eLearning Course Completion: A Wager

My boss and I just couldn’t get into an 8-module eLearning course. Read a full description of our struggles to get started in this eLearning course in previous blog posts by reading about when an eLearning course fizzles and about requirements not leading to eLearning course completion.

Based on some of the comments and recommendations from those previous blog posts, we decided to reach deep into our bag of tricks and create a disincentive for not completing the course. If either of us failed to complete the eLearning course (and then pass the final, 75-question exam for certification in the topic), then we would have to pay $50 into our team “party fund” (our team party fund is mostly made up of contributions from team members who show up late to team meetings – $1/minute!).

To make a long story short, we each completed the 8 modules and passed the certification exam one day ahead of schedule. Following are some transferable lessons that we’re taking from this experience in order to increase the adoption of eLearning within our organization. Feel free to steal these ideas and bring them into your own eLearning efforts.

Lessons for eLearning Course Completion:

  1. There’s strength in numbers. Having a partner who was also committed to completing the eLearning course was helpful. We held each other accountable and when we both struggled to get started in the e-learning program, we could brainstorm ideas on how we might be able to move past our barriers to getting started.
  2. Competitive spirit. Once my boss got started in taking the eLearning program, I didn’t want to be the slacker. When he told me he had completed three of the modules, I made sure I had completed four of the modules. When he completed his certification exam, I certainly wasn’t going to be the one who had to shell out $50. I made sure I passed the exam the following day.
  3. Socially constructed learning. There were some concepts that I found confusing or didn’t quite align with how we did things in our office. Having someone else available to talk through some of the confusing content or to brainstorm how we could modify and use concepts or tools that didn’t align with our current processes made the information that much more relevant for me.
  4. The incentive or disincentive needs to mean something. For the first month or more after we had committed to complete this eLearning course, both my boss and I always found reasons to work on anything but the eLearning. Even if we had agreed that the first person to complete the course would earn a $5 or $10 Starbucks gift card (ie: an incentive), I’m not sure it would have been extremely meaningful or motivating. However, FIFTY dollars is a completely different story for both of us. I don’t think either of us wanted to pay $50 out of pocket.
  5. Immediate application is essential. Malcolm Knowles was right (for anyone who doesn’t like to geek out on adult learning, Malcolm Knowles is largely considered the father of adult learning theory, and one of the key principles he espoused was that learning needs to solve an immediate problem or meet an immediate need in order for adult learners to want to pay attention). This eLearning program consisted of a series of 8 modules on project management, aspects of which our team has struggled with over the past several years. After completing the modules and passing the exam, our next steps will be to revisit and revise the project planning process and tools we use for our team.

Anything missing? If you have other keys to implementing successful eLearning programs, specifically for increasing eLearning course completion rates, let me (and the rest of the world) know in the comments section below. Know someone who is currently working to implement or improve engagement with their eLearning program? Pass this link along.

You Can Lead Them To Elearning, But You Can’t Make Them Learn

Elearning modules can be as instructionally-sound, engaging and slick as possible, but if staff aren’t using these modules then these well-designed and packaged learning experiences make as much noise for your organization as a tree that falls in the forest without anyone around to hear it.

Companies spend thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars on elearning development each year. Yesterday I shared a case study about the struggles of my own organization in getting people to enroll and complete courses that we’ve invested in. It’s not just the story of my own organization, but similar stories can be told across the country and around the world by project managers and human resource departments responsible for elearning roll-outs.

In an effort to take a closer look on how to make the investment in the design and roll-out of elearning programs, I have asked several experts with deep elearning background to share their insights on my case study. Yesterday, Mike Culligan, Director, Last Mile Learning at LINGOs took a page from effective dieting strategies to offer three strategies for more effective elearning adoption.

