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Our blog posts are the result of issues and opportunities we see in our daily work. They are designed to increase understanding and provide a source of vision for your web presence.
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Adapting to Change with Online Learning: Part 2

In last week's blog post, we provided an overview of online learning, or Learning Management Systems (LMS), and considerations for developing one for any organization. This week, we will focus on content methodology, choosing the right tool, and launching web-based training.

Find the Right Solution

Determining the best method for implementing the best method for web-based learning depends heavily on any existing website and the technical level of those creating, entering, and maintaining content.

There are third-party Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings available. If deployment of the online learning solution is a critical and immediate need, SaaS may be a good approach, but keep in mind that it is unlikely to find a 100% match for defined requirements. Learn more about other potential SaaS issues here.

Any website built on solid CMS foundations, such as WordPress or Joomla, have several LMS options readily available. There are also platform independent, open source options like Moodle, that are highly sophisticated and can be customized for almost any need.

In addition to the baseline LMS, it is also important to ensure there is a method for accepting, managing, and resolving help requests from students. Sometimes that help will be related to the operations of the LMS itself--"how do I..."--and other times, the nature of the requests will be specific to the topic of the training. This may also be a good time to consider a simple ticket management system, and make sure resources are available to keep it humming.

This is a good time to contact a professional web design/development team. Their experience can help achieve a solution shortlist quickly and be an essential part of budgeting the timeline and cost of an LMS implementation project. Their experience with LMS environments will help avoid surprises and wasted resources during implementation.

Planning and Preparing Content

As in all websites, content is king, and this is particularly important for online learning systems.

If content already exists for previous classroom training, it will need to be refitted for online delivery. This can include written text, audio, and video, and using a mix of these not only keeps things interesting for the viewer, but also accommodates multiple learning styles. If possible, provide exercises throughout the lesson so that students can apply the concepts they have learned.

If video is being presented, make sure that it is concise and well-produced. If the video is live action, or a combination of images (slides) and an instructor, be sure to consider:
  • Lighting
  • Voice amplification
  • Sound quality
  • Appearance of the presenter
  • Clarity of the presenter's delivery
  • Any interruption or pause in the content presentation
  • Labeling or embedded graphics
In a content environment that includes a significant percentage of video content, this may be a good time to consider the services of professional presenters, videographers, and editors.

Although format is important, the amount of time required to complete a lesson within a course is crucial for student success. Lessons should take no more than 5 to 10 minutes to complete and should conclude with a brief, multiple choice quiz to ensure that the student understands primary concepts.

If training content and testing is part of an overall certification program, any non-training related credentials or qualifications should be clearly stated to the student prior to them starting the training. Some examples are work experience, other prerequisite training, and work products (documentation). If additional requirements are handled in a manual review process, it is important to make sure the student is able to set the proper expectation for that process and its overall timing.

With so many important features of the content, be sure to not overlook the fact that the materials presented are created in a way that an average student will actually learn the course material, and that the course material is worthy of being learned. In other words, do not expect a successful LMS environment without thoughtful consideration of topics and content.

Prepping and Launching Online Learning

Once the LMS is in place with shiny, new content in progress, plan the launch date.

Testing is crucial to a successful launch. As a stakeholder, be sure to participate personally in the testing. Other employees and trusted clients or business associates are also testing candidates. The goal is to ensure that the training environment is easy to navigate and allows the student to focus on the material, rather than the tools providing it.

Testing is also a great time to gather helpful tips and a set of frequently asked questions for your students--designed to make things as easy as possible for them and reduce future support for them.

Verify that the server and infrastructure supporting the LMS can handle a significant uptick in activity in terms of bandwidth and processing power. There’s nothing worse than launching a great new website feature, only to field calls and emails from dissatisfied users complaining of delays and unavailability.

Promote to viable students as far as thirty (30) days ahead of your launch date. Create urgency for attendees by providing a discount coupon (if paid training) or a reward for signing up, such as a limited number of gift cards. If your site contains a blog, write about the new LMS. Advertise it in site banners or modules. Send a special message to your emailing list. Generate excitement through social media accounts. In short, stick to the plan and get the word out!

As daunting as implementing online training may seem at the onset, with a bit of preparation, some thorough evaluation, and some dedicated work, it is a feature that can yield amazing return on investment. If you are ready to explore a learning management system for your web environment and are looking for an experienced team that is focused on your success, contact us.
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Adapting to Change with Online Learning: Part 1