E-learning best practices: Nine cornerstones of effective course creation
Most people in the workforce are experts in a certain field and are happy to share their knowledge with others. However, very few people are experts when it comes to creating e-learning courses. That’s why we have identified nine cornerstones, or e-learning best practices, that can guide you in creating meaningful, effective learning content. Below, we introduce each of the cornerstones and tell you where you can find detailed information about each one.
By Kasper Spiro on Jul 24th
1. Use learning objectives
A clear learning objective is a must-have. Before you do anything else, start by setting a SMART goal for your course or assessment. What will your learners know or be able to do after they have completed your course? Your course’s goal helps you define one or more specific learning objectives.
When creating a new e-learning course, most people start by writing educational content and then maybe add a few questions at the end. The problem with this approach is that you wind up with “PowerPoint-like” courses that are neither engaging nor effective.
The right order for creating high-impact courses is:
Set your goals and objectives.
Determine how to assess these goals and objectives (create questions and activities).
Create content that’s relevant to your questions (helping your learners answer the questions).
There are two key advantages to following this approach. First, it allows you to keep your courses shorter and more effective. Second, it helps you as an author to focus only on sharing content that is relevant to the course or resource.
3. Use various course templates to beat the forgetting curve
In 1885, psychologist and memory researcher Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered that human beings forget 90% of what they learn within just hours of learning it. This is because of the way our brain is wired.
Repetition is the key to retaining knowledge. Therefore, the most effective courses are not lengthy, one-time sessions, but a series of small, repetitive units offered over time. This means providing learners with opportunities to repeat the learning in different forms. Varying your course templates can help you achieve the most effective educational structure.
Using a variety of question types can also help your learners beat the forgetting curve. Our research has shown that 56% of e-learning question types used in Easygenerator are single- or multiple-choice. Don’t just repeat, ask the question and offer the knowledge in different formats, e.g. a quiz, a scenario question, text, visuals, video. In other words, you should make use of a variety of question types in order to gain maximum impact from your course.
When it comes to e-learning design, big things come in small packages. Avoid designing courses or assessments that are too large for people to easily digest.
As a guideline, aim for a course length of five to 15 minutes. If you cannot reach your learning goal within 30 minutes, split it into multiple learning objectives or use a learning path (create a series of courses).
Use short paragraphs and sentences and get straight to the point. Ideally, no more than 25% of your sentences should exceed 20 words.
Feedback is a powerful tool in your e-learning toolkit. Learners naturally want to know where they’re going wrong and find out how they can improve their performance. Take advantage of this by using test questions in your e-learning courses as an opportunity for offering feedback.
Always make sure your learners understand why the content is important and offer extensive feedback whenever they answer questions incorrectly.
The feedback culture also shouldn’t be limited to your learners. Authoring tools, including Easygenerator, enable you to seamlessly collaborate with colleagues and subject matter experts or request feedback, via comments, notifications, and co-authoring. Ultimately ensuring your content is up to date, effective, and didactically-sound.
7. Gather learner input with the Easygenerator NPS feature
Test scores are the usual standard for measuring a course’s effectiveness. However, they don’t always tell the whole story. Learner engagement is a better indicator for determining whether your course adds value.
Ask learners for their opinion about your course. Use a rating system or, even better, net promoter score (NPS). This helps you identify how your learners respond to your e-learning content, and determine whether you need to make improvements to change direction. All courses in Easygenerator offer an NPS survey by default.
Writing original content is great but it only adds value if the content is new. Before creating a course, always check to be sure there isn’t already content out there that covers that same topic.
As a subject matter expert, you probably read a lot about your field of expertise. This adds depth to your knowledge which is very useful to you and your colleagues. However, if you simply share links to other resources, you are not adding all the value you could. The real solution is to be selective about how you present your knowledge to your colleagues. We call this “curating” your knowledge.
We hope you have gotten a taste for knowledge sharing by now. We encourage you to continue sharing your knowledge with your colleagues. This strengthens your reputation as an expert and even helps you to learn more in the process. It also saves you time, because you will no longer need to train each of your colleagues individually or repeat the same information over and over. Lastly, it improves the culture within your organization, creating a supportive, sharing environment.
This series of blog posts focuses on the nine cornerstones of creating courses and assessments but also explores other ways of actively sharing your knowledge. Consider writing a blog or create a podcast, for example. Train your colleagues, curate content or make a video. Whatever you do, keep up the good work!
Kasper Spiro is the CEO of Easygenerator and a recognized thought leader in the world of e-learning. With over 30 years of experience, he is a frequently asked keynote speaker and well-renowned blogger within the e-learning community.