Today, Nicole Legault, Community Manager for Articulate has weighed in:

When, as e-learning developers, we ask ourselves “why” employees don’t complete an e-learning course it’s important to look at factors that drive job performance; this means identifying the specific reasons why the e-learning is not being completed. By addressing the “why”, you address the root cause of the problem. There could be several reasons why the e-learning is not being completed, but based on the scenario presented, here are a few possibilities:

  • Lack of motivation or incentive: How strong is the incentive to complete the e-learning, and how much do the incentives really matter to the employee. What are the consequences for not completing the e-learning? In this case, if the supervisor is also struggling to fulfill his commitment to complete the elearning, intentionally or not, he is sending a message that there are higher priorities.
  • Lack of time: Do the employees have the necessary time available to perform this task? Professional development can’t be an afterthought. If the task keeps getting pushed back or re-scheduled due to other commitments and meetings, this could indicate that there is a lack of time to get everything done. Again, it also indicates it is not a high priority. And once professional development becomes an actual priority, employees need to be provided with the time to complete it.
  • Lack of feedback: The original case study revolved around a series of elearning modules focused on project management. Are the learners ever given feedback about how they are doing with regards to their current project management performance?  Sometimes receiving feedback from the right person can really drive job performance.

Elearning offers a flexible way to deliver professional development, but simply making it available to employees will not necessarily lead to completion or transfer of learning. Motivation, time and specific, meaningful feedback are just a few factors that could be driving the lack of completion of the e-learning modules.

Case Study: eLearning Engagement

My boss and I have been wanting to attend a course on project management for some time and were looking forward to a week-long workshop later this month. Until it was canceled. So we made a pact to complete a series of eLearning modules that covered the same content. We agreed to meet weekly to check in and share key learnings from the various modules until we completed the course and passed the accompanying exam for certification. Following is a recap of our experience plus expert commentary on how to move forward.

The Situation

Realizing we wouldn’t be able to attend a specific project management course, my boss and I chose to enroll in an 8-module eLearning course that covered the same content. At the end of the course, a certification exam would be waiting for us.

More than “certification,” our motivation for completing this course was twofold:

Continue reading

Elearning: What’s Possible vs. What Customers Want

I expect that every learning experience – in person or online – should be amazing. I don’t think I’m alone with this expectation. How “amazing” is defined is a different story.

When I think of amazing learning experiences, I expect good, engaging content that will help me do a job better or differently. And if it’s going to help me do something better or differently, I think amazing also includes allowing me to practice in a safe environment. I expect a variety of media… and if there’s going to be video I expect that there will be specific things I should be looking for in the video. I expect interactive case studies with branching scenarios so that I can try out new skills or different ways of doing things. I expect to be able to remember the learning experience days, weeks, even months after I complete it.

Last week, I asked several friends and colleagues what they expect when it comes to elearning.  Here’s what they had to say:

“Clarity in finding resources and functions and overall simplicity in design. If [there is] a function or resource that needs to be used frequently as part of the course design, but you have to click through seven menu options or screens to find it, or if they list three different ways to access it, then you’ve got a frustrated learner on hand.”

– Grad Student in Human Resources Development

“My expectations are that the information is practical, accessible through a variety of formats (desktop, tablet, mobile phone, etc), evidence based, non-biased and up to date.”

– Doctor and Director of Telemedicine for a university hospital system

“One thing I would expect is that there is some level of self-navigation and that at each concept or learning point there is a link to further resources that the learner can use if they are finding that particular concept difficult.”

– Regional Director for a large Global Health organization

Granted, this was a very small sample size and certainly wasn’t a very scientific study, but nonetheless not a single person expected a variety of media. Not a single person mentioned case studies or branching or gamification or other features that are trendy in the instructional design community. Not a single person used the word “engaging” in their expectations.

What they did expect included things such as ease of use, intuitive interface, relevant content, simplicity.

Just listening to what people expect, I wonder if those of us who develop elearning sometimes go too far in trying to make something creative and memorable and engaging. Of course, not a single person I surveyed said they expect their elearning experiences to be boring, either.

