If you feel that many of the great ideas for e-learning are beyond your company’s financial or technological means, take note of these three e-learning strategies that even the most cash-strapped organization can implement.
1. Provide e-career information
If intelligent online career advisors, which automatically analyze an employee’s skills and suggest personalized learning plans, are beyond the means of your organization, you can still provide employees with the resources they need to make informed career decisions and pursue appropriate training. Web-based resources you can offer include:
- Career ladder with resources. For each major career path in your organization, provide a static Webpage that includes the recommended career ladder, the skills needed at each rung in the ladder, and the courses in the corporate training curriculum that develop those skills. You may also want to include links to other resources such as continuing education, professional associations, and certifications.
- Self-assessments. Including assessments can help employees determine whether they’re suited to a particular career path. You can write your own unscientific ones (like the quizzes in Cosmopolitan) or link to many of the free self-assessments available on the Web.
- Testimonials. Offering first-hand experience and advice from employees who are currently in the career paths listed can be very helpful. Try to include testimonials from people at every level of the career ladder, so employees get a broad perspective on the job path.
- Forms. You can use Word and HTML to develop simple forms for employees to record their career aspirations. These need not be formal career development plans; rather, they can be informal documents in which employees can jot notes.
By providing electronic resources for career planning with your e-learning system, you give employees another reason to sign on and may increase both enrollments and completions.
2. Reuse content the practical way
Although few organizations have developed courses created on-the-fly from reusable learning objects, many companies are leveraging content already developed for other purposes. Here are some ways to do it.
Reuse content in all similar messages. When describing products, services, and policies, most organizations want to ensure a consistent message. To do so, reuse the descriptions and illustrations in training, marketing materials, and product information.
Produce specialized versions of courses with identical core content. If different groups within your organization need similar training—for instance, on Word—you can reuse the core content and then create specialized modules to meet each group’s specific needs. For example, Word core content would include how to store, change, and print text. Then, one group that uses word processing to prepare manuals would go on to learn how to create running headers and footers, a table of contents, and an index. Another group that uses word processing to prepare correspondence would get content on how to mail merge and print envelopes.
Develop procedures to ensure reuse. One of the challenges to reusing content is that people often don’t know that it exists. An organization that uses expensive medical illustrations found a solution: Before new illustrations would be created, the course developer had to demonstrate that a suitable illustration was not already available in the organization’s illustration database.
The keys to effectively reusing content are:
- developing common sense uses when a need clearly exists
- developing an easy system for finding and reusing content
- developing policies and procedures requiring that employees reuse content.
3. Support workers electronically by varying the format of presentation
Electronic performance support systems (EPSSs) create a work environment on a computer that gives users assistance with tasks on that computer. Some people mistakenly believe that Web-based training modules alone make EPSSs. That’s just training. Others design complex systems that track performance online, offer coaching, and perform work tasks automatically. Although these systems support performance, they are expensive and time-consuming to develop.
There’s a middle road that might fit better with your budget. Rather than provide a single course about a subject or the EPSS to end all, try varying the format of content presentation. Instead of relying just on tutorials or designing electronic wizards outside your budget, choose novel forms of performance support that you can develop with available resources. Here are some suggestions.
- Provide online references in which workers can easily look up a topic of interest when they have a question.
- To introduce learners to intermediate topics, send them daily, weekly, or monthly tips via email. These should take just a moment or two to read and direct readers to other sources like tutorials and references for detailed instructions.
- Prepare a dedicated Website about the topic and include brief how-to articles (700 to 1400 words) that explain how to perform a task. You can also include advice columns with letters from employees asking for help with real problems and answers from company experts.
An advantage to these approaches is that they often take less time to design and develop than full e-learning courses. They’re ideal for intermediate users who generally have more time constraints and less motivation to learn. By being practical and using cost-effective approaches, you expand your expertise with e-learning and performance support and build support for and interest in more complex strategies.