How to collect raw content?
Here’s an excerpt from Michael Allen’s „Guide to eLearning“ book:
“Functional prototypes have an enormous advantage over storyboards. With functional prototypes, everyone can get a sense of the interactive nature of the application, its timing, the conditional nature of feedback and its dependency on learner input. With functional prototypes, everyone’s attention turns to the most critical aspect of the design, the interactivity, as opposed to simply reviewing content presentation and talking about whether all content points have been presented.”
Okay, I need to start working. What do I do?
You have this amazing in-demand eLearning topic that needs to be converted into a course. You know that the content is available on the Internet, but you still need an expert to verify the authenticity of the content. How will you approach this task? Part of being an eLearning developer is nurturing the reader inside you.
While you are not expected to be a Subject Matter Expert (SME), you are definitely required to have a broad knowledge of several concepts in business and organization management.
Begin by reading content in print and Internet media. Think of the scope of your course. Is it for experts or novice? Create your course learning objectives accordingly. Group similar content under relevant headings. Now stop right there! Remember the experts in your organization. Invite them via email to review your gathered material. Build your future materials on expert advice and direction. Experts within your organization are best suited for this task because they can analyze the learning gaps and day-to-day discrepancies.
Content knowledge is as accessible as your expert colleague within your organization. There are certain groups of people who can help you:
Subject Matter Experts
Consult an SME (if you don’t happen to be one) and sift out “nice-to-know” material from “must-know”. Create learning objectives aligned with the goals of the course. What is the knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSA) your learner should achieve? As a rule of thumb, create six to eight learning objectives with the SME. Ask them the main idea of the course and the main topics that need to be covered. Also, discuss how the course will satisfy the organization’s learning objectives. Ultimately, the senior management will assess the effectiveness of your course. If it impacts the job performance of the learners, you will win laurels and budget for future courses!
Team Leaders know the specific performance deficiencies that are common to all team members. They also know what material needs to be disseminated to improve efficiency. Team leaders can also be excellent assessment item developers. This input will also aid in re-defining course learning objectives. They can also double as course facilitators. This will create a powerful learning and performance environment with your course as the center point of all activities and discussions.
Collect material and course content from the following sources:
Manuals and technical documentation
The human resource department can provide you with all technical manuals. The size of a usual manual can seem daunting, but if you break it down systematically, you can narrow down the required material. Use your notes collected from Team Leaders and SME’s to collect the required content. Technical manuals also offer excellent diagrams that can be scanned and used in the course. An excellent method of drilling and practicing the technical diagrams is to ask the learner to label the diagram. Diagrams offer engaging opportunities and an in-depth learning of important material. Consider creating a job aid using technical manuals. Job aids are quick, at-a-glance guides that enable quick referencing opportunities.
Past presentations can be re-built, by integrating the latest information obtained from experts within the organization. Instead of “re-inventing” the wheel, you can re-use materials for your new course. Rapidly develop new courses by improving old ones.
Business case studies are real-life examples that demonstrate how learning can be applied in the work context. Case studies can also be used to analyze behaviors and actions to identify which ones proved to be fatal or profitable. “Lessons learned” section is a powerful content resource that can create meaningful learning experiences.
Organizations have internally developed visuals and diagrams that explain their business processes and goals. Using these visuals actually customizes your learning materials for your organization. Synthesize the visual and identify the learning theories behind it. Involve the visual creators to explain the rationale behind each element of the visual. This is another compelling learning material.
Organization Intranet and external resources provide a wealth of verified knowledge that can be added to your course. Information on websites is often current and updated, enabling you to create real-time course materials.
Create a storyboard
You will need to assess all learning materials and create a storyboard. If a storyboard is too tedious for you, create an eLearning demo using simple tools, like PowerPoint. Having second thoughts? You can save the company budget by following these points when converting massive information into eLearning courses:
- Prevent information overload: Use the rule of seven (Clement 1985) to prevent information overload. This implies to supplying no more than seven pieces of information at a given time.
- Chunk instructional content into small groups: What content can be provided as a “reference” or “good-to-know”? Add only “need-to-know” materials in the course.
- Provide learning in multiple formats: What content can be presented as audio, video or text?
- Include games in the learning environment: What concepts can be taught as a game?
- Graphic organizers: Provide a navigation map for the course.
- Contextual learning:
- Simulate reality
- Create virtual learning teams
- To enable development of critical thinking skills
- To co-create knowledge
- Reflection on theory vs practice
- Transformative learning: transferring learning from experience to learning context to performance context.
How to cope with a huge amount of material?
If you have a large volume of text, for example, a book that needs to be converted into a course, how can you make it an enjoyable and interactive experience? How do you not create a fancy flipbook out of printed text? Before you let the familiar overwhelming feeling sink in, take a deep breath and know. Know that this task is relatively easier than regular training, built from scratch. The research has already been done for you! You have the content and it truly is the king! So, begin by dividing the book into three to four general sections. Group similar material under the relevant section heading. Consider dividing the course into linear sections accordingly. Now that you have tamed the volume (to a good extent) how do you convert the sections into courses?
If videos are the main aspect of your course, you will need a “skin” for your videos. Consider developing a text-based medium in which you describe the upcoming video. Break large videos into increments, labeling each with a meaningful title. People feel “lost” in long videos. Shorter labeled versions allow us to know what to expect from a video. We can also continue easily later on. Consider integrating videos with interesting vignettes of information that can be applied. Adults love to learn information that they can apply immediately.
You could also create real-life scenarios depicted through images, asking learners what could have been done to avoid the situation. This strategy involves them in the learning process.
A cartoon version of you will provide a fun layer. Try using an illustrated version of yourself with speech callouts. Read the next section on how to add storylines in your courses to make them entertaining and engaging.