If you’ve made it this far through this article, I’d like to hear from you in the comments section below. What do you expect out of an elearning experience?

Looking for ways to make elearning design more interesting for the learner? You may enjoy these previous posts (written as case studies) that feature feedback from a variety of experts:

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.

Involve Me And I Understand: The Boomerang

In my blog, I preach the virtues of getting creative and engaging learners in your training design. And it dawned on me that all I’m doing is telling you, I’m not involving you. It seems I’ve been a bit hypocritical. Over the weekend I threw together a short elearning module in an effort to begin making amends to everyone who comes to this blog.

Back in May 2013, I wrote The Boomerang: Answering Questions with Questions. While my post was full of sound adult learning theory and wisdom, it was limited because I told you about the concept but I didn’t involve you.

Today, I invite you to experience the power of the boomerang technique by completing a short elearning module.  Here are a few screen captures:

Boomerang 1  Boomerang 2

It’s a short program, and it’s not the most amazing visual extravaganza you might find in the world of elearning. But it is designed to allow a learner to not just read but to become involved in and to feel the impact of his or her choices.

Developing elearning doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t need to just be a series of click-through-and-read slides. And it can be created quite quickly (this one took a few hours to put together using Articulate Storyline). As one reader commented following a recent post about PowerPoint vs. Storyline, you can even speed the development of elearning modules by importing PowerPoint slides into Storyline (I imported the office-themed background from a PowerPoint template I downloaded from the Articulate community).

As the old proverb goes: Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand. I’m hoping to involve the readers of this blog a little more often, if that’s all right with you.

PowerPoint vs. Storyline (aka: Telling vs. Experiencing)

I imagine most training professionals and instructional designers are quite familiar with the old proverb: “Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.” Why, then, do so many elearning modules continue to tell content at the learners?

I recently posed this question to several training program managers from large, Seattle-area tech companies. Their answers made a lot of business sense: with so many training modules that need to be created in such a short amount of time, it’s faster and easier to put the content into a PowerPoint presentation, convert it to a click-through elearning module and make the content available to the intended audience. And the program managers report that they’re generally content with the results.

Still, I wonder: just because you can tell your content to thousands of employees around the world  via a PowerPoint-based elearning module, is that what training departments should do?

I decided to conduct my own, not-so-scientific test of this theory.  While I was in an airport on a layover, I gave myself 45 minutes to create a PowerPoint-based elearning module, and then I gave myself 45 minutes to create an elearning module using Articulate Storyline.

The Results


I put together the PowerPoint module in less than 45 minutes.  I probably could have spent a little more time on the actual graphic design of the module, but you’ll get the point.  Slideshare is my make-shift LMS for this…


I took just over 45 minutes to put this together.  I’m not an expert at Storyline by any means, but I’ve found it incredibly easy to transfer my PowerPoint knowledge into Storyline proficiency.  Here are several screen captures of the module:




Exit Question

It doesn’t take much more technical savvy to use Storyline than it does to use PowerPoint. It doesn’t have to take much more time to create something in Storyline than in PowerPoint. And while you can tell and show people using PowerPoint, Storyline adds a dimension allowing learners to be involved.

Going back to the old proverb: would you rather have your learners forget by telling?  Would you rather have your learners remember by showing? Or would you rather have your learners understand by involving?

Case Study: Converting from Classroom-based Training to e-Learning

Putting together an interactive case study for learners followed by an in-depth de-brief is one of the most effective training strategies I know.  But what happens if an experienced facilitator isn’t always available to lead such a session?

Part 1: The Case Study

The Problem

By September 2011, my organization had replaced an old, log book-based “database” with a new IT system across multiple locations.

A tale of two databases

A tale of two databases

While managers complied with the compulsory use of this new IT system, the benefits for individual and organizational performance improvement weren’t readily clear.  I designed a training session (click here to see the actual lesson plan) in which managers would run a report generated from the new IT system and use it as a data point to have a one-on-one conversations with a fictional staff member.  The session required that the participants use critical thinking skills and it required constant feedback from a facilitator throughout the activity.  It led to some significant ah-ha moments for the managers in how they could use the IT system to drive performance.

