Towards sustainable eLearning development

One of the challenges emerging within our centralised OD structure is how to sustainably support the needs of 5 diverse organisations with fewer resources than we previously had supporting just one.  The challenge exists across the range of OD services, but as the person responsible for eLearning, I’ve been pondering how we might work towards a sustainable eLearning design and development model. Here are some approaches I think are worth experimenting with:

Develop collaborative partnerships

There are opportunities to develop collaborative partnerships to share eLearning design and development effort. These include:

  • Partnerships with external vendors and/or contractors: rather than outsourcing an entire eLearning project, do all or part of the design (high level design spec and/or storyboard / scripting) internally and outsource the development / build. This reduces the cost and makes the best use of resources because we are best placed to understand the business, audience, and work context (critical for developing an appropriate design approach), and development of a design spec can feasibly be incorporated as an extension of initial scoping and consultation required for any project. Module build requires a concerted block of time and effort which I don’t often have.
  • Partnerships with the business or SMEs: there are currently pockets of the business with eLearning authoring tools and skills, and who have been doing their own design and development for some time. We can add value by providing advice, mentoring, reviewing / refining their work, and/or collaborating on design and development.
  • Cross-cluster collaboration: whilst there are 5 separate transport agencies, there is an opportunity for cross-cluster collaboration on  projects where a common need exists. This enables budgets to be pooled, reduces duplication and increases efficiency. This approach works with much compliance content (e.g. bullying & harassment, office ergonomics / manual handling, information security…).
  • Partner with comms: there may be an opportunity to partner more closely with comms, where the need relates to general ‘awareness raising’. Either in developing a comms solution instead of a ‘learning’ or ‘training’ solution or comms + learning/training (see also final point “Consider whether eLearning or training is an appropriate solution at all”).

Modular design for reuse and repurposing

Taking a modular design approach –  develop small, self contained modules each covering a single topic, rather than one (say, 45 minute) module covering a number topics. This can increase the capacity for reuse and repurposing of content across diverse business and audience groups: modular content opens up the possibility of mixing and matching modules to create customised learning programs for different groups (e.g. Safety intro + office ergonomics + manual handling for office workers VS Safety intro + PPE + manual handling for field based staff).

Review and customise existing content

Rather than creating a custom solution from scratch, review existing content that may exist across the cluster, and look at customising that to meet the need. Sure there may need to be some compromises made, but in an age where change is constant, content dates rapidly – almost immediately in some instances. In this climate it may not be worth the time, effort and money required to create custom content.

Purchase off-the-shelf content

Look at whether a suitable off-the-shelf solution exists before considering custom content development. Ideally off-the-shelf content is also developed in an authoring tool we own so that content can be edited in-house.

Content curation

Curating content from a variety of sources rather than creating original content. Basically an extension of the above approaches.

Supporting user generated content and collaborative knowledge sharing

Rather than creating and delivering / broadcasting content, give employees the opportunity to create and share their own content / learning / resources with others. A collaborative ‘bottom up’, rather than authoritative ‘top down’ approach. Essentially, it’s supporting the organic social learning and knowledge sharing that often already happens in most teams and business units.  The opportunity is to make the sharing more widespread, and for OD to support it by providing platforms for doing it, and helping to develop the skills that enables it to be done effectively.

Consider whether eLearning or training is an appropriate solution at all

Really look at whether eLearning content needs to be developed to meet the need at all.  Or whether, in fact, it is even the most effective way to address the need. This requires good front end analysis, and thinking outside the training mindset. This may often lead to a performance support solution instead of, or alongside, some smaller training intervention. Cathy Moore has a most excellent post and flowchart to help decide if training really is the answer.

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