Score an “A” in eLearning (x4)

There are many ways that even the best eLearning training interventions can be kiboshed, but I see the following two come up again and again. Firstly, many really good eLearning ideas do not even get off the ground because key stakeholders or gatekeepers in the organization have pre-determined that their people “are not ready for eLearning” or that “they cannot” or “do not wish to learn this way.” Secondly, even if you get past such objections, you may develop a very good eLearning program, but there is poor adoption of this because it was designed without a solid understanding of the targeted learners.

You can avoid these pitfalls by taking more of a marketing approach towards eLearning development. By this, I mean starting with the learners, understanding their realities, and letting this knowledge drive the design process. This is much the same way any good marketer would build a product or service based on the wants and needs of the targeted customer.

We take a “4A” approach to building from the learner out. Doing so, we answer the following key questions.

1. Accessibility: How easy is it for the target learners to access and use technology?
2. Attitudes: What level of comfort do the target learners have with technology that would position them to learn through technology?
3. Ability: How competent are people with technology and with learning through technology?
4. Appropriateness: Do people have a preference for accessing learning through technology?

The first “A” is rather obvious. It is getting to know to what extent the targeted learners have access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the nature of these technologies (processing power, peripherals, browser versions, bandwidth, etc.). The last three “A’s” get at the ways and the extent to which the targeted learners are using these technologies in their everyday lives at work and/or at home. For example, do they use word processing and spreadsheets regularly, do they send and receive email, do they do online banking or shopping, do they use search engines regularly to research information? Because few have experienced eLearning directly, it makes more sense to examine other ways that they are using ICTs in their daily lives. This will provide an indication of their likelihood of adapting well to online learning.

When we conduct such research, there are many questions asked under each “A.” If the answers paint a picture of a target group that is using ICTs on a daily basis it is easy to address those fears noted above by management that “our people are not ready for eLearning.” Also, details revealed in the answers mean that eLearning interventions can be designed that mesh well with the available technology, as well as the learners’ existing level of comfort and abilities in using ICTs. Doing such research up front ensures that the eLearning developed will be the right fit and will more likely be adopted and used by the targeted learners.

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