Unfortunately this training session cannot be repeated every time there is a new manager.  It requires a skilled facilitator and generally works best in a group setting.  I wondered if there was a way to replicate this learning experience via elearning.

The Solution

My organization had worked with an elearning programmer in the past, but we had never done scenario-based elearning.  There would need to be some significant branching, and we didn’t have a big budget.

In the end, the elearning programmer used Captivate to create the branching scenarios and did some custom programming and graphic design as well.  We ended up with a program that not only replicated the learning objectives and real-life challenges of the original instructor-led session, we were also able to offer three scenarios to learners (the instructor-led session only featured one scenario).

Learner is presented with three choices

Learner is presented with three choices

Then the learner can see what an employee "thinks" of the choice

Then the learner can see what an employee “thinks” of the choice

The learner also receives an actual responses from the employee

The learner also receives an actual response from the employee

Finally, the learner receives feedback from a virtual coach

Finally, the learner receives feedback from a virtual coach

The Results

There was a learning curve involved in working on scenario-based elearning which meant development took a little longer than I anticipated.  Additionally, we originally took an “if you build it they will come” attitude, thinking once we announced that this course was available, managers would flock to enroll and complete the course.  We’ve had to re-think the way we marketed the course and are preparing to “re-launch” the course now.

One manager who piloted this elearning module has said it was helpful for her. She would like her supervisory staff to use it.  Once professional development plans (PDPs) are in place for other managers, this course will be recommended for a broader group of learners.

Part 2: What the Experts Say

A Good Beginning… There’s Potential For So Much More

“The simulation-like approach is one of my favorites because it provides a high level of ‘dialogue’ in the learning experience.  By providing a series of questions with three realistic alternatives (and it can be very challenging to write realistic and appropriate questions), learners enter into a dialogue that approximates an actual conversation.  This approach makes the learning more appropriate, more realistic and generally more fun!

It would also be exciting to extend this dialogue-based approach so that it not only included closed-loop communication between the learner and the on-line coach but also if you could introduce opportunities to engage in an open-loop conversation.  This would provide users the opportunity to post comments and exchange observations with other learners.  Open-loop would allow for another level of conversation to take place, increase the level of participation, and extend the learning experience beyond the confines of the e-learning module. Examples of open-loop communications in e-learning can be seen at http://vignetteslearning.com/vignettes/storyimpacts.php.”

Mike Culligan, Director of Last Mile Learning, LINGOs

Branching Scenarios Are Worth The Extra Effort And ROI!

“Branching, scenario-based learning allows the learner to make mistakes and take risks that might have dire consequences in real life but are safe in a simulated environment.  This allows the learner to practice critical thinking and analysis of a situation that isn’t always ideal, but most likely reflects a real-life situation.  The images of the people with their thoughts and dialogue add in extra clues that a manager, if perceptive, can use to help tailor their response.  Of course, in person, we will not have access to a person’s internal voice, but we can observe body language to give us hints of how they may really feel or what they may be thinking versus what they say to us.  The real-life photos (as opposed to avatars) in this course really helped bring it to life!

Although creating a robust simulation like this takes a knowledgeable SME and a sophisticated ID/ELD, taking ILT material and turning it into WBT is a huge cost savings when your audience is worldwide.  The course will pay for itself in the savings of facilitator/ learner travel, especially if there is high attrition for the role assigned this training.”

Cynthia  Elliot, CEO,  Sage eLearning Group

eLearning Case Study: Going to the Next Level

Wayne was looking to take his eLearning design to the next level – instead of a series of PowerPoint-like slides that learners click through followed by a quiz at the end, he wanted something more engaging and effective.  Part 1 of this eLearning case study includes the background and choices that were made.  Part 2 of this eLearning case study features advice from eLearning and instructional design professionals.

