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How to Develop an Effective E-learning Program

Dec 13, 2019

Safety training comes in many forms, including instructor-led, field-basedBusinesswoman participating in e-learning at her desk demonstrations, one-on-ones and many more. Technological advancements have paved the way for electronic learning (or e-learning), with tools such as virtual reality, chatbots and artificial intelligence offering organizations and trainers a whole new world of opportunities. With these technologies, however, come challenges to making sure learners retain what they learned after they complete the training. 

While there are many similarities between traditional training and e-learning, such as conducting a needs assessment and developing learning objectives, trainers need to consider several unique factors when designing e-learning training. 

ANSI/ASSP Z490.2, Accepted Practices for E-Learning in Safety Health and Environmental Training, provides guidance on how to design user-friendly training that allows workers to engage in the learning experience. Use these five tips when developing your e-learning program.  

1. Design for Electronic Devices 

People learn in many ways and on many different devices. When designing your e-learning program, remember that learners may be using a desktop computer, smart phone or mobile tablet to access the training. 

That’s why Z490.2 advises you to consider the availability of screen space on different devices and how that will impact the learning experience. You should also think about the user’s need to scroll and the device’s ability to scroll easily, as well as the size of buttons the learner must select throughout the training. 

The standard also notes that, as a rule, learners can more easily view larger screens with more elements. On the other hand, since smartphones and tablets have smaller screens, training delivered on these devices must present less information on one screen and contain smaller screen elements.   

2. Make It Easy to Navigate

Much like traditional training, you should structure e-learning so that learners can easily follow what you are presenting. It’s helpful to open the training with instructions for navigation, then provide a navigation exercise that helps learners become familiar with the interface before they begin the training. 

During the training, the standard explains that you should limit screen elements and place them in predictable locations where learners will easily find them. It’s also best to place navigation tools such as the “next” and “back” buttons in intuitive locations such as the corners of the screen. 

Other navigation best practices include naming each component of the training module, providing a menu that states each step of the training and offering a status bar that informs a learner of their progress.

3. Use Audio and Video Effectively

Video and audio are essential elements of e-learning programs. When used well, these components can enhance the learning experience and help learners retain information. 

When using these tools, follow these best practices to provide an optimal learning experience. First, pair screen visuals with synchronized audio narration, but avoid narration that simply duplicates long strings of text that appear on screen. 

Second, be sure that any audio or visual elements meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You can achieve this by creating multiple versions of a learning module to provide, for example, one version with subtitles, one version with narration, one version with subtitles and narration, and one version with no subtitles or narration. You can also consult the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for further recommendations.    

4. Provide Opportunities for Interactivity

A key to any successful training is creating an engaging experience for learners. Throughout your e-learning training, prompt learners to actively participate. Interactivity takes two basic forms in e-learning. The first is requiring learners to perform a simple task such as clicking their mouse, typing on a keyboard or touching a screen.  

The second form of interactivity is to provide learners with the opportunity for realistic decision-making and authentic tasks. The learner should then receive feedback based on their decision-making and task completion. For instance, a learner may be asked to identify appropriate fall protection anchorage points on a virtual rooftop and then be evaluated on their selections. The Z490.2 standard advises that it’s best if learners receive feedback after each step of the task rather than at the end of the task performance. 

5. Establish Completion Paths

Perhaps the most important element of e-learning design is creating an experience that meets training goals. Mapping out completion paths helps create the necessary steps learners must take to gain the knowledge you want them to learn. 

Working from your established learning objectives will inform what you want your learners to gain from the experience and how e-learning can help them get there. As such, completion paths should be designed around your learning objectives and in a way that increases training effectiveness.  

For instance, you may find that one continuous 30-minute screen is the best path for a particular training topic or a short microlearning course. In other cases, it may be more suitable to split the content into shorter screens. Another option is to create multiple completion paths based on the learner’s actions throughout the course. For example, if a learner makes one decision, the course will advance to a particular screen; if they make a different decision, it will advance to a different screen. 

Each path has benefits to creating an effective e-learning experience. The best option for a particular program will depend on how you want to customize training for your workforce.  

Find out more about developing e-learning programs and the Z490.2 standard by listening to our podcast with Jeff Dalto of the Z490.2 Subcommittee.

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