Planning Your E-learning Course

The most important step in building any training program is planning. This means rebuilding existing materials for a cyber-landscape. The worst experience anyone can encounter in an e-learning environment is finding traditional written training materials simply moved to the computer screen. Talk about a high snooze-factor! And this is not only boring -- it's ineffective training and a waste of time for pretty much everyone involved. What Trainersoft focuses on is easily incorporating multimedia and interactive elements into every training program.

The first steps...

Before anything is put on paper, the audience for the training has to be determined. Once you know who you're talking to and what their skill levels are, you can then begin the long task of actually putting the training program together.

Next, you have to know what that audience should be able to do once the course is over that they couldn't do before. In other words, what are the objectives of the course? Working backward from your objectives will keep you on track. Also, make sure the audience knows those objectives right from the beginning. The "What's in it for me?" factor plays a role in training just as it does in many other areas of life and business. This is especially true for e-learning because leaving the class isn't the attention-drawing act of getting up and leaving a group, which tends to create a pause in the lecture and stares by fellow students. It's a simple mouse click.

The program should be designed with the delivery method in mind (i.e. Web-based, CD-ROM-based, Network-based) as well as the limitations of the users' hardware. (Again, know the audience.) Bandwidth will play a big part in the acceptance and success of a multimedia program on the Internet.

Organize, organize, organize

Break your content up into manageable chunks that are meaningful to your objectives.

Trainersoft's authoring tool allows you to organize your program into books, chapters and then pages within those chapters. This establishes a very clean and simple way to keep your content broken into the manageable "chunks" you need, as well as arrange those chunks within the overall program. The better organized your materials, the easier it will be for the student to navigate. Keep in mind that each module shouldn't exceed about 20 minutes. This equals about one hour of classroom-based training.

Navigation is another critical element of e-learning. Difficult navigation creates frustration and often encourages the student to leave the course (remember that "one click" escape). Setting up the navigation and look of the program is an important step and shouldn't be done without a lot of thought and testing. Trainersoft provides a template-based solution that includes the basic built-in navigation tools, but also allows you to customize or create your own navigation controls.

Storyboarding

One method for organizing your materials, particularly if you plan to include any games, is to create a storyboard of the complete program. Creating a storyboard involves simply drawing blocks on a page that represent the frames (pages/screens) of your course. This will help you visualize the sections of your program and identify kinks in the flow. Do this before you begin committing text to computer.

If you don't think a storyboard is necessary, at least create a good outline of the material. Any of these steps toward organization will speed up the process once you begin creating the course in its electronic format.

On the next page, we'll talk about integrating media into your course.