Implementing a new eLearning program is a serious undertaking that can either improve your company’s fortunes or result in wasted money and disappointed people. This article will give you guidelines on successfully planning and implementing eLearning, as well as notify you about some of the possible challenges.
How Belitsoft Can Help
After 12 years on the eLearning market and with 110+ projects delivered we’ve gathered a vast amount of experience that would help you set your eLearning program with maximum efficiency. Here’s what we can do for you:
- Consulting. If you have an existing system, our instructional design experts will analyze it and suggest areas for improvement. If you want to start a new program or switch from traditional training, we will help you arrange that. This includes everything from choosing the best LMS to data migration and personnel training.
- LMS Customization. We can modify an open-source LMS to fit your company’s needs perfectly, be it branding or adding new features.
- Custom LMS Development. Should none of the boxed LMS’ be what you’re looking for, we can make you a turnkey one.
- Content Development. We can help you populate your system with quality learning content in any format: text, video, audio, learning games, etc.
What is eLearning?
eLearning is a term describing any training that uses electronic technologies to access educational curriculum outside of a traditional classroom. In most cases today it means learning delivered online. The word was coined in 2003, though there were examples of computer-based training in the early eighties.
The market for it is huge and rapidly growing, expected to reach USD 375 billion by 2026.
Why are Companies into eLearning?
Computer-based training is widely popular among businesses. It is used by both SMEs and multinational corporations like Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and Deloitte. This is because eLearning has a number of advantages over traditional classroom-based training.
- Cost-efficiency. It requires neither extra office space nor salaries for instructors. In addition, learners can use their own devices to access the materials. Once you make the initial investment in going digital, further expenses are much lower than with traditional learning.
- Modern teaching methods. The field of instructional design offers a lot of tools that are hard or even impossible to use in classroom-based training. Digital training will keep employees motivated with gamification, provide them timely answers with just-in-time learning, and allow them to study on the go with microlearning.
- Convenience. eLearning allows people to study whenever and wherever they feel like it: on their morning commute, during an overseas flight, or even in the middle of their workday. This also includes using whichever device they find the most fitting, be it a desktop/laptop PC, a smartphone, or a tablet.
- Multimedia lessons. Videos, presentations, audio tracks, and even learning games and VR simulations - eLearning offers a wide variety of training content options.
- Social learning. eLearning suites generally include a social element, be it a forum, a leaderboard, or a group chat. The purposes might be different - to motivate or strengthen cohesion and teamwork, for example. But in either case, this improves overall learning outcomes.
- Personalization. Thanks to modern technologies like LXP the training could adapt to the needs of each individual user, making it more effective.
How to Deliver eLearning
The most common way of delivering eLearning is using a Learning Management System - software designed to host and play instructional content, as well as evaluate the learners’ performance. There are hundreds of such systems on the market: JoomlaLMS, TalentLMS, Moodle, Litmos, etc. They differ in their feature sets, deployment model (cloud/on-premise), pricing, etc. You might also have a custom LMS developed just for you.
Check out our article on selecting an LMS for details.
However, depending on your needs, an LMS might not be needed. Sometimes a basic online course could do the trick.
Why Should Small Business Invest in eLearning?
The two biggest factors are employee retention and upskilling.
Large corporations can handle turnover and the training of the new hires (and the associated costs) due to their size. SMEs often don’t have such luxury, especially if these businesses require highly-skilled labor. eLearning provides value to the employees, making them feel like they are getting better at their jobs. This is a major retention factor.
Upskilling goes hand-in-hand with the abovementioned retention. Finding and hiring an experienced specialist is much more expensive than growing one yourself. eLearning is an efficient way to do just that. Moreover, it sets you up for the future - after all, few businesses are content with staying small.
Best Practices for eLearning Implementation
eLearning Implementation Plan
1. Choose Your Goals
To understand whether your implementation was a success, you need to define what success is. This is done by setting clear metrics that you can monitor.
The goal can start as simple “teach the new employees to use the X tool” - a basic definition of what you are aiming at. Make it more precise by including time, completion, graduation rate, etc., so it would look like this: “in two weeks 100% of new employees complete the course on using the X tool and pass the final test”.
For guidance, use the SMART approach:
Now that you know what you are going towards, you can understand how things are and whether you are still on track to success or need to make adjustments.
