20 eLearning truths

Below is my eLearning truths top 20. Some of the 20 are based on Kenneth Carlton Cooper's article in January's edition of CLO. Do you agree with my top 20? What are your thoughts? Where did I miss the mark?

1. eLearning is about people not technology
eLearning is merely a delivery method. The success of your training is dependent on people. Ask yourself do you have the right people involved in the project? Do you understand what your learning audience needs? Technology is only as effective as the people running the show.

2. eLearning is not a silver bullet
For some reason people think that each time a new training method/technology is developed that this will be the ultimate answer. Obviously this is not the case. In the case of eLearning, people use the term so diversely that it is often hard to compare apples to apples. eLearning is appropriate for certain situations and not effective in others. If you are new to eLearning do some research and get experts to help you.

3. Branding and marketing your learning content is essential
Many of us hope that if you build it they will come. The truth is that they are busy with their daily work and they often don't even know about your training. Unless you develop a brand for your training that attracts the people, you may be doomed to failure. Build your content around a brand idea and then market it to the people who will need it to solve the issues that they face on a daily basis.

4. Management support/involvement is vital
Having management support and involvement will get your project the necessary resources and visibility. If you have visibility and a good product, people will use it and they will refer others to it.

5. Use the learning cycle: learn, apply, reinforce
This is the most effective training cycle. eLearning is a great way to train people, especially on core skills and content. You can apply many of the concepts/ideas through online simulations or in the field. Reinforce using follow up eLearning content or through face to face training sessions.

6. Task orientated learning works best
People are busy and they want to make sure that your training course will help them with their job. All content should be task orientated to be successful.

7. Effective needs assessment is critical: People, content, delivery
I can't stress this idea enough. Don't start developing content before you understand what the people need. Determine what the objective of this learning content will be. Now that you know what the content will be, what learning elements will you use? How will this content be deployed? Once you have the answers to these questions you are ready to move on.

8. Avoid boredom by developing custom content
'Boxed' content is boring. Learners have seen the boxed stuff over and over and they are bored to tears in the first 5 minutes. Avoid this by developing your own content that will engage the user by using authentic content and examples from your particular business.

9. Speak with the learner, not to them
Use the voice of the customer. Speak to them in their language and tone and you will be able to get your points across.

10. Create engaging content
Engaging content is content that speaks to the user. The user understands the examples that are presented and he knows that this content will help him be more effective in his job.

11. Compact is powerful
As the saying goes time is money and people don't have a lot of time. Developing content that requires a user to sit and learn for an hour is not realistic. Develop a learning structure that requires a user to sit for a short amount of time, while learning an immense amount.

12. Engagement = interaction
Interaction doesn't mean physical interaction for its own sake. Effective content requires mental and emotional interaction as much as physical.

12. Deliver where needed
Make sure that your content is flexible enough so that it can be delivered in the most effective way, be that LMS, intranet, pda, podcast etc.

13. Create once, deploy many
This sounds easy and logical, but making it a reality requires a lot of preplanning. If you are going to use video, can you deploy the video to all your mediums? If the course is developed using an in-house software program how will this affect web deployment? All of these issues need to be addressed during the needs assessment stage.

14. Test for success
There are lots of ways to develop this thought as testing is important in so many ways. You can use testing during your initial brainstorming sessions. Develop a prototype and test your ideas with your audience. Testing is essential during Beta and pre-production phases. Essential to your overall success is to test using a representative sample of your audience. Test to make sure that technological differences (networks, firewalls, desktop settings) don't impact the deployment of your content.

15. Develop for the future
How will your content be used in the future? Can you build on your current structure? Can new content be added seamlessly? If you don't have an LMS at the moment, could this content be ported to an LMS without having to redevelop from scratch? All of these questions should be addressed early on. If you don’t develop now with the future in mind you will waste money and your content will become stagnant.

16. Identify and engage resources prior to deployment
Who's going to be involved in testing? Who's going to be responsible for uploading/deploying the content? Who's going to help with deployment challenges? Who's responsible for supporting the program going forward? Who's responsible for updating the content?

17. Get feedback from your audience
The only way to improve your training is to engage the support and feedback of your audience. Do they think the content hits on the most important issues facing them? What could be improved? What critical areas need to be addressed? Is it easy to access the content? Is the content engaging? The only way to get answers to these key questions is to get feedback from the users.

18. Issues are unavoidable
Set up a support structure based on this truth. Not all your users will be able to access the content without any issues. Even if the content was developed and deployed based on your organizational infrastructure you will still have a small percentage of users (1-3%) that will have issues accessing or viewing the content. Do you have a help desk? Do they know what the requirements are to access/view the content? Do the users know who to contact?

19. Start small grow big
This applies to several facets of eLearning including technology and content development. Don't try to solve all your problems at once. Focus on an area that requires training and where benefits will be evident in the short term. Remember even with technology it is better to keep it simple.

20. eLearning is about people not technology
I had to throw this one in there again! Technology is great as long as you have the people and the resources to make it a success.