How to create e-learning courses
Everything you need to know to get started with e-learning.
Like many companies today, your organization is likely faced with a faster pace of change than ever before. From technological breakthroughs, to quickly evolving market trends, to ever-changing legal regulations, the only constant in the business world today is change.
To remain competitive, you must maintain a highly-skilled, well-educated workforce. Online learning, also known as e-learning, is the ideal solution. It is the most efficient way for companies today to provide up-to-date training content to large numbers of employees simultaneously.
In addition to its speed and cost-effectiveness compared with older methods of training, e-learning offers many further benefits. New digital learning methods, such as microlearning and mobile learning, for example, cater to the learning preferences of a new generation of employees. These methods create an effective learning environment at your organization, producing far better outcomes than older methods.
If your company is new to e-learning, or you are simply trying to improve your existing e-learning strategies, we want to provide you with valuable information and scientifically proven methods to ensure your online learning content is as effective as possible. We’ll cover the following topics in detail:
- Developing and creating your own online training courses
- Creating assessments for your online training courses
- Choosing the best online course software for your needs
- Best practices for designing your online courses
Online learning has been embraced by companies of all shapes and sizes and in every industry in the world. Any company that needs to rapidly upskill employees in an efficient, cost-effective way will find that online learning is the optimal solution.
Here are just a few specific scenarios in which online learning is particularly advantageous:
Why is e-learning so much better than traditional training methods?
Here are just a few ways that e-learning benefits your company, compared with traditional training:
- E-learning is generally far more cost-effective than traditional classroom training.
- It is easier to update e-learning content, so training can keep pace with business developments more effectively.
- It is more engaging. Instead of learners being passive consumers of classroom lectures and PowerPoint presentations, they play an active role in accessing and acquiring the knowledge they need most.
- It is more compatible with modern learning preferences, giving employees an opportunity to learn using educational software, videos, games, microlearning and other new approaches.
- It is highly compatible with a bottom-up knowledge-sharing culture, which we refer to as “Employee-generated Learning.” This model offers many benefits that extend beyond learning and development.
Especially when combined with Employee-generated Learning, e-learning enables companies to keep pace with the demand for new training content. Traditional course creation processes are significantly slower, often resulting in content being outdated by the time it is even published.
Why create your own e-learning courses?
In the past, your company may have opted to outsource (part of) its training needs. Often, it was thought that learning and development were best left in the hands of specialized educators and instructional designers. This may have been true in the early days of online learning when course design was a complex technical task. Now, thanks to modern technologies, it is easier and more effective than ever for your company’s employees to create their own learning content.
Using modern course authoring software experienced employees can now easily write and publish training content to be used by their peers. We refer to this model as Employee-generated Learning (EGL). It is an ideal way to create e-learning courses and other educational materials because it harnesses the knowledge that already exists within your organization.
Under EGL, employees with specialist knowledge or expertise create their own training content. Since the subject matter experts (SMEs) have first-hand, on-the-job experience, they will be able to create highly relevant content. SMEs should be given access to content-authoring tools so they can create the learning content and develop courses to share with their peers online.
Your company’s L&D team should play a supportive, guiding role to help SMEs create relevant, didactically-sound content.
For more information about getting started with EGL using Easygenerator, check out this blog post.
What are the benefits of Employee-generated Learning?
There are many benefits to adopting Employee-generated Learning (EGL), including:
- Faster and more efficient. Instead of relying on a small number of specialized employees in L&D to create courses, you can empower experienced employees throughout the organization to create and share learning content.
- Cost-effective. You don’t have to pay third-party trainers, content developers or designers to create courses. It also eliminates the need for a large training department and many training facilities.
- Agile. It is created by employees who have first-hand knowledge of the business. They know better than anyone what skills and knowledge are required to remain competitive.
- Quickly scalable. It draws from a large pool of content creators: the employees themselves. It can also reach very large numbers of employees because the training content is available online and does not require face-to-face sessions in a classroom setting.
- Higher in quality. EGL taps into real-life knowledge and expertise. It educates people on what is truly relevant for them in their jobs. Your company’s L&D team can still play a role in assuring the quality of the content and guiding employees to create even more effective content.
- Boosts employee and learner engagement. Employees feel more involved in the learning process. For content creators, it is an opportunity to establish themselves as experts among their peers and receive recognition. For learners, the content is more relevant and clearly linked to their everyday work.