Part 1: eLearning Case Study

The Challenge:

Wayne had been working as the learning manager for a small firm specializing in online advertising and social media marketing for about four years.  Prior to that, he led a team of online advertising and social media specialists for six years.  He has deep knowledge of the industry and made it a point to continue to stay on top of industry trends.

Since its inception, the firm had emphasized a culture of learning that included in-person and online training.  Coinciding with Wayne’s transition into the learning manager role, the firm made a major investment in online learning courses in order to better meet the on-demand training needs of staff.  After implementing a new learning management system (LMS), which was initially populated with a series of off-the-shelf courses on sales, customer service and various recordings of webinars that had been delivered to clients, Wayne quickly added a series of documents and job aids that could be used by staff when they were in the home office as well as when they were in meetings with clients.

Seeking to take full advantage of the technology available, Wayne began using Camtasia to create 5-10 minute eLearning segments focused on various product features and frequently asked questions.  In general, these eLearning components consisted of PowerPoint-like presentations that learners would click through in order to orient themselves to various product features.  Wayne included voiceover to make the presentations more engaging and included a 10-question quiz at the end of each segment to ensure learners could correctly answer basic questions about the content.  After churning out 25 of these segments, Wayne still felt something was missing from these online courses.

The Solution:

In this year’s training budget, Wayne included $50,000 in order to consult with an eLearning company on how to better create efficient and effective eLearning programs for staff.  After several meetings with the eLearning company, Wayne decided to use the money budgeted to invest in new eLearning modules for additional topics.

Together with the eLearning company, Wayne agreed that the money would best be allocated to create and develop 10 new modules over the next four months.  These new 5-10 minute modules would include professional graphic design and more interactive components where content would be integrated into true/false, multiple choice and matching activities.  Going forward, Wayne also agreed that future modules could benefit by including short video clips, in addition to solely featuring text on the screen.

The Results:

Wayne was impressed with the project management abilities of the eLearning company.  They were easy to work with, asked some questions that vastly improved the content and delivery, and completed all 10 modules within the originally estimated 4-month time period.

While post-module evaluation surveys included some grumbles from staff who just wanted to be able to read through the information and be done with the module, overall the feedback was very positive and enthusiastic.  One social media specialist commented that the new modules were “light years better than the other PowerPoint-style modules.”  When asked what could be improved, one online advertising specialist suggested “to make these modules accessible by smartphone as well.”

Part 2: What eLearning Experts Say:

Definitely Mix It Up

“Including multimedia as part of eLearning works to ensure students remain engaged in the process. Whether it is video or interactive games and presentations, adding even a small number of these activities helps to vary the educational rhythm for the student. Integrating a story as a unifying thread is also an important part of ensuring students retain information.”

Michel Hansmire, Principal, Sparkworks Media

But what about more complex training needs?

“Wayne should address some of the more nuanced subjects such as sales techniques, dealing with difficult people, and complex budget management. Wayne can take advantage of his budget allocation to work with a professional eLearning company in order to create scenario-based eLearning, grounded in the real world. By putting a case study into a realistic context, Wayne can build courses that assess a learner’s ability to solve real-world problems—and isn’t that what it’s really all about?  Check out Cathy Moore’s SlideShare presentation if you’d like to learn more about how to build courses that include real-world context.”

Kirby Crider, Sr. Instructional Designer, Windwalker Corporation

Go Gamified and Make it Fun (because life is too short for boring eLearning!)

“Wayne’s next step should be to think more audaciously about how to get learners to absolutely LOVE their learning. He should be thinking about how he can get the learners to look forward to every new course he publishes in the same way they would the next big blockbuster film. That way he can get a better ROI for his company, at the same time build himself L&D rock star status! He needs to think more about how he will improve user engagement first, not what subjects he will teach or what tool he will use.

