A quick guide to launching e-learning

Posted on Mar 26, 2020

With unknown timeframes for isolation and continuing travel restrictions, RTOs will need to start seriously considering their online learning presence

With unknown timeframes for isolation and continuing travel restrictions, RTOs will need to start seriously considering their online learning presence. Coronavirus has impacted the world in so many ways, but we can work together to ensure learners do not miss out on their education and continue to forge their career paths.

As we enter the lockdown phase of containment, you might want to turn your attention to the replacement of physical classes with e-learning modules. This means students can continue to learn from home, which in turn, keeps trainers and other staff members employed. We’ve discussed a range of benefits to e-learning, but now we will take a look at how to implement it with tips to get you started. 

Axcelerate have outlined a seven-part guide that takes you through the necessary steps to launching online learning in a hurry. 

7 tips to get e-learning going:

  • Make a comprehensive plan

  • Train your trainers

  • Consider various learning styles

  • Explore pre-built courses

  • Avoid common mistakes

  • Test courses before publishing

  • Keep an eye on statistics and feedback. 

Making a comprehensive plan

This will be the most significant part of your preparation as it is an essential stage to deliver a successful online learning experience. Traditional, classroom-based learning usually focuses on delivering the training sessions, whereas, in e-learning, efforts will be directed towards the design and development of online courses and modules. 

6 core aspects of planning include:

  • Choosing an appropriate LMS to use:

  • research available LMSs and their integration requirements, e.g. Moodle or SCORM

  • compare features such as reviews, cost, and support when making a decision

  • find out whether pre-made templates are included to speed the process up further

  • Identifying which courses to move online:

  • not all courses are suited e-learning as some require hands-on practical performance or topics that require a very high level of support

  • go through courses one-by-one and consider their success online

  • Deciding on the trainers to create e-learning modules:

  • once courses are identified, then you will need to know who can create the courses and who to train for the new LMS

  • Considering the tools required to complete courses:

  • learners may require particular aids to complete a course more effectively, e.g. paper, pens, calculators, etc. 

  • Thinking about the logistics of moving students to e-learning:

  • when the LMS is ready to go, you will need to communicate the changes to the learners, for example, bulk emails, attendance expectations, devices required, where to go for support, etc. 

  • Assigning a project manager:

  • depending on the size of the RTO and number of courses to be available online, you may want to appoint a project manager to manage, direct and oversee the process (it will require some serious organisation). 

Train your trainers

Many LMSs will offer remote training to help trainers get to grips with the system. Attendance will help answer any questions on the day-to-day usage of an LMS, with support documentation to remind you of the processes, and even courses provided to experience it from a learner perspective. 

You might also want to consider setting up a new channel of communication that will allow trainers to discuss any issues, for example, Slack, Zoom or another similar tool. 

Consider various learning styles

Trainers will be aware that each person learns differently. It is paramount that there is a variety of learning styles within the e-learning content, including audio, images and video. These must be considered at the design and planning stages when creating a course, and various multimedia will also make e-learning courses much more engaging for the learners. 

Explore pre-built courses

Pre-built courses for your existing LMS can be purchased to save time. Once you have access to them, you can edit as required to match your brand and content needs. Looking to the long-term, it might also be cheaper as you’ll reduce the time it takes for trainers to create their courses, ensuring they have time to focus on other areas. 

Always check to see whether the courses are compatible with your LMS before you purchase. 

Avoid common mistakes

Previous online course design attempts have put several potential issues into the spotlight:

  • There is no teacher present for an e-learning course, so any potentially confusing terms will need to be explained clearly (always consider the learners’ existing knowledge)

  • Do not try to teach your students everything all in one go (instead, you should breakdown online modules into manageable chunks)

  • Stick to a clear path and narrative (storyboarding can help with this)

  • Content should remain as short and concise as possible, as this will prevent learners from becoming distracted and bored

  • Create scripts that contain all text for the course, both spoken and written as these will help to outline the critical information needed to be conveyed in the course (it will also be continuously referred to during course creation)

  • Be brave when adding interactivity, as it can make a course much more fun and engaging, while encouraging active learning.

Test courses before publishing

This is a critical (and sometimes overlooked) step. Students will need to be happy with the new e-learning process to make it successful, and if their first log-in is full of problems, glitches and errors, then it might reduce levels of confidence and motivation. 

Keep an eye on statistics and feedback

Once the LMS is up and running, you can start to look at completion numbers for online modules and pass/failure rates. If very low scores are consistent then you may need to redesign the e-learning course. Feedback allows insight into real-life usage and makes up a valuable source of information. 

Designing an online course

Let’s take this opportunity to explore further what it means to design a successful online course. There are a number of critical components to consider which will ensure the online learning environment is effective and prepares learners to be work-ready in the same way as traditional teaching.

You may be launching into this world by creating a brand-new online offering, or it might be that you are converting a classroom-based course into an online delivery model. Considering the following critical components of the design/development process will have a huge impact.

Online course design should consider:

  • Learning approach:

  • collaborative

  • social

  • self-paced

  • Synchronous or asynchronous learning approach

  • Visual design

  • Learner engagement

  • Overall accessibility.

Learning approach

This will be the type of learning offered to the students, and it can also be mixed/blended to ensure a higher level of engagement. 

3 learning approach types include:

  • Collaborative: learners are supported and encouraged to work together to create knowledge and solve problems

  • Social: learning takes place through social interaction and it may or may not lead to a change in behaviour and/or attitudes

  • Self-paced: students can take the time they need to complete tasks and set their own schedules. 

Synchronous and asynchronous e-learning

Activities can be synchronous or asynchronous in e-learning. Synchronous events take place in real-time with at least two people required to be present for communication. Asynchronous events are time-independent because they can take place at any time.

Synchronous e-learning examples include:

  • Chat conversations and instant messaging

  • Audio and video conferencing

  • Live webcasting

  • Application sharing

  • Whiteboard

  • Polling.

Asynchronous e-learning examples include:

  • Email

  • Discussion forums

  • Blogs

  • Webcasting. 

There is movement between video/audio sessions and webcasting as they can be recorded and made available for learners who are unable to attend a live event.

Visual design

Company brand and consistent messaging will be important, but you should also consider the overall usability and appearance of online course design. It should be eye-catching, easy to navigate and simple to follow. Don’t fear white space and pay attention to colours and fonts. You can also opt for images that both relevant and compelling with all decisions made in line with visual hierarchy, e.g. the first page will appear as the most important. 

Learner engagement

As with visual design, online courses should guide the learners’ focus and not distract them. To make e-learning more appealing, there should be a range of multimedia available, e.g. audio and video. This can also help students with different learning styles. Other considerations include personalisation, analytics, mobile versions, game-based learning, and automation. 

Overall accessibility

Learners are a diverse population and understanding their needs when completing online studies will be key to its success. You may have to consider students with disabilities, usage of computers, alternative teaching methods or information provision, and adjustments to be made.