- Captures valuable employee knowledge. This means the knowledge remains available to future generations of employees, even after senior employees leave the department or company.
These benefits make EGL an ideal solution for fulfilling your company’s learning needs. By moving to an Employee-generated Learning model with Easygenerator, T-Mobile was able to scale their learning output by 5 times, with only 25% of their previous L&D resource. You can read the full case study here.
As with any method of creating training content, EGL is a multi-step process. It consists of the following steps:
- Identifying business needs and learning objectives
- Choosing which tools to use for the course
- Designing your course following proven best practices
- Sharing your course
- Continually gathering feedback to improve your course
- Maintaining and updating your course
1. Identifying business needs and learning objectives
Remember that training should always serve specific business-related needs. The entire purpose of training is to provide your employees with the skills and knowledge they need to perform better at their jobs. When getting started with e-learning, it is a good idea to speak with employees themselves to gain a clearer view of the areas where additional training is needed.
In some cases, the answers may be obvious. For example, if your organization deals with frequent product updates and new product launches, sales and technical support training will generally be an important training area for your business.
What are learning objectives?
Once you have identified the topics where training is needed, it’s time to set a clear learning objective for the course you want to create. A learning objective is a clear statement of what the learner will take away from the course. Learning objectives must be specific and they must be made clear to the learner from the very beginning of the course. This way, there is no misunderstanding about what the point of the course is.
Easygenerator offers a convenient Learning Objective Maker as a standard feature of its course authoring software. The Learning Objective Maker helps course authors define specific learning objectives, so they can create better, clearer courses.
This blog post tells even more about the importance of learning objectives and how to use them even more effectively.
2. Selecting your e-learning tools
If your company is just getting started with e-learning, you’ll need to decide which type of software you want to use to write and publish online courses.
When selecting your e-learning tools it’s important to understand who your learners are and what they require. How will they access your course and do you need mobile optimization? What access functionality do you require? Do you need to update content regularly? Etc.
What is a learning management system (LMS)?
In the past, many companies opted for a learning management system (LMS). A learning management system (LMS) is an online environment (similar to a website or a web portal) where your employees have access to digital learning resources, such as courses, discussion boards, chat rooms and more.
Is an LMS a good solution for my company?
Learning management systems have been around for a while. Technologies have come a long way in the meantime, and there are many new options out there that are possibly more convenient and offer more benefits.
While an LMS gives you the main features you need to create and host online courses, it is probably more expensive than other options. Plus, there are additional costs due to the fact that you must often install an LMS and maintain it on a local server. That means your IT department will be tasked with keeping the LMS up to date and running smoothly.
If your company does not have vast IT resources at its disposal, or if you are looking for a less cost- and labor-intensive option, you may want to explore cloud-based solutions. Easygenerator, for example, is part of a new generation of online learning tools that are much cheaper and easier to maintain because they are cloud-based, software-as-a-service – SaaS – (subscription-based) solutions.
What are the benefits of cloud-based course authoring solutions?
Cloud-based solutions like Easygenerator are generally cheaper than older-generation LMS platforms. This is because they are available on a subscription basis, so you don’t have to make a major outlay to buy a new software license.
They also do not require installation or in-house maintenance, because the software vendor takes care of all that for you. This makes cloud-based solutions ideal for companies of any size, but especially for those who need to keep IT and training costs to a minimum.
An added benefit is that some tools, like Easygenerator, serve as a course authoring tool, but also as a publishing platform. That means your employees can create their courses and then instantly publish them, all using the same web-based software.
What features should I look for in an e-learning authoring/publishing tool?
In addition to a cloud-based option, it is important for your chosen authoring/publishing tool to be very user-friendly for course authors as well as learners. If you subscribe to a program that only highly trained tech wizards can use, then it will limit the number of employees you can call on to help create and design courses.
Easygenerator is a great option because it has a minimalistic, “what you see is what you get” interface and can be picked up instantly by practically any employee. There is no specialized training required, so employees are ready to start creating courses right away.
For more tips on picking the perfect course authoring tools, check out this blog post.
3. Designing your course following proven best practices
Once you’ve chosen the topic of your course and the right tools for creating it, it’s time to actually start creating the content. This is the phase in which your subject matter experts (SMEs) will actually work with your e-learning authoring software to create courses for their colleagues to access and use.
