How award winning e-learning gets made – round up from the e-Learning Network event at BT Tower

ELN LogoWell first off, hats off to the ELN team – having been a board member previously, I know just how much dedication, time and attention it takes to just keep the show on the road,  But this board has set their sights to transformation and as well as launching an all new website, they have launched a new timetable of events, including a number free to all members.  Yesterday was the first of these and it was a triumph! Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 12.16.08So to the event itself – the focus on ‘how great e-learning gets made’ provided not only advice on submitting your project for an award but insight into those projects who secured gold at the 2014 awards.  As we were on the judging panel last year, we took a year out from the awards to give back to a team who work hard to advanced the practice of online learning through ensuring the best stuff gets acknowledged and the lessons shared with practitioners.  That’s what this session was all about: the vendors and clients who through close working relationships and an open collaborative approach create great learning. It led to several takeaways for me, or rather things that I recognise as core of how we work at WillowDNA and why our work has won awards.

  • A light but appropriate touch with project management, with the greatest focus on learning designers who own and manage the deliverable.

Our learning designers have always been the key client contact when work is being scoped, developed, delivered and evaluated.  They are there for the long term and its this relationship that is key.  That was a common theme for others too in terms of a critical success factor, in fact many companies have reorganised themselves around this approach.  The reason this is so important is the skills of relationship building with your SMEs and ensuring they are in on way excluded from the process of learning design is key to a successful outcome.  It’s their knowledge and insight that gives the content its unique flavour, the learning designer’s role is to help bring it to life in the most appropriate, engaging and effective way.  Taking everyone on the journey is very important.

  • Investing in professional learning design and development services pays off for your critical programmes, but is well complimented by short sharp video and media content internal teams can create and refresh regularly

With the explosion in rapid development tools, its created something of a hinter land for content development.   The best vendors recognise what teams can do for themselves and should foster and facilitate that where they can.  The story from BT and their Short Sharp Videos (SSV) is a great example of this – their team is creating quick engaging insights for delivery to business areas where change is rapid and knowledge is critical.  In this environment, quick engagements that are delivered on the fly are effective, easily swapped out and accessible. ScreenShot2013-04-15at18.38.49In contrast, where learning facilitates important accreditation or certification,  deals with difficult or controversial subjects or is critical to reputation or compliance, investment in professional services can be a very fruitful investment.  Our work with the IPA on their certification programmes certain bears that out, where the qualifications are critical to the professional bodies reputation and membership revenue, as well as essential for learner’s career progression in a competitive industry.

  • Understanding the learning need and required outcome for the business is a given, but ensure you also factor in when and where your learners will be learning

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 12.17.56In a multi device, multi screen world understanding which device your learner will pick up to engage with learning and for what purpose is a critical part of learning design.  Much is made of responsive design and for certain needs, its incredibly effective.  But not all content suits a smartphone screen real estate and responsive design requires a different ground up design approach, delivering content comes with both opportunities and constraints.  Its why asking the question of what learning will happen, where and on what device is crucial. Often companion content is highly effective: our work on the high profile Preparing for Revalidation programme for the Royal College of Physicians features a companion app that provides quick checklist and planning guidance for developing a doctor’s portfolio as well as useful tips for the revalidation interview.  Access to videos, podcasts and quick quizzes also suit a smaller device. But mobile of course can also mean tablet and that’s where the opportunities for imagination and interaction really come into their own.  The tactile nature of the device enables interaction and engagement at a deeper level and is ideal for product training, game based content and provides opportunities for more attractive and effective navigation. Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 12.45.47That’s where discussions over responsive vs device appropriate become very interesting – if you content warrants sophisticated interaction (such as simulations) then tablet and desktop content complimented by smartphone specific content can work well.  Where the driver is accessibility to learning content wherever you are on whatever device, responsive could be the answer.  In the end, it all comes down engagement with everyone who will benefit from a solution that truly facilitates learning. When choosing your learning partner, remember to scrutinise this and get under the skin of how they work with you and everyone important to the project.  Its one of the most important predictors of success and something we’d like to think we are really rather good at 🙂