During a recent LearnUpon webinar, an attendee asked: What is a course? I was taken aback by the simplicity of the question and wondered if more people wanted this question answered too. Is this something that is just presumed to be known and so is brushed over? Interestingly, after a chat with the person, I found they were not only comfortable with “what a course is”, they already had all of the ingredients to make a course at their fingertips. Inspired by this interaction, today I’m going to share the building blocks of an eLearning course and then delve into how they can be combined to create an engaging learning experience.
A course can be made by combining different types of media. With a learning management system (LMS) you can upload this content as modules, and arrange them into the structure that fits your needs. Dragging and dropping your files into order, choose from:
- Text documents – PDF/Word/PPT
- Text elements – Using the text editor
- Video – Such as Mp4s
- Video – Using an embed code
- Audio – Such as Mp3s
- Exams – Add an exam module and choose from a variety of different types of questions
- Surveys – Add a survey module made up of questions that you want the learner to respond to. These include ratings, questions, order lists, and free text responses.
- Assignment – This module allows learners to upload assignments for instructors to receive, review and give feedback.
If you are moving from an in-person training model, what content do you currently use? Maybe you use some of the following:
- A brief welcome to everyone explaining the topic in a broad sense and the learning outcomes.
- A hand out of the key points.
- Take the learners through a presentation you have prepared to expand upon points to make the topic more understandable.
- Perhaps there are media such as video or audio make your points more understandable.
- Get the learners to answer exam/quiz questions to gauge their understanding.
- Solicit feedback from the learners so that you can improve the content and structure of the courses.
If you have any of these, that’s a great start. These elements match up with the basic building blocks of an eLearning course. You can upload these types of media into the course structure for the learner to take.
A course is just a structure. A canvas and some paint is not a painting – it’s all about the execution! A course is a collection of content placed into a structure to be accessed and interacted with using the LMS. It’s all about the need to be satisfied. The “need” might vary from course to course. Some examples include:
- Everyone in the organization must pass the health and safety course
- We need to improve the knowledge of the sales team on
- We need to train the support team in a new process
- We want to provide information to stimulate thought on the following subject
“I have heard that I need to use SCORM?”
SCORM is the defacto standard for eLearning courses and depending on the following factors it may or may not be right for you:
Reasons to use SCORM:
- Developing courses in SCORM can help you to make eLearning content more interactive.
- SCORM courses track the time taken to take courses accurately. The courses are bookmarked each time a learner closes the course so you can report on the duration of time it took your learner to complete the course.
- SCORM courses can be uploaded to any LMS Compliant with the standard. This makes it easier to migrate your course content if you need to move to a new LMS vendor.
Possible reasons to avoid using SCORM:
- To create SCORM courses you’ll need an authoring tool or a developer. Authoring tools can be expensive and tricky to use for beginners.
- Creating SCORM content takes more time than an LMS’s native course builder. If you need to get up and running quickly then this can become a bottleneck in your launch.
Tip: If you’re about to start creating SCORM content; make sure you’re exporting the content to HTML rather than flash. Soon Flash will be put out to pasture, so to prevent you from creating soon to be defunct course click HTML5 when exporting. Always save the project file so that you can make changes to the course in the future. The actual product of an authoring tool, a zip package can’t be edited!
Are classroom sessions a course?
Yes, and no! An instructor-led session is a single element (or module) of a course. If the course only contains a single module – then the course is just a live session (in person or webinar). Alternatively, these live sessions can be combined with other, more, on-demand modules to create what is known as a blended learning approach (A blend of classroom-based sessions with on-demand eLearning content). It’s important to note that classroom sessions are carried out using webinar tools like GoToMeeting, Webex or Adobe connect. Integrating these tools with your LMS ensures that you don’t duplicate any efforts made.
There are some elements that are not exactly part of a course but are incredibly important to the success of your eLearning efforts.
One of the key functions of an LMS is to award certificates to learners when they’ve completed a course. The certificate is ‘attached’ to the course. If the learner meets the criteria they are sent the certificate. Simple! An LMS can even handle re-certification programs to automate a process year after year.
In our explanation of Gamification for eLearning, we talked about Gamification as means of motivating learners. It’s a great way to foster a positive learning experience that keeps learners engaged and progressing.
Remember, a course is just a structure. It’s a vehicle for you to pass on information to your learners. Use the materials already at your disposal to rapidly build eLearning courses and iterate over time.