eLearning for Client Education

A friend, knowing that I work in eLearning, recently asked “what kinds of courses are you working on lately?” Well, I certainly am working on developing courses for some clients, but most of my current project list is centred on creating electronic performance support systems, or online job aids for clients. These involve creating embedded tutorials that help staff understand how to use both customized and off-the-shelf software applications.

I have talked about the advantages of such approaches previously. Learners get exactly the support they need, on the job, at the point of need. They are therefore motivated learners and more likely to remember what they learn because they are applying it right away. These embedded supports save organizations a lot of time and money in organizing and running one-size-fits-all in-person training sessions. It is much like having a colleague at your side who can guide you through a process as you do it.

This got me thinking. Why couldn’t these same approaches that are used to support staff training also be used for client (or potential client) education?

There have been many occasions lately when I thought that my experience as a consumer would have benefited greatly from eLearning. Here are three examples.

The Three Pound Manual

Why does anything come with a manual anymore? These things are usually written in dense, lengthy and impenetrable technical jargon that few can understand and fewer still have the stamina or time to get through. I usually make it to page 6 by the time I nod off. Why not just create easy-to-understand online tutorials, rich in graphics and animations that walk users through a step-by-step process of getting their newly purchased appliance, computer peripheral, cell phone, camera, etc. to work as it should?

Energy Economics 101

We have experienced some de-regulation in the energy sector (Ontario, Canada) over the last few years. I have had a parade of people coming to my door trying to convince me that their fixed-rate plan for natural gas or electricity was the way to protect myself from the vagaries of floating prices. There are real problems with this approach. #1) The people they generally send around to do this are singularly unprepared to really explain, in a convincing fashion, the benefits of their approach. #2) My doorstep is not the place I like to make these kinds of decisions, particularly as I am shivering while someone goes into a rather lengthy pitch. If one of these energy providers really wants to make their case, send me a link to a well-thought-out online tutorial that clearly lays out why you think your plan is the best, is backed up by some independent research, and has some actual case studies and testimonials to prove your point. And why not add in a little interactive tool that lets me compare various scenarios as commodity prices go up and down? Then you just may get a sale.

Retirement Planning 101

I received an email from my bank recently warning me of the dire consequences of not setting aside enough for my retirement. They provided a link back to their website, saying that I would find all the answers there to the “real facts” of what was required to ensure that my twilight years are spent in comfort and not squalor. What a disappointment. The link took me to some static web pages and a few downloadable PDF files that were really no different from the printed material they sent me previously in the mail that I threw away. What a wasted opportunity. Why not provide interactive tools that let me determine my financial net worth and do calculations on various financial scenarios into the future? This is how I will learn about retirement planning. And, in doing so, I very well may be predisposed to buying some of your financial products. But don’t just send me links to digital versions of what I have already received from you. You’re wasting my time.

If anyone has come across really good examples of online client education, please let me know. I would be really interested in seeing these, and sharing these with some of the companies trying to win my business.

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