get access to the latest information and you save money on course materials.
- Consistency. Ensuring that everyone gets the same information is essential for many businesses, especially when safety is involved. elearning courses display the same course information in the same way for everyone, meaning that each learner is getting the same learning material.
- Scalability. Whether you’re teaching one or a hundred different learners, elearning provides a quick way to get information to everyone at a company. New policies, procedures, or software that a lot of people need to learn? elearning courses mean that nobody is left behind when it comes to training.
It’s clear that elearning has several advantages over traditional, in-person training, especially in a business environment. Now let’s dive a little deeper into how elearning courses apply to a business environment.
How Are eLearning Courses Applicable in a Business Setting?
Imagine you’re tasked with training a large group of employees — let’s say 75 people total. They’re all salespeople, so the training will be largely focused on product knowledge.
Sounds doable so far, right? Let’s continue.
Each of these employees works on a different schedule to ensure that there’s always a salesperson available during business hours. A lot of these schedules overlap, but not by much, typically only an hour or two.
Ok, no worries, we’ll just make sure the training is delivered in one or two hour chunks of time and is delivered when most of the salespeople are working. The training course might have to be repeated once or twice so everyone is able to receive training, but that’s just the way it is.
Well, these salespeople are also dispersed across the company’s various locations, so it looks like we’ll have to fly all the salespeople to one location for training, but then that means that our locations won’t have adequate sales coverage for a while…
You can see where this is going, right?
The traditional way of getting people together in one place to receive training typically has a cascading effect — there’s less or no coverage available for that position in a particular location, and significant time and money has to be spent covering travel expenses, securing a venue for training, and making sure that everything else is in place.
Now imagine if you didn’t have to do any of the above to adequately train your staff. That’s right, no traveling, no worrying about coverage — instead, staff can learn when they have the time, at their own pace, and without needing to adjust their work schedule.
That’s where elearning courses come into play. Instead of having to deal with the logistical nightmare of getting employees from different locations together in one place, while also making sure there’s adequate coverage, elearning provides a way to avoid all of that.
Instead of facilitating in-person training for your salespeople, you could:
- Purchase an LMS to store and manage course content, such as Tovuti.
- Create engaging, branded course content that keeps learners' brains busy absorbing knowledge.
- Use the Single Sign On (SSO) feature to make it extremely easy and secure for staff to log in and take the online elearning courses they need.
- Keep track of learner outcomes and progress with automatic notifications, customizable analytics, and certification management.
- Sit back and watch as everyone completes their training and applies their newfound knowledge to their job immediately.
The benefits of elearning courses in a business setting are really a no-brainer when you break down all the different advantages. And this is just one scenario, elearning is effective for a wide variety of different business settings in any industry.
7 Types of eLearning Content
It’s important to remember that not all course content is created equal when it comes to elearning courses. Sure, you can upload a PowerPoint to your LMS and call it a day, but if you actually want your learners to stay engaged and be successful with your elearning course content, you’ll have to do better than that!
The different types of elearning courses, more specifically the elearning content, can be summarized in the following list:
- Computer-based training (CBT) and web-based training (WBT)
- Microlearning and mobile content
- Augmented reality, mixed reality, and virtual reality
- Interactive elements (fill in the blank, drag and drop, selection, etc.)
- Webinars or instructor-led training
Computer-Based Training (CBT) and Web-Based Training (WBT)
Learning that takes place using a computer, on or off the internet, is referred to as CBT. WBT is when training occurs online, requiring an internet connection. Both methods typically involve an LMS, especially these days. An LMS allows for groups of learners to practice both synchronous learning (when new course content is made available at a specific time) and taken by the learners at the same time or asynchronous learning (all material is available and learners advance at their own pace, but course content can still be “locked” until certain parameters are met).
Keeping learners engaged is the key to success with elearning courses. Self-determination theory is one consideration when it comes to making elearning courses engaging. This theory suggests that people have three needs when it comes to motivation: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy describes our ability to make decisions based on our own feelings and will. Competence refers to our need to experience success, and relatedness speaks to our connections, relationships, and experiences with others.
Gamification is just one piece of the puzzle that helps with motivation. Autonomy can be accomplished by giving the learner the tools to solve problems on their own, which game-based learning can accomplish. Picture a path with an obstacle like a wooden crate, but the game provides a tool to break the wooden crate to reveal the way forward.
