31 January 2013

8 eLearning "Fail" You Need to Know

If we learn from our mistakes, we should make them more often, right? Well, yes - if you have enough time and cash. Therefore, I have prepared a step-by-step plan of most common mistakes people/Stakeholders/Managers in /companies/departments/organisations make. If you are going to fail – then do it fast. In fact, there is a proven sales process called “fail fast” which can help to fail and produce zero results - guaranteed!

There are lots of misconceptions about Training & Development in general. But we shall concentrate on eLearning, since developing new or converting traditional training materials for an online use requires a wide range of skill set. Though these skills can be learned and experience can be acquired, but it takes time.

Here I will outline my personal experience and mistakes meeting with well-meaning enthusiastic folk who can be very experienced in their own domain but somehow wandered into eLearning field with a anyone-can-do-it attitude - I would classify them as "uninitiated". Uninitiated are well meaning folk - HR managers, L&D Managers, Trainers, etc. - who add as many eLearning skills on LinkedIn as possible simply because they have seen/tried/heard something about something somewhere.
Unfortunately, many "uninitiated" are in charge of making decisions whilst making certain assumptions such as “we don't need eLearning specialists/consultant - Jonny is a whiz with computers, Jane owns latest video camera and Peter downloaded Captivate 6 trial last week - we will manage.”

So here is my top fail list that covers Planning, Design, Development, and Delivery aspects of eLearning programs:

  1. We can do it ourselves and put it on YouTube!
Fail: give the Sales/HR/IT people Camtasia/Articulate/Captivate/Lectora and let them make their own eLearning or just video tape Johnny/CEO/Trainer talking and upload it to YouTube.
Assumptions: anyone can produce eLearning; any recorded material accessed over the internet is eLearning; everyone learns by watching.
Result: disparity between content creators or lack of a style guide, creating an; inconsistent/static/boring experience for the learner, badly designed eLearning; unprofessional appearance (shaky camera work, bad sound, lighting); Video editing and production skills may be needed; video can ultimately be too large for upload or to stream, clogging the network.

  1. We have heaps of training documents on the network already!
Fail: convert/upload old PowerPoint training presentations, PDF's or Word documents.
Assumption: Any electronic document accessed online is eLearning or that people learn by reading text.
Result: learners will be confused or disappointed with learning online experience such as opening a 30 slide PP or a 50 page PDF. Next time someone asks them "What do you think about online training - is it any good?" you know the answer already.

  1. Lots of money can buy you high quality eLearning!
Fail: going on a shopping spree to purchase templates, ready-made courses, over-invest in LMS and various eLearning authoring tools.
Assumption: software, technology or templates will solve all training or learning development and delivery needs; everything can be customise and changed later.
Result: over-investment in content, tools and technology without the right skill-set and know-how of managing, customising, implementing these resources and technologies achieves zero results.

  1. Ok, let's get someone to do it!
Fail: instead or after the shopping spree let's go on hiring spree! Let's write a 4 page PD with all eLearning skills and experience imaginable and employ Senior Instructional-Designer with Flash-skills, who knows Moodle and PHP-SCORM Captivate and Video editing extraordinaire paying 15 per hour! Oh, and having project management skills and German language is an advantage; hiring first then making plans; over-estimating or underestimating time and resources.
Assumption: consultants, contractors or new employees will solve all L&D issues; hiring or contracting has nothing to do with L&D internal strategies, responsibilities, existing technical and skill capabilities and future goals.
Result: without involvement of upper management or companywide strategy and goals, lack of change can lead to blame, disappointment and disillusion, and total waste of acquired talent.

  1. Pursuit of perfection
Fail: never-ending revisions and delays to project schedule; involving too many stakeholders and too many "interested parties" to give opinions, write content or make changes; plus loss of momentum and excitement.
Assumption: only when upper management approves and everyone agrees on everything is when eLearning development can start or progress to the next stage; everyone companywide must have their say and responsible for successful eLearning outcome.
Result: by the time everyone agreed on everything, eLearning content may become obsolete, learners may lose interest, and you may end up with developers and designers sitting round and waiting for something to happen.

  1. It's on! Sorry, it's not working… It's on! It's off…
Fail: let's develop eLearning using the "latest and greatest" and let the techies figure out how to implement it later.
Assumption: eLearning delivery has nothing to do with existing CLMS/IT/HR/OS systems; there's no need to test it and consult all stakeholders. eLearning content can be easily adjusted/re-built and re-skinned to suit any system and various requirements later.
Result: without consultation, planning, pilot testing and QA (Quality Assurance) rigid processes, you may run into furious IT support, and apologetic emails and disappointed learners. Once eLearning development has begun, it will be almost impossible to change it unless you are willing to start from scratch.

  1. Now, we've done it! But where are the learners?
Fail: build it and they will come; no learning promotion strategy; online training is difficult to access.
Assumption: learners will know how, when and why they have to access your new eLearning program
Result: no one is using the system, non-existent ROI, no way to advance and move forward.

  1. We've done well! How do you know?
Fail: online training developed and delivered without assessments, review exercises, feedback, rating system or post-training review sessions.
Assumption: there's no need to measure and assess learners; learners hate exams or to be tested; there's no need to change content or structure once it is up and running.
Result: it is very difficult to know and prove how successful your learning has been - both for the learner and people who created eLearning. Even if the training is delivered via LMS with good reporting tools it is very important to get and keep getting all learners feedback.

You may ask; what is the best remedy for all of these? Just being aware of this and spending more time on doing research, TNA and planning can save you time and money. Read, and ask your future learners - they are the most important!

Sarunas Vaitkus is a qualified trainer and eLearning technologist with a 15 year experience providing consulting, analysis, design and delivery of ICT Learning & Development solutions as well as offering training workshops for businesses helping to establishing eLearning 101 framework from design, development right to delivery and support. Here's my  personal  LinkedIn profile here and bit more about elcentra services here.

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