Research shows that learners involve themselves more with gamified learning and LMS features than other types of training. In fact, they spend 50% longer on an LMS with gamification features, and in the world of eLearning, gamification increases participation, such that staff experiencing gamified training are 86% more active than non-gamified training.

The fact is that employees training on a gamified LMS, deploying game-based eLearning acquire more factual knowledge, attain a higher skill level and retain information for longer.”

– Juliette Denny, Managing Director, Growth Engineering

Do you have an eLearning case study that you want to get expert opinions on? Contact us or let us know in the comments.

The Key to Training Success in Exactly One Word

Employees return from a conference with energy and enthusiasm and new ideas only to drown in a tidal wave of voicemail and email messages waiting for them.  A new LMS is rolled out to great fanfare only to have enthusiasm fizzle three months down the road.

The more I work on training projects, the more I’m convinced that there is one word, one concept, one key ingredient that will ultimately determine the success or failure of a training initiative: momentum.


This thought was inspired, in part, when I read this recent post by blogger Ashley Robinson.  I encourage you to check out the entire post, but basically she shares the idea of not getting bogged down in this season of New Year’s Resolutions and instead offers the idea of committing to one word.  It sounds like a simple concept, but whittling down a bunch of thoughts and ideas and arguments and data into one word is quite a challenge.  It requires careful consideration and reflection on how to get to the most fundamental element of the matter.

Arguments can certainly be made that training will succeed or fail based upon sound instructional design, incorporating adult learning principles, establishing a relationship between the trainer/learner/learner’s manager, ensuring any learning intervention has a direct connection to professional development goals or identified learning gaps.

In the end, I believe that it can all be boiled down to momentum.  In order to create momentum, learning should indeed be fun (for more on this, check out Juliette Denny’s recent post), learning should indeed have good design, it should include managers in the process, learning should include effective assessments and take-home job aids.

But if all of these elements haven’t created momentum for the learning to be transferred to the job, the success and stickiness of training will surely fizzle.

A good question to keep in mind the next time you’re gearing up to design a presentation or training program is: how will my presentation facilitate momentum?

Case Study: The Rise and Fall of an Online Training Program

I’ve spoken with a slew of training colleagues over the past year.  Many of them have online training programs with learning management systems.  And many of them struggle to attract consistent traffic to their LMS.  Part 1 of what follows is a fictionalized case study based upon a number of these conversations. In Part 2, I’m joined by another training colleague to offer our thoughts and insights about the situation.

Part 1: If You Build It, They Will Come… for a Little While

Darryl shut down his computer and stopped by Starbucks for a treat before heading home.  He deserved it.  He had been working non-stop for the past two years on the development, implementation and roll-out of his organization’s new Online Training Academy (OTA).  With great fanfare, it launched today.  His boss was pleased.  Considerable buzz had been generated over the past month and a half.  Managers from across the organization had been sending him emails letting him know how excited they were to finally have a more flexible training option for their employees.

A Brief History

Darryl had been working as a senior training manager for a 2,000-employee telecommunications company for four years.  The company had 13 offices across the country as well as offices in London, Frankfurt, Bangalore and Mexico City.  When he first arrived, training was relatively de-centralized and carried out by regional HR staff within the various offices.  Most training was offered as classroom-based training, though several offices had begun to use webinars.  Two offices had also begun using Captivate to develop brief eLearning tutorials designed to orient staff to their various computer systems.

A year after arriving at the company, Darryl had first proposed the idea of a company-wide online training portal.  Over the next year, he spoke with HR and training professionals across the organization and presented both the financial and business case for the training portal.  Overall project objectives included:

  1. Reducing man-hours and costs associated with the each individual office developing and delivering their own training programs
  2. Ensuring the consistent delivery of content across the organization, especially on compliance-related training topics
  3. Reducing time away from the office for employees to learn
  4. Building a stronger learning culture that could result from access to on-demand training

A learning management system (LMS) was selected and integrated into the already existing company intranet with a single sign-on interface so that employees would not have to memorize a new login/password combination.  Initially, a combination of short, custom orientation and compliance training modules were combined with a series of off-the-shelf skills training modules (leadership development, management, customer service, communication skills) to populate the LMS.

