When we started Left Brain Media almost 20 years ago, it was not a given that corporations would use on-demand, web-based, eLearning courses extensively. Almost all are today because the effectiveness has been proven. In addition, the cost savings over traditional training is obvious. However, poorly produced, ineffective eLearning is a money drain. So what are some of the common mistakes eLearning development mistakes that kill the potential positive impact? They all can be summarized in a single statement: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Top 5 eLearning Development Mistakes
- Spending the development budget incorrectly
You can have a big budget or a small budget. But if you spend it on the wrong things, your final courses (and your audience) will suffer. Every dollar spent should enhance the eLearning, but companies often spend their money in a lopsided fashion. When a majority of resources are allocated strictly for content development, the content can fall flat in an uninspiring or dull delivery. Another mistake is spending too much on creative media development, only to end up with a slick package that lacks quality content.
The key to avoiding this problem is having the right people involved throughout the process — people, who understand the requirements of each phase and can plan for all the necessary components.
- Using the wrong people for the task
Subject matter experts (SME) are rarely the right ones to craft the most effective instructional design for eLearning content. Their closeness to the material often makes it hard for them to put themselves in the shoes of the audience.
Classroom instructional designers often struggle defining computer-based activities. They are more accustomed to discussion-based activities, which are usually the most effective in live training. Other times, they do come up with great ideas… if you have a completely unlimited budget for programming and development.
A programmer or designer that knows how to use an eLearning development tool may lack the background to script the appropriate interactions for the right type of learning.
Crafting effective eLearning that can be produced on a specific budget requires using a team of people with specialized skills and experience. We get amused by job ads for companies looking to hire one person to take care of all their eLearning production needs. The list of required skills reads like the resumé of someone who would have to be the fusion of five people. It is better to use an hour of an expert’s time than five hours of someone outside of their best skill set.
- Not realizing there are better alternatives to your approach
eLearning can take all shapes, sizes, and approaches. Some of the best choices may be:
- A fully scripted eLearning with professional narration
- A documentary style eLearning including interviews with experts
- A melding of portions of live meetings combined with interactions and follow-up content
- A game with leaderboards where, as you play the game, you learn the content and increase your score
- A quiz with custom video instruction based on the specific mistakes the user makes
- An animated motion graphic that visualizes complex relationships
- A video scenario where the user is placed in the role of the coach
- A comedic video where users remember the content because of the humor
The approach you choose will depend upon your audience, the content, the importance of the message, your production timeline, and more. Some very dynamic approaches actually take less time and money than some more traditional approaches. Plus, they are often more effective.
- Underestimating communication and coordination issues
Just as a movie needs a director to coordinate the project, eLearning production needs a creative director who can efficiently translate ideas into reality. Our experienced creative directors know what to ask you and how to help your team work together to generate great ideas throughout the process.
- Underestimating a realistic timeline for development
There is an old saying that applies very often to eLearning projects: “Fast, cheap, and good? Pick two.” You need to allow time to brainstorm creatively and to carefully review each stage of development. Try to properly scope the calendar time so your team can review projects thoroughly during each stage of development. When you do, you will almost always have a better result that is less expensive to produce.
Let Left Brain Media help you avoid these and other common eLearning development mistakes. Our collective experience spans a variety of industries and a wide breadth of skills.
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