2. Assemble the Implementation Team
These people will be in charge of launching your eLearning project. Of course, smaller companies don’t need as many people - the important thing is to make sure the positions are covered, even if a single person fills several of them.
Here’s who you need:
1. Project Manager
This person manages the day-to-day work of the team, stays in touch with the LMS vendor, monitors the KPIs, and holds responsibility for the overall success of the implementation.
2. eLearning Specialist
This person supervises the creation/transfer or learning materials. They will also be the one who shows other people how to use your eLearning program when it’s live.
This person handles connecting your LMS with other systems (e.g. HRM, ERP, etc.) and deals with other technical tasks.
Large companies can have more positions for more flexibility and precision: Lead Super User (an employee that will study the system and teach others later), L&D Administrator (a specialist who manages compliance issues), and more.
The “less is more” rule still applies though. As long as your team is not overworked, it is recommended to use as few people as possible.
3. Create a Plan and a Timeline
The eLearning implementation plan should list everything you and the vendor (if there is one) must do as well as the deadline for each task. This is important for resource management and efficiency tracking. The plan will likely change somewhat over the course of implementation but having some form of visualization will help keep the project going.
This part of the whole plan is of special importance because mutual understanding can make of break the project. Here’s what you should list in it:
- Roles. Make sure everyone’s responsibilities are clearly defined to avoid confusion.
- Tools. Write down all the means of communication (email, messengers, wiki pages, etc.) that you plan to use and for what.
- Meetings timeline. Everyone involved with implementation needs to know when they need to be in the meeting.
- Escalation plan. If the problem can’t be solved by someone, how should they transfer the issue to the higher-ups?
If you decide to hire a vendor, have them send you regular progress reports. This is important to keep the project on track and to make sure you are getting what you asked for.
4. Develop Learning Materials
You can either do that yourself using any of the popular authoring tools or hire someone to do that for you. Just make sure your LMS (or another system) supports the content that you produce.
In any case, you should ask yourself the following questions before getting to work:
- What kind of content would you need: presentations, videos, interactive tests, learning games, etc.?
- Which format would be the best: PPT, MP4, XLSX, etc.?
- Should you package your content using one of the eLearning standards (SCORM, xAPI, AICC, etc.?) For more information on eLearning standards see this article.
eLearning Implementation Process
Once the plan is complete, move to the implementation itself.
1. Pick a system that you’ll use
Given that there are hundreds of boxed systems and an option to make a custom one, making the right choice becomes a non-trivial task. See our guide on selecting an LMS for more information.
Ready-made LMS’ need at least some measure of customization before they are ready to do their job. This takes time, so make sure to factor it in your implementation plan beforehand.
3. Upload courses
This is pretty self-explanatory. One can’t teach people when there is nothing to teach them.
4. Conduct training
On the user level, the modern LMS’ are usually rather simple and intuitive. However, that doesn’t mean that you should neglect the training aspect - what is obvious to one person might not be so for another.
5. Conduct User-Acceptance Testing
Before the system is live, it is important to test it on a group of people who will actually be using it. This can help work out the kinks in implementation and see how well it works in practice.
6. Go Live
After you launch your eLearning program you shouldn’t just leave it be. Monitor the KPIs you’ve set and look for ways to improve the process.
Challenges in Implementing eLearning
These are the typical problems a company could face when launching their digital instruction program.
High Initial Investment
While eLearning is definitely cheaper in the long run, it requires a relatively high upfront investment, especially when you create your training materials from scratch and need a custom system to support them. For some companies, these costs may be prohibitive.
There are ways to address it, though. Using an MVP approach is one such way: choose only the most important features for the first iteration and add everything else later. This is a common startup approach that has proven its value.
Complicated Learner-Instructor Communication
Live training allows students to ask questions there and then. It is not as simple with online learning - there may be delays in communication and sometimes the learners can even be ignored.
This is why you should have an eLearning specialist or a superuser on your implementation team. They will be able to answer the questions pertaining both to the course and to the usage of the system itself.
Technical Skill Required
Millennials and younger generations are generally tech-savvy enough to easily understand how online learning works. The older people, however, might feel intimidated by the system and feel resentful towards it.
If you follow our advice and train your users, this will address the issue.
This can include both the employees resisting the switch to something new and the executives unwilling to spend money on the transition to digital. There are no universal solutions to these problems, but people can be persuaded. Common employees - with demonstrable value. Higher-ups - with examples of their competitors having improved bottom lines.