Last updated: 03.09.13

How to ensure learners engage with e-learning

When commencing upon an e-learning programme, many companies and organisations put a great deal of effort into procuring a Learning Management System (LMS), having some expensive e-learning content developed, then launch this exciting initiative as “a wonderful training resource” and three months down the line wonder why it is not being used… sound familiar? Then read on!

Maybe I am exaggerating for effect, but it is a refrain we have heard so often that “learners do not like e-learning”, often due to a previous bad experience, and therefore do not use it or are reluctant to use it again.

In working with many different companies and organisations, the team here at Virtual College has a very good understanding of how to engage learners by using a variety of media types and interactive elements, and most of all by creating professional, user-friendly design. Sadly we cannot do much to address previous bad experiences provided by others, but we can share with you our three effective principles for success. Our triangular approach illustrates why, working with us, companies and learners find an integrated solution so much better than working with a number of single-solution service providers.

Number 1: Let us begin with content.

A content development house will tell you that the e-learning content is the key factor for success. Well it is certainly important, but only one of the three key factors.

Our fantastic content development team build very effective e-learning content; courses are well designed using our excellent team of learning designers, who use years of collective experience to develop activities to get learners quickly involved, and in a future blog we will talk more about how we design content to meet our clients’ needs.

Number 2: Is it easy to use?

An LMS vendor will argue that the LMS is key to succeeding with an e-learning project, and will offer a raft of arguments as to how it meets learner needs, tracks progress, makes you a cup of tea etc., but the truth is, depending on its architecture, an LMS can either be a great learning environment, or it can be viewed as a barrier to learning. When a new learner arrives they can be overwhelmed by an ill-designed portal. Think about your favourite news website. Now imagine your frustration if they suddenly moved all of the navigation buttons to the bottom of the page, removed links to your most visited sections and made you click through five pages just to get to the latest headlines. It would be a pain to use and you would quickly be looking for a new favourite website.

A friendly, well-designed user interface is what the learner wants and needs, too many LMSs fail to achieve this. Enable (The Virtual College LMS) has been developed by our team over many years to offer friendly, useful functionality based on extensive customer communication and feedback.

Naturally, we put great effort into ensuring our LMS continually evolves and our content follows the best design principles.

However, this is only two parts of our overall triangle service package that has delivered so much successful e-learning. The third part, and the often overlooked part, is learner support.

Number 3: The need for learner support.

In browsing “A Guide to Authentic E-Learning” by Jan Harrington and others, I found myself in complete agreement when they state that supporting learners in the first few weeks of an e-learning programme (admittedly in an academic environment) is crucial.

Providing support for learners commencing and completing an e-learning course or courses sounds a very simple solution, but is often beyond the resources of the hard pressed L&D department in even large companies and we understand that. When looking for a full e-learning solution, the human element of the provider can often be overlooked, especially as your HR and training departments will also have to get used to a new system, so before choosing a company based on content alone, be sure to check they have a comprehensive support team to help you integrate the new system.

The final part of learner support, that is often overlooked, is internal marketing. A number of companies do a great job of setting up the new system and making sure everything is available for their staff, and then don’t do anything to tell them about it!

A good internal marketing campaign not only gets people on board with the new system faster, but also helps to encourage your staff to complete their training and develop their own skills, which can only benefit your business.

So, if your organisation is embarking on an e-learning programme, and you are looking for well-designed content, supported by an LMS that engages learners, whilst wondering how to support your learners effectively, we offer all three components required to ensure your e-learning programme succeeds.

The Virtual College offer is a fully integrated service triangle offering well designed content, a well configured LMS and a well-trained and resourced learner support desk. It is with this integrated approach that we have succeeded in delivering e-learning course completions to more than 1.1 million learners.

By Rod Knox,
Virtual College CEO.