However, before your SMEs are ready to start authoring high-quality online courses, your company’s L&D team should teach them the importance of following proven best practices.
Let’s take a look at some of these best practices, which ensure that your organization will get the maximum benefit from online training using an EGL approach.
The nine cornerstones of effective course creation
Based on extensive research and experience, Easygenerator has identified nine e-learning best practices that every course author (every SME) should keep in mind when creating a new online course.
The nine cornerstones of effective course creation are:
- Use learning objectives: Always start by defining a clear purpose for your course.
- Create courses in the right order: First, decide what questions your learners must answer, and then design the course so it answers those questions.
- Use a variety of course structures: Variety helps learners remember information more easily. Use different structures for the various parts of your course can help beat the “forgetting curve” (Easygenerator lets you choose from numerous templates and assessment types that make it easy to add variety to your course).
- Bite-size is the right size: Provide information in small bits (known as “microlearning”) to make it easier to digest.
- Follow the rules of good writing: Keep sentences and paragraphs short, and be as specific as possible. Check out this blog post for some great writing tips.
- Provide learner feedback: Be sure to include instant feedback that praises learners when they do well, but also encourages them to find the right answers when they are struggling.
- Receive learner feedback: Give learners an opportunity to give their opinion of the course, so you can continually improve the content. “Net promoter score” (NPS) is a great method for this.
- First curate, then create: Many times, collecting useful resources and providing commentary can be more efficient than creating an all-new course.
- Share your knowledge and experience: By sharing knowledge as a course author, you (the SME) establish yourself as an expert among your peers and contribute to a culture of knowledge sharing that benefits your entire organization.
Be sure your SMEs are aware of the nine cornerstones mentioned above. These will guide them as they begin creating content. If you instill these best practices in your SMEs from the outset, it will ensure you make fast gains as your EGL/e-learning program expands.
More e-learning best practices for highly effective courses
In addition to the nine cornerstones, here are some scientifically proven best practices to keep in mind when authoring online courses:
Notice that most of them refer to the length of the content. As a rule, the shorter the content, the better. This is because learning in short, easily repetitive intervals is proven to be more effective than studying lengthy texts or watching long presentations. If you struggle to keep your course within these size limitations, consider breaking the content into multiple courses instead.
Add co-authors and peer reviewers to improve your course
We all know the saying “two heads are better than one,” and the same definitely applies when authoring an online course. Ideally, ask multiple SMEs to work together on a course or review each other’s work to ensure that no important information is left out.
Easygenerator enables authors to share the link to their course with others (even people who do not have an Easygenerator account), so they can collaborate, and gather useful feedback and insight for improving their content. Peer review also ensures that the content of the course is accurate and up to date.
4. Sharing your course
Your course is only useful if it is easy for your employees to access and use. That means you should choose a publishing platform that is “always on” (available 24/7) and can be accessed using whatever device types your employees prefer to use.
Here are some key points to consider when choosing an e-learning publishing platform:
- It is best to use a platform that combines authoring and publishing functionalities. This prevents any compatibility issues and ensures the course will appear and function exactly as the authors intended it to.
- Your chosen e-learning platform must be user-friendly. Ideally, users should be able to simply click a link and access the courses without having to download any plug-ins or go through any extra set-up steps.
- Ensure your e-learning platform is mobile-friendly too. This is particularly important if you plan on providing training to your employees via their mobile devices (for example, for employees who work on the road or in remote locations where they have no access to a desktop computer).
- Choose a platform with built-in feedback options. This is crucial for gathering learner feedback so your SMEs can continually improve their courses.
- To keep costs and IT workloads under control, choose a cloud-based solution.
- Lastly, be sure your publishing platform is easy to update so that course authors can quickly and effortlessly make changes to their courses. This is essential for Employee-generated Learning, as it enables SMEs to maintain an agile, smoothly running knowledge base that keeps pace with business developments.
5. Continually gathering feedback to improve your course
Once the course is published, it’s crucial to collect learner feedback so that you can tell how effective the content is. This feedback gives the SMEs/authors valuable insights so they can tweak the course and make sure it is fully catering to the learners’ needs.
One simple yet effective way of measuring the success of a course is known as the net promoter score (NPS).
What is net promoter score (NPS)?
Net promoter score is a simple survey method. At the end of a course, your learners are asked just one easy question: On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend this course to your peers? Depending on the number they choose, learners will fall into one of these three categories:
- Promoters (score 9-10): learners who found the course very useful and will likely promote it to their peers.