Using gamification in creative ways in your elearning courses can address all the motivation needs of your learners.
Microlearning and Mobile Content
Professionals often don’t have time or aren’t keen on dedicating their time to learning, especially when they have other responsibilities to attend to. Microlearning refers to delivering course content in small sections so that learning can take place within short time frames, like minutes. When combined with mobile-friendly elearning courses, microlearning offers the flexibility that busy learners need to stay up-to-date on the go.
Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR)
All three of these technologies have been used in various ways since their inception, so it makes sense that they would enter the world of elearning courses eventually.
AR adds digital elements to the real world, often using the camera on a smartphone. For example, when you play a game like Pokémon Go, a digital Pokémon and Pokéball appear on your smartphone’s camera screen, blending into the real-world surroundings, but not manipulating them in any way. You can, however, manipulate those digital objects, in this case using the Pokéball to catch the Pokémon.
MR is similar to AR, but digital objects and real-world objects can interact. A great example of this technology in action is Microsoft’s HoloLens, which can do things like place a virtual fire on a real-world object that you need to put out using a virtual fire hose.
VR places you in a virtual world through the use of a specialized headset, in a first-person view. Typically, VR experiences include a controller so you can navigate the world. VR can be especially useful for training professionals on dangerous tasks by providing the realism they need with the safety of a virtual world. For instance, training on potentially dangerous pieces of electrical equipment to test whether appropriate safety steps were taken, or seeing if a learner can think quickly in a chemical spill scenario.
While not typically as exciting as the previous technologies, video still plays an essential role in elearning courses. Videos provide visual demonstrations that can be used to tell stories, invoke an emotional response, or drive home a critical point.
Interactive elements (fill in the blank, drag and drop, selection, etc.)
Getting learners to actively participate in the elearning course helps keep them engaged. Most of the technologies we talked about above could be considered “interactive elements” in your elearning course, but it goes further than that.
Interactive content can be as simple as fill in the blank, drag, and drop, selection, rollover, and more. Simply getting the learner to complete a definition by typing in the answer or dragging an image of the appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to an image of a worker are all ways that simple interactive elements can be used. Tovuti has dozens of interactive content modules that admin can use to make lessons more engaging.
Webinars or Instructor-Led Training
Sometimes your elearning course is best served through a webinar or live, instructor-led training (ILT). Both these sessions often involve one or more instructors directly teaching the content to the audience, similar to how an instructor in a classroom would teach in a face-to-face setting. Webinars are great for telling a story or inviting special guest experts to discuss topics alongside the typical instructor, while instructor-led training is great for everyday classes.
With elearning courses, it’s easy to let your imagination run wild with how these technologies can be used to create engaging and interactive experiences.
6 Things To Consider When Creating Online eLearning Courses for Business
Whether you’re ready to dive in right away and create your first online elearning course or you still have some questions before you get started, these six considerations will help guide you through the course creation process.
Consider Your Audience
It doesn’t matter what your online elearning courses are teaching, they should serve the intended audience. This means you should keep your audience in mind for every aspect of the course when you’re creating elearning courses online, including the language, content, intended learning outcomes, and more.
For instance, with the language in the online elearning courses — does it need to speak to employees or managers? Both? Maybe the courses are intended for a specific department in your company or organization. In that case, it would help to focus the language and content in the course on how it applies to that department specifically, either throughout the entire course or in certain sections.
Maybe you’re creating courses that need to be fully accessible, meaning you’ll need to consider how your course will be read or viewed by assistive devices, software, and technology and conveyed to your learners.
Regardless of who your audience is, you should have a clear understanding of who they are before you start developing your elearning training course.
Defining Your Learning Goals
When starting with a creative endeavor like elearning training courses, it’s easy to get carried away letting your ideas run wild. But before you start, you should clearly define the course’s intended learning goals or outcomes. This will help you stay grounded and focused on a clear goal, and give you a baseline for assessing the success of your learners.
Try asking yourself these questions to help define your elearning course’s goals:
- Is the goal to teach your learners a new skill, company policy, or procedure?
- What do you want your learners to get out of the course?
- What is the clearest, most engaging way you can convey needed information to your learners?
- How will you evaluate the success of your learners?
Choosing Your Course Topic
If you’ve defined the goal of your elearning courses you likely have an idea of what the topic of the course will be but have you considered whether that topic is too focused or broad?
