Ultimately, there isn’t one sole purpose that learners use e-learning courses for as they all have different aims and objectives that lead to different learning goals. To provide some insights in these multiple purposes of learners a E-learning guide on learning goals is provided here. For example, it may be for just-in-time performance support or it could be used as preparation for a certification test. Depending on the main use, they will need to be supported by different interface treatments. The usability is key depending on the learning goals of the learner.
Nowadays, there is one huge mistake being made by many different businesses and educators. Rather than taking advantage of the array of choice currently on the market, we like to stick with the ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution suggesting that one basic design really works. If you don’t pay attention to the learner and adapt the e-learning course around them, it will be less successful. Therefore, learning goals should be at the forefront of your thinking from design to marketing to measuring success.
Today, we are going to look deeper into the idea of learner goals. By using two hypothetical design challenges, we will assess some of the most important design decisions you are likely to come across.
Scenarios – As our main examples today, let’s say that there are two different banks that need to inform all employees about the Patriot Act. If you were unaware, the Patriot Act is in place to protect from money laundering and potential terrorist activities by collecting information from each client. In truth, there are numerous reasons as to why the banks would want to inform employees of this Act including so that they better understand why client information is so important. Furthermore, they might need all employees to be able to explain the importance of customer information to the clients themselves. If there happened to be a legal battle in the future, maybe a certification will prevent the company from being sued.
Regardless of the reason for the training course, the learner needs and learning goals need to be considered. Often, banks in this situation will get too caught up with the Patriot Act or the specific changes in the law rather than the learner. Not only does the bank need to consider the learner, the learner then needs to be aware of why they are participating in this training course.
If we continue our example, we will say that Bank A wants to increase the awareness of the Act in order to prevent any lawsuits in the future. If problems were to arise, they could prove that a cross-section of employees were taught correctly. On the flip side, Bank B is far more interested in training software developers who work on the apps that track customer information. Why? Because these programmers will be building the app in accordance with the Act.
As you can see, the two banks have completely different learning goals so the learners will need to be motivated in completely different ways. With Bank A, the learners need to memorize the facts and care about passing for the good of the company. On the other hand, Bank B is more interested in the software developers building the app differently to if they had no knowledge of the Act. Ultimately, they aren’t too bothered whether or not they memorize the facts just as long as the app is created properly.
Learner Motivation – With any course created by e-learning software, the ultimate aim is to improve the knowledge or behaviour of the learner. Because the reason for the learning is important to the organization, they will be the sponsors as opposed to the learners themselves. Therefore, the first step to designing a course will be to align the learning goals of the sponsoring institute and the learner.
Essentially, bank A has a much easier job here setting learning goals because they need everyone to pass the course and managers will assess who has and hasn’t successfully completed the course. These days, tracking behaviour is easy and this is the factor you need to encourage because this then makes motivation just as simple. With Bank B, the story relating to setting learning goals is a little more complex. If they were to require a certification test, the learners will be motivation to pass the test but there is no motivation to apply the knowledge to the development of software. As soon as the test has been passed, they have no reason to think about the content again. With this in mind, their attentions will move towards the various other demands that come their way.
For Bank B, you could go so far as to stay that a certification hinders their learning goals. If we bring this back to interface, a certification process requires certain factors including the log-in of each learner, how the course is written, when access is open for learners, etc. When we see the choices that motivate the learner and make this process easy when passing the certification test, these same choices become harder for the learner to use the content within their job role.
Ultimately, Bank B therefore needs a much larger focus on on-the-job performance and application and different related learning goals. To start, this could be a simple checklist of the Patriot Act with the manager. Whilst completing the project, audits could then take place between learner and manager to ensure that the knowledge has been retained. Suddenly, the content becomes important to the learner because they want to pass the audits with their manager – this is something that could benefit both banks if done correctly. With Bank A, the focus is on passing the certification test with no worries regarding application thereafter. With Bank B, the information needs to be applied so that any software developed complies with Federal regulations. As you can see, each bank requires something different which makes the one-size-fits-all courses seem a little redundant now.