- Passives (score 7-8): those who may have thought the course was okay, but are generally neutral about it, so will neither encourage nor discourage others to take it.
- Detractors (score 0-6): those who did not think the course was useful and may even discourage others from taking it.
To calculate your course’s NPS, subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.
Why is NPS such a useful metric?
NPS is a useful metric because it gives you clear insight into how useful your course really is. If a course receives a low NPS, it’s a sign that changes need to be made. After you make changes, you can continue to use NPS to see whether the changes have had the desired effect.
Easygenerator includes NPS as a standard feature, which makes it a convenient choice for keeping course quality on track. Whichever authoring/publishing tool you choose, make sure that it gives learners a chance to submit feedback after the course. This is essential for improving course quality.
6. Maintaining and updating your course
The course creation process doesn’t end once your course is published. In fact, it sort of starts all over again: identifying new learning needs and continually updating the content as topics change over time.
As you know, one of the main benefits of e-learning with an Employee-generated Learning model is that it lets you quickly and constantly update course content. This means your training content remains aligned with your company’s real-life business needs.
To ensure you can maintain an agile knowledge base, you will need software that lets you (and your SMEs) easily update content. Ideally, the authoring software should offer a one-click publishing option, so changes can be implemented instantly whenever necessary.
Be sure that updates are always based on the latest, most relevant facts. Repeat the peer-review process if necessary, before implementing an update. Also, continue to collect feedback, so the content can be adjusted further to ensure good quality.
Assessments (such as tests or other kinds of exercises) enable you to quantify how well a learner is internalizing the information from the course. It’s important to remember that assessment results are not just a reflection of the learner’s abilities, but may also reflect on the quality of the course. If the course does a bad job of explaining key information, then it should be no surprise that learners perform poorly on the assessment. That’s why it is important to design courses with assessments in mind.
When beginning to develop and create your course, start with the assessment. What questions should the learner be able to answer correctly in order to demonstrate they have acquired the necessary skill or knowledge from the course? Once you know what these questions are, design the course content so that it specifically answers them. This ensures that the course content and the assessments will be in line with each other. That means learners will have all the information they need to succeed in the assessment.
There are many different types of assessments. Be sure you use a variety of assessment types for your course, as variety is proven to boost learner engagement and facilitate knowledge acquisition. Also choose assessment types strategically, as some types are better suited than others for specific forms of learning content.
What types of assessments are there?
When designing a course, you may choose from various types of assessments. These may vary depending on which type of authoring or publishing software you use. For example, Easygenerator contains a wide selection of assessment types, with no fewer than 11 question types to choose from.
Each of these question types can be very effective when used in the right context. Check out this guide for more information and tips on how to use these question types optimally when creating your course.
Lastly, let’s take a look at how SMEs at your organization can use Easygenerator to create a course right away.
Step 1: Create. Use the simple authoring interface to add content and create your course. You can easily add text, images, video and audio files and question types, just by dragging these items from the menu area in the left side of the screen.
While creating the course, you can decide to break content up into multiple sections. The built-in Learning Objective Maker helps you define what the course should be about, so you can always determine whether the content fits or not.
Step 2: Design. Next, you can add customized themes, such as your company’s branding, to the course.
Step 3: Configure. Next, you can adjust various course settings. These include features for tracking learner results, language settings, PDF exporting, etc.
Step 4: Publish. Now, publish the course so you can make it available to learners. You can choose any of these publishing options:
- Easygenerator cloud: This generates a private link that you can share with learners.
- Embed the course on your own website
- Publish on your own learning management systems (LMS)
- Publish on a custom domain
Step 5: Results. You can track the learner results using the built-in reporting features. This enables you to automatically issue certifications to learners, but also to monitor learner progress and improve the course’s content when necessary.
As you can see, online training brings many advantages, from cost savings and improved efficiency to quick scalability and better learning outcomes. Especially when you incorporate Employee-generated Learning, your new, online learning strategy will be a powerful investment in your organization’s future.
With online learning and EGL, your organization can easily cater to the learning needs of the modern workforce. At the same time, you create a solid knowledge base that retains valuable knowledge within your organization.
If you are ready to get started on your online learning journey, start by putting some of the tips in this article into practice. You can rest assured that EGL will be a powerful and popular addition to your organization’s existing training activities.