Creating an eLearning Course: Part 1 - Why

August 22, 2021

Table of Contents: 

- Overview

- Systems approach to Training (SAT)

- Scenarios

    - Scenario 1: Exposing Deeper Issues

    - Scenario 2: eLearning is a Good Fit

- Conclusion

WHY?

Overview

Creating an eLearning (electronic learning) course doesn’t have to be as daunting of a task as we make it out to be. Depending on where you work and who you work for, I’m sure you’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. At one end, you have so many details you could create a college level curriculum and potentially bypass the audience the learning is intended for. At the other end you have so little details or misinformation that all you can create is a coloring activity book that, at best, will improve the learner’s artistic skills.

Let’s take the mental load off and help bring your eLearning course to fruition in a much simpler way.  There are many processes for this such as ADDIE, SAM, NEEDS analysis, and TASK analysis. This simplified process fits into those other models, but only from a high-level.

In Part 2 and Part 3 of this series we will address the HOW and WHAT in the creation of an eLearning course, but here we will focus on the WHY. As in: Why is the training needed? This is the critical first step to creating eLearning.

Systems Approach to Training (SAT)

Why... (fill in the blank)

Example: WHY is this eLearning course needed?

To avoid making this too difficult and getting stuck oncoming up with the answers, use the interrogative pronouns or wh-pronouns to get your answers to the WHY. These are the words that begin a question in the English language: WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW and WHY.

Answering the WHY is going to help you define the PURPOSE of the eLearning course. If the person that is building the course doesn’t know the purpose of the eLearning, then neither will the person taking the course. This creates a huge disconnect and learning retention might as well get thrown out the window, along with the time spent taking an eLearning course that has no purpose or practical value to the learner.

SAT

Check out some of the questions below and see the impact they can have on the creation of an eLearning course?

  • WHY is this training needed? Why eLearning?
  • WHO is this training for? WHO will benefit from this eLearning?
  • WHAT will the impact of this training be? WHAT problem or issue will this eLearning overcome?
  • WHEN does this course need to be completed? WHEN will the learners have time to complete the course?
  • WHERE will the audience be located when taking this course?
  • HOW will this course help the organization or learner meet their goals? HOW much time will the learners have to complete this eLearning?
This is what is called a Systems Approach to Training, or SAT. That is, looking at the entire system by asking these questions up front to see how this specific eLearning will impact, not only the learner, but the system (organization) as a whole.

CAUTION! Nearly every time you take this step you will likely expose other issues in an organization, department or even individuals. In this case, all we can say is be prepared! You may not be in a place to address these issues or have a say in them. In some cases, you may catch some flack for exposing issues that may or may not have been known already.

With that said, probably the best approach at this point is keep your main thing the main thing. That is the eLearning at hand. Be prepared with your recommendations and WHY you recommend them based on your new-found knowledge and then leave the final decision making up to those who have that power. In addition, by asking these questions, you are doing a favor for those with decision making authority by giving them the facts to make better decisions. This in turn, only makes you look good when those you work for make the good decisions.

So WHY ask WHY if it will only cause potential problems? That’s a good question and we’re glad you asked! By asking WHY, you gain the upper hand in building out your eLearning because now you can address true problem in the correct manner, with the correct method, using the correct content for the correct audience. You essentially are beginning with the end in mind and working backwards to create all the necessary pieces to address the problem at hand.

Compare These Scenarios

In closing, lets picture a couple of “FICTICIOUS” scenarios:

Scenario 1: Exposing Deeper Issues

Your sales department head requests an eLearning to help meet sales revenue which has dropped below the intended goals for the past 3 months.

 You begin to ask the following questions:

  • Why has the sales revenue drop below the intended goals?
    Answer: Unsure
  • Why will this eLearning help meet the sales revenue?
    Answer: It’s apparent the sales representatives don’t know what they are doing?
  • What changed 3 months ago?
    Answer: New management came in and changed the sales software.
  • How much time will you allot the sales team to have to participate in the eLearning course?
    Answer: 1 Hour / week
  • When will the sales representatives be able to take the e-learning?
    Answer: During their lunch break.

Again, this is just a “FICTICIOUS” scenario and non-exhaustive when it comes to the questions. You can see though, by answering these questions, you may already begin to discover that even if you sent every sales representative to a weeklong course on how to make sales, there is a high probability that you will still have the same issue the following week. This is because the issue isn’t necessarily the sales reps, but the management in this scenario.

Scenario 2: eLearning is a Good Fit

Let’s take this same scenario and change up the answers just a little and see how this impacts the choice to develop eLearning:

  • Why has the sales revenue drop below the intended goals?
    Answer: Possibly a couple of reasons. We just changed management and we also just installed a new sales software that I believe the sales representatives are not familiar with.
  • Why will this eLearning help meet the sales revenue?
    Answer: A new sales software has been installed and the sales reps are having a difficult time understanding its operation. I believe that an eLearning on the operation of this software will bring our sales representatives up to speed and help get them back on track.
  • What changed 3 months ago?
    Answer: New management came in and changed the sales software.
  • How much time will you allot the sales team to have to participate in the eLearning course?
    Answer: 2 Hours / week
  • When will the sales representatives be able to take the e-learning?
    Answer: They can take the 1sthour each day when they arrive to participate in the e-learning course until it is complete.

Same questions, but different answers. However, in one scenario by asking WHY you expose a potential deeper issue with the new management and in the latter scenario you find that an eLearning could potentially very easily fix this issue by training the sales reps the proper use of the new sales software.

Conclusion

The goal of the SAT is not to expose every issue of an entity or department, but to dig deep so you can create top notch eLearning with a systems approach that will benefit the organization. Don’t forget, this will also help define the eLearning’s purpose so it will connect with the learners and create the most impact in learning retention.

Garrett Berry

Garrett is a freelance senior-level Instructional Designer with nearly 15 years of experience in the private, corporate and government Learning and Development industries.

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