It is fair to say that one of the most important developments that have taken place as a result of COVID-19 has been the switch to eLearning and online webinars. For many, this forced transition has come as a bit of shock but it has opened eyes to what is available to deliver online and how it can be used.
We started using GoToMeeting for a few years but started using Zoom last year – if only we had bought shares in Zoom before the pandemic! But as with everything with Coronavirus – hindsight has become a wonderful thing!
Importance of Quality E-Learning Content
Schools, colleges and training providers have hastily switched to online delivery and have had to concentrate their minds on eLearning. While many have Moodle sites or similar, what is often missing is great content. Having seen a number of schools, college and training providers eLearning platforms, it is fair to say that many are nothing more than a repository of information. Indeed my frustration at my children’s own school portal has led me to wonder how seriously eLearning has been taken – it needs to be more than folders of previous exams, a few pictures and links to BBC Bitesize.
We have recently been involved with building content for a team leadership apprenticeship programme that has involved creating over 40 bitesize videos – it has been great fun and with the right tools is not that time-consuming.
We have though become disillusioned with some of the eLearning content development tools that are available. Some are complicated, others are not very good and for a few leading providers, the cost is simply astronomical. If you work full time on course content development then the costs could be justified. If you are a teacher or trainer and are looking to develop an occasional course then the pricing is simply too restrictive. This has led us to the decision to build our own content development platform which we hope to have released at the end of August 2020.
Creating eLearning Courses
It is important to create engaging eLearning. We all agree that face to face teaching is still the most important method of delivery but eLearning can contribute as part of the blended learning approach. What eLearning cannot be, as we have said, is just a repository of PDF documents, powerpoints, past papers and links to other sites. The type of Learning Management System also matters. One of the most widely used LMS is Moodle as it is Open Source or as many see it – free. But is it really free? Once you consider the hosting, updates, development and staff involved in making it work. Does it also give the best learning experience? However, it does provide a learning environment and can, if used correctly, offer support in the blended learning approach. There are numerous other LMS available and you will just need to select the one that is best for your organisation.
Use of SCORM Packages
Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) has been used for over 20 years and although the technology is a little old it is still great as most LMS have been designed to accept SCORM. SCORM offers the ability to create a course, upload it to an LMS and have the progress and scores added directly to the learner records in the LMS. We recently developed some eLearning packages for a business administration apprenticeship that used HTML embedding. We discovered that apprentices working in the NHS were unable to access the material as their IT systems blocked embedded content. We quickly repackaged the content into SCORM and everything worked beautifully!
Selecting the right authoring tool
You need to pick an authoring tool that is right for you and will help you to create engaging content. You will need to decide how simple or complex you want the features to be. To create simple content you could also consider creating courses in Powerpoint or Google Slides. Google Slides is helpful as you can also publish the presentation to the web and download the slides as PowerPoint. There are a number of tools that will also let you convert PowerPoint into SCORM.
Understand your learners and the subject matter
Understanding your learners is important as it will help identify the type of eLearning that they engage with. We developed a number of eLearning modules using Vyond for a younger audience as they liked animations. This approach would not be as welcome to a group of more senior learners. The content has to be relevant and it needs to be created by people who understand the subject.
We think this is one of the most important principles when it comes to creating eLearning content. Keep it short and in bitesize chunks. Many of us have accessed an eLearning package that has hundreds of pages and has a time restriction that limits when you can turn a page. This is just tedious and turns the learner off the content. Limit the length of any eLearning packages into manageable chunks.
Check YouTube Videos
A lot of people will use YouTube videos to supplement their eLearning. It is always worth fully checking the content of the videos. If you are going to embed YouTube videos you will need to check your courses occasionally to make sure that the videos still exist. Don’t overdo the use of YouTube – you are effectively providing videos that learners can find for themselves.
Keep eLearning uncluttered but focus on the topic. Don’t feel you have to add hundreds of videos or graphics – try and keep things relatively straightforward. Keeping content simple allows you to concentrate on what is important to the learner. Concentrate on the learning goals and aims. Fight the urge to upload lots of documents and make your LMS interesting.
About Capella Systems Ltd
We are an education and training consultants specialising in programme design and quality assurance. We are the developers of Stedfast which is an online assessment and curriculum planning tool designed to support education and training providers to build robust curriculum plans and manage quality assurance and improvement.