Four and a Half Months Later

On his way out of the building, Darryl passed by Starbucks.  There would be no treat today.  He had spent the morning huddled with his supervisor, reviewing the data for the OTA portal and the numbers were depressingly poor.  His afternoon meeting with the Vice President of Human Resources was disturbingly short.  Darryl had presented the data, the VP of HR had asked if there was anything to add.  Darryl said it was all in the report.  And then Darryl was excused from the meeting.

During the two-week OTA Launch, every employee was set up with an account for the LMS and each employee was assigned two courses: a basic “How To Use This New System” course and one course that was assigned to the employee by his or her local HR office.  Daily emails went out to all staff informing them of the overall company-wide completion rate of these courses as well as a ranking of the top 5 completion rates by regional office.

At the end of the two-week launch period, there was tremendous buzz.  A month after roll-out and there had been an additional 1,327 sign-ups for new courses.  Two months after roll-out, and the number of new course sign-up requests had fallen to 172.  The overall completion rate for all courses hovered around 15%.  By the end of the first full quarter with the online training portal, only 94 additional course sign-ups had been requested.  In the fourth month, 21 new course sign-up requests had been registered.  The only ray of hope that Darryl read in the data was that completion rates during the second, third and fourth months with the system had averaged 72%.

Following a euphoric first month, Darryl was extremely frustrated with the turn this project had taken. He was also concerned about the waning support for the system that he was sensing from senior management (or perhaps it was waning support for him).  Still, he was not ready to call this project a bust quite yet.  But he was also running low on ideas for how to re-energize the company around the online training portal.

Part 2: Some Real-life Training Professionals Weigh In on Darryl’s Situation

Rethink your statistics and the way you use online learning

The convenience of online learning is sometimes your learners’ biggest barrier. Online learning is always there, so it’s easy to push off until it’s “more convenient.” For employees who are used to a more social learning environment, online courses can seem boring and harder to relate too. Find your barriers and address them. In my agency, this is what I share with employees:

  1. Schedule it. Put learning on your calendar.
  2. Create a space that is disruption free. Close down Outlook, put a sign on your door or go to another part of your building so you can focus.
  3. Get support. Make taking one or more courses part of your professional development goals and get support from your manager.
  4. Learn with a friend. Most of us learn better with others so consider taking an online course with a colleague who shares your interest.
  5. Share the learning with others.  Present key lessons to your colleagues or discuss what you learned with others.
  6. Learn with your team. Identify a course that is relevant to all and complete it as part of your team’s learning agenda.

Completion rates simply show that an employee took a course, not what they learned or if they are actually applying the learning. Learners may be using courses more as just-in-time learning, pulling out the few nuggets of information they were seeking without bothering to finish. My organization only seeks completion rates for our required, all-employee courses. It’s more important for us to know they are getting value out of their courses whether or not they actually complete them.

Shannon Dowd (eLearning Specialist, PATH)

It always comes back to the question: what’s in it for me?

Only after the novelty and buzz of a new initiative (like implementing an LMS) wears off can you truly measure whether that initiative was actually developed to meet a business need.  Course offerings can only meet that business need if they are directly connected to professional development plans or competency models and if they are seen as credible information sources by supervisors and managers.

If I was in Darryl’s shoes, I’d spend time over the next several weeks exploring the best way to connect the Online Training Academy with skills gaps – whether that means creating jobs aids for supervisors (“Hey managers, if your employees need development around customer service skills, then perhaps they should access the customer service course on the new Online Training Academy”) and/or perhaps working more closely with HR in connecting course offerings to the company’s performance management system.  He may also want to think of spending some time around the proverbial water cooler, asking staff and managers why they are (or aren’t) using the system.