Learners: Meeting Goals – So far, we have set the learning goals for the learner and figured out what they need. However, how can we help them meet these goals moving forward? Starting with Bank A, let’s take a look at some key points;
- As we have already discovered, the main aim of this bank is for learners to complete the course and pass the test. Therefore, all of the content within the course should be contributing to the test. If you have slides and slides of knowledge that do not apply to the situation, the learner will become distracted and the results will not be so strong. If you keep the content to a need-to-know basis, the course becomes efficient and less confusing for learners.
- Next, it should be laid out neatly with a table of contents leading to each section of the course. Essentially, this is actually a study guide because the bank just wants them to pass the test. To do so, you can put them in a stronger position by providing them a useful study guide.
- Also, learning maps become important in this scenario because they are designed to show all learners the content that is needed the most – what content should they internalize? With certification courses, they belong on the maps without a doubt.
- Finally, test anxiety is something that we all struggle with regardless of age and experience within the industry. To help, you could have learners complete pre-tests and self-checks so they have all the information necessary before heading into the real thing.
Once again, we are going to differentiate between the two banks so this is how Bank B could help their learners;
- Firstly, this bank doesn’t want to focus on what they need to know but rather what they need to do. After this one project is finished, Bank B really isn’t bothered whether they remember the facts of the course or not. Overall, they just need the software to be produced in compliance with the Act so the content itself needs to be focused on action and their individual roles.
- As we saw before, a table of contents should be used for ease-of-use and it should be done according to the role of the learner rather than the organization. Throughout, the content should be organized and produced with direct relation to their role in the project and how important it is to get right.
- Additionally, all learners should have easy access to the learning portal whenever required. As we have said, Bank B aren’t worried about them retaining the knowledge for longer than the project. If someone needs to check a piece of information or cross-reference something, they should be allowed this rather than being forced to remember. Instead of using a competency map, have the link to the course in the main portal of the project for easy access.
- Finally, again we are trying to avoid the memorization of the content so ‘cheat sheets’ work perfectly. If they have the information by their sides in the shape of tips sheets, they have no need to memorize the content and they can organize the information in a much more efficient manner.
Tracking – With all online courses, tracking is essential because you need to know who has seen the information and who has completed the test. If you weren’t to track or look at the analytics, how could you possible know whether or not it was successful? Instead of thinking about it too late, metrics are something that you need to consider during the design phase. When using the e-learning software, you should also consider the goals of the learner. As before, we have broken this section down according to the two banks starting with Bank A.
- As we have mentioned previously, a pre-test is important because it allows you to see if they are ready for the test after going through the content. If a huge percentage fail the pre-test after reading through the course, this suggests the content isn’t good enough.
- Although it seems rather easy, why waste time doing anything else when you can just ask the learner for feedback? After completion, simply ask how well the content prepared them for the test and you can make adjustments from this.
- Perhaps most obviously, the test at the end of the course will show the effectiveness of the content. If a good amount of people are getting the same questions wrong, the course should be adjusted to make these areas clearer.
As you can see, monitoring the success for Bank A is relatively simple but is this the same for Bank B?
- To start, you should be looking at which pages are the most visited. Because they will be using the content on-the-job, they may keep coming back to one page in particular as a reference. However, it should be noted that learners will be put off if they need to log-in with their unique details every single time.
- Next, you could have the managers perform audits. From this, you can assess whether or not the content is making its way into the software designs.
- Again, asking the learners for feedback will always be a good idea because you get direct information of where the content is lacking.
Also have a look at our article that tells more on different functionalities within E-Learning and E-learning software interactions.
Summary – If the learners are not considered from the very start to the very end, there is no way that you can make the most of your e-learning software and any potential courses. In truth, you should be thinking about how the course is found, should they log-in, how the content is organized, how managers can measure success and what learning goals should be set. Mostly, people tend to go straight for Bank A’s approach because this resembles school and the education system most accurately. However, the corporate world is more likely to be beneficial with Bank B’s approach but you need the information to be applied to the role of the learner. If you want to avoid the common pitfalls, keep reminding yourself of the learner as you progress!