Sometimes it’s easy to define your topics, like when you’re teaching a new company policy or procedure, but with broader topics, you have to narrow in on what exactly you want to say and how you want to say it.
For example, if you want to create elearning training courses focused on mobile technology, a pretty broad topic, you’re going to have to choose specific aspects to talk about. Maybe it’s more relevant to your business to talk about hardware, like screens, batteries, and processors — but maybe it’s more relevant to talk about software, like operating systems and apps.
Your final choices on your elearning course topic should consider the audience, scope of the course, and what information you need your learners to know by the end of the course.
Gathering Your Resource Materials
Collecting research and gathering information related to your elearning training courses might seem like a no-brainer, but it is an important step worth mentioning.
When gathering resource materials, ask yourself the following questions:
- What information do I need to get started on each course?
- Where can I find the information I need to create my elearning training courses? (e.g. library, internet, subject matter experts)
- Do I need to interview subject matter experts? If so, do I know what questions I’ll ask them?
In short, think about the core components of your course and what research you’ll need to convey those components effectively — and if you need to make claims, be sure it’s backed up with your research.
Creating Course Content
From graphics, videos, interactive elements, and more, there are a ton of considerations when it comes to elearning training course content. It might seem overwhelming when you realize that your course could literally include any type of content, but if you’ve gone through the previous steps of considering your audience, choosing your course topic, and gathering resource materials, then you should at least have an idea of what content would work the best for your courses.
But it’s not just about what content you’ll need, it’s how you’ll create it. So before you commit to a video or interactive element in your course, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I need to enlist the help of a copywriter, graphic designer, or other professional to help me develop aspects of my elearning training courses?
- Are there company logos, colors, and other branding that I need to use?
- Is there a budget I can draw from for asset creation for my elearning training courses?
- Do I have the equipment and tools to be successful?
Building Your Course Structure
Now that you have all the components of your elearning training courses together, it’s time to figure out how your courses will be structured.
Chances are you already have an idea of how information should be organized when you’re creating your online elearning courses, but there could be aspects that you haven’t thought about, such as:
- Whether the online elearning course will support microlearning — can learner’s choose to absorb small chunks of information in a few minutes, or do they have to commit to sitting down for an hour or more to take the course?
- Will the course be divided into sections, and if so, do these sections have to be taken in a certain order?
- Will the course be mobile-friendly?
- Can learners take the course in their own time, or do they need to complete it by a certain date or within a certain amount of time?
As you can see, there are a lot of considerations when it comes to creating an elearning training course. However, if you take the time to go through each consideration and apply it to your course creation, you’re sure to create a course that your learners will love and is relevant to their role in their organization.
5 Steps to Choosing the Best eLearning Software for Your Organization
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of choices for elearning software out there. This can make it very difficult to make a decision since many of them will seem like they do the exact same thing as the last.
One of the most influential parts of choosing elearning software is likely going to be your budget. Sure, you could spring for the most expensive software you can find that promises to do it all, but we all know that isn’t typically an option. Also, the most expensive software might not be your best choice anyway!
So how do you choose the best elearning software that fits within your budget but also provides what you need? Consider the following steps:
Make a list of the features you need and the features you want in an elearning software
Keep in mind that the “need” features should be ones you can’t live without, and the “want” is more like features that would be nice to have.
Save money by choosing software that includes assets, like templates, graphics, video content, and more.
Choosing elearning software that offers assets can also help save you time with course creation, as you won’t be searching around on stock photo sites as often.
Choose elearning software that supports standardized formats
From SCORM files to PowerPoint, PDFs, and more, it makes things infinitely easier if the elearning software you choose supports the content you’ve already created.
Ease of use
The software should be easy to use for you and your learners, otherwise, it will add time to course development and might affect your learners’ engagement.
Technical support and onboarding
You’ll likely need some sort of support from the company you bought your elearning software from, so it helps to know that you’ll be supported from the beginning with effective onboarding and technical support.
Authoring an elearning course or being a part of its creation in another way can be a creative, fun, and engaging process. While there’s a lot of steps and considerations in creating an elearning course, a well-done course that effectively teaches learners always make the work worthwhile.
If you’re ready to get started with easy-to-use and powerful elearning software, watch the Tovuti demo today.