If you've ever had a job at a large company or if you've ever watched the US version of "The Office," then you're familiar with online training. These are human resources (HR)-mandated courses that employees must pass in order to fulfill corporate expectations or compliance regulations. They're often boring, slow to get through, and super easy to pass.
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Let's say you've been given an assignment to create fulfilling, entertaining, and worthwhile e-learning materials for your organization. What can you do to ensure that your employees aren't facedown in a puddle of their own drool after five minutes of taking your course? I spoke with Francesca Bossi, HR Manager at Docebo, which is our Editors' Choice tool for online learning software, about what you can do to create compelling and effective training materials.
During our conversation, Bossi offered the following four recommendations for building an online course as well as the exam that follows. For Bossi, the answer is simple: faster is better. Build your course as quickly as you can, post it to your learning software just as quickly, and enable your employees to view the content, take the quiz, and find the right answers quickly as well. In addition to speed, Bossi said it's also incredibly important that your employees understand there's a corporate-wide commitment to e-learning. If the CEO is taking and participating in the exams, then it sends a clear message to your employees that e-learning is an important part of your corporate culture.
1. Speed Matters
Although tools such as Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) exist to create interactive, multimedia, and multi-tiered courses, Bossi recommends simple courses that last no longer than five to 10 minutes (she calls them "e-learning pills"). She suggests you use your phone's video camera or a computer screen-capture program to record procedures that can be used to demonstrate the right way to do whatever it is you're trying to teach your employees.
"It obviously depends on the content and the topic," Bossi explained. "You can publish courses using tools like SCORM to get very complete reports but, of course, creating courses using these tools requires more time and knowledge of these systems. You can build very interactive courses, which allow you to create a more involved course that requires more attention from the students."
"But faster is better," Bossi emphasized. "If you have training needs, it's important to address them as fast as you can rather than writing storyboards, having them approved, then creating templates [and using highly produced videos]."
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Bossi recommends video over Microsoft PowerPoint presentations or audio recordings simply because course takers find video to be more compelling than static or audio-based content. However, she says the benefit of video courses that feature abundant production is often countered by the length of time required to bring these courses to life.
2. Short and Simple Exams
She offers similar advice for the tests that you give at the end of the course. For a 10-minute course, Bossi recommends no more than three multiple-choice questions. If your course has to run longer than 10 minutes, she recommends no more than three questions per 15-minute segment.
"We usually recommend using single-choice or multiple-choice questions for tests," she said. "These are simple for the users to understand and you can assign scores automatically. You won't need to have a teacher read the answers and assign scores."
As with course content, Bossi said there is a benefit to more complex testing but the benefit is often marginal compared to the amount of work required to analyze the tests after they've been taken. For example, you can have respondents provide written answers to your questions. But these written answers will come in many varieties and you'll have to create a standard for how to properly analyze and score them. Better to keep it simple; let there be one correct answer per question for just a few crucial questions.
3. Create Learning Paths for Multiple Courses
Rather than creating long, extensive courses that can take hours to get through, Bossi suggests companies build out learning paths that feature a collection of associated videos, each with their own exams, and each of which can be completed independently. For example, instead of an hour-long HR course that covers office ethics, sexual harassment, and paid time-off procedures, break each topic into a separate course that features its own mini exam. Stagger the courses in order from most- to least-important to your company, and let your employees get through them individually at their own pace (within the allotted timeframe you've determined).
"This way, you don't need to schedule an hour for your courses but, in five minutes, you can take your 'pill,'" Bossi said. "It's better to divide topics. It's better to choose which one is best for that particular moment. I recommend this, especially for onboarding."
4. Show Correct Answers
Unless your company is required by law to have employees take courses and pass tests in order to earn certificates, it's best to just show them the answers to questions they got wrong rather than making them go back and retake the test segment (or the entire course) before they select the right answer.
Oftentimes, your course material is straightforward and a simple reveal of the right answer will make sense to the test taker, even if he or she got the answer wrong the first time. Sure, you can make them go back and do everything over again so that you're sure they know what it is you want them to know, but this takes a lot of time—often more time